What is suitable sex education?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 21, 2011, 6:48 PM GMT+0

The majority of the British public thinks that the biological facts about sex are suitable to be taught in primary schools, but largely feels that information on relationships, sexual ethics, techniques and positions should be restricted to secondary school students only, the results of our survey on sex education reveal.

  • 51% thought that the biological facts of reproduction should be taught in primary school (pupils aged 11 and under), compared to 45% who would only have this taught from secondary school onwards (pupils aged 12-18 years). Just 1% thought this shouldn’t be taught at all.

However, all other elements of sex education that we polled on were seen by the majority as only suitable for secondary school students.

  • 73% would say information about STIs should be taught in secondary schools, with only 23% thinking it a suitable topic for primary age pupils
  • 69% would advocate teaching secondary school pupils about contraception, compared to 27% who think this should be addressed in primary school
  • 65% thought that relationships and sexual ethics should be restricted to the over-12s, while only 28% thought this was fine for primary school pupils
  • And while 41% would support the teaching of sexual techniques in secondary classroom lessons, just 5% agreed that primary school age was the right time to teach the subject, and no one supported teaching positions or techniques to children aged 8 years and under
  • 49% would keep classes on techniques and positions out of both primary and secondary schools completely

Age-appropriate material?

What does, and what does not, constitute appropriate school-led sex education is a question that has received a lot of media attention lately due to a report by The Christian Institute on what it perceives as the ‘explicit’ and unsuitable materials used to teach primary school children about sex in the UK, highlighting books with cartoons explaining orgasms as a particular worry.

However, a spokesman for the sexual health charity, Brook, responded that, ‘All children and young people have the right to education about sex and relationships’, and emphasised that the material should be ‘age-appropriate’.

See the survey details and full results