Charity calls for compulsory sex education lessons
THE UK’s largest children’s charity is calling on the Welsh Government to introduce compulsory sex and relationship lessons in schools after young people said they wanted more advice on staying safe, particularly online.
Barnardo’s Cymru carried out a survey among 11 to 15-year-olds which showed that three-quarters (74%) of those questioned believe they would be safer if they had age-appropriate lessons in school.
The charity said schools need to do more to protect young people from the dangers of online grooming and exploitation in an increasingly complicated digital world.
It is urging the Welsh Government to include compulsory sex and relationship education in the curriculum which is currently being updated.
The Welsh Government stopped short of doing so in 2014 when similar calls were made by charities during the progress of the Second Violence and Domestic Abuse (Wales) Act.
The Welsh Government did commission Barnardo’s Cymru to provide teacher training sessions and educational material on the risks of hidden child sexual exploitation, but the charity said it is time to go further.
Sarah Crawley, director of Barnardo’s Cymru, said: “We are urging the Welsh Government to introduce compulsory, age-appropriate sex and relationship education in schools, including safe use of digital media.
“It’s time to listen to children themselves who are telling us they lack confidence in staying safe online and are saying they need help in understanding the risks and avoiding danger.”
In the poll carried out with 1,200 children across the UK, 96% said it was important for them to understand the dangers of being online and 94% wanted to know the risks of sharing images of themselves with a stranger.
The charity is also asking MPs to demand changes to the Children and Social Work Bill when it is debated in the House of Commons to ensure compulsory sex and relationship education is introduced in England.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We recognise the critical importance of safeguarding children and young people online and have an extensive online education and awareness programme across Wales. This allows schools to access online resources and classroom materials to support learners to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly online.
“Sex and Relationship Education is a part of the curriculum in Wales. We expect young people in Wales to receive age appropriate sex and relationships education and our Sex and relationships education in schools guidance provides advice about the teaching of all aspects of relationships, sexual health and well-being issues.
“Ensuring children and young people are healthy and confident will also be at the heart of our new curriculum, with health and well-being becoming one of the six Areas of Learning and Experience from 2021.”