A recent overhaul of sex education in England faces criticism from teachers, who claim the changes are based on ‘overblown’ claims. The new curriculum introduces mandatory lessons for all primary and secondary pupils on issues such as online pornography, sexting, gender identity and consent.
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The Department for Education has said the revised programme, which will be implemented next year, is intended to give children “the knowledge they need to understand relationships and stay safe”, but some teachers have raised concerns that it is not age-appropriate or evidence-based. Critics also worry that parents may not be adequately consulted about what their children learn in school.
Gill Goodswen, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said the organisation had “grave concerns” about the changes.
“The government has jumped on an overblown bandwagon and is taking risks with children’s emotional welfare,” she said in a statement. “We believe primary school pupils are too young to understand some of the concepts being proposed as part of this new curriculum, such as gender fluidity. It could be confusing for them and potentially quite damaging. We need to make sure we don’t introduce sensitive subjects prematurely.”
Goodswen also noted a lack of clarity surrounding who would teach the classes, saying teachers were “in the dark about their potential role in delivering this new sex education curriculum”.
ATL calls for a full, independent review of the changes to ensure they are “age-appropriate and evidence-based, that teachers have received appropriate training and that parents’ concerns are properly addressed”. The organisation has also urged the government to consider research showing the importance of relationship education in helping young people stay safe.
The Department for Education has said it will work with teachers and other organisations over the coming months to ensure the programme is implemented properly. Despite criticism from some quarters, many have welcomed the changes as a step forward in educating children about important issues such as consent and online safety.
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