Should primary school kids be taught about sex?
The highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe has led to the recommendation that children as young as 10 should be taught about contraception.
The age at which young people become sexually active has fallen considerably over the past 50 years with 1 in 4 children now claiming to have had sex below the age of 16.
Julia Margo, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research told the BBC: 'The average age of first sexual intercourse has fallen from 20 for men and 21 for women in the 1950s to 16 by the mid-1990s. The proportion of young people who are sexually active before the age of consent has risen from less than 1% to 25% over the same period. '
British teenagers are the most sexually active in Europe and have the highest teen pregnancy rate. Nearly one in three sexually-active 15-year-olds do not use condoms.
The Institute for Public Policy Research wants sex-education to be made compulsory both in the last year of primary school and throughout the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) programme in secondary schools. Currently secondary schools are only obliged to cover sex in science lessons.
The IPPR report, Freedom's Orphans: Raising Youth in a Changing World, to be published next month, reports that there were an average of 26 live births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in the UK:
- nearly 20% higher than Latvia, the country with the next highest rate, and
- more than four times the rate of Cyprus, Slovenia, Sweden and Denmark.
Over the last 10 years levels of genital chlamydia have risen by 508% in teenage boys and 238% in teenage girls and genital herpes by 52% in teenage boys and 38% in teenage girls. Levels of syphilis have also increased significantly.
Although teenage pregnancies are falling, the government looks highly unlikely to hit its target of halving the 1999 teenage pregnancy rate by 2010. In 2005, there were 41.4 conceptions per 1,000 women under the age of 18 - just 2.9 per 1000 lower than in 1991.
'Our education system must respond,' said Julia Margo, 'and start teaching children about the risks involved in sex before they even consider taking those risks.'
Page created on October 23rd, 2006
Page updated on January 16th, 2010