Education & Family

Pupils see more online porn, a teachers' union warns

girl looking at smartphone
Pupils have easy access to pornography on mobile devices, the ATL says

School pupils are having more sexually explicit conversations with each other, a teachers' union says.

The ATL union says nearly 40% of its members believe the young people they teach have been pressured into viewing online pornography by their peers.

A similar number said they had seen an increase in the sharing of sexually explicit content among pupils.

A sixth have noticed a rise in sexual bullying at their school or college in the last five years.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers surveyed 451 members working in state-funded and independent schools, and sixth form and further education colleges in the UK.

The study was carried out in November and December last year.

'Specific training'

Its findings suggest that while some education staff feel it should be the responsibility of parents to teach children about the dangers of pornography, 71% believe that it should be taught in secondary schools, and almost 20% believe that it should be taught in primary schools.

However, almost 60% of those who cover the topic in teaching said that they had not received any specific training and of those who had, fewer than half (41%) felt it was adequate.

More than half of the respondents to the survey said they would be prepared to teach pupils about issues relating to pornography if they received specific training, with almost 70% stating they would like the subject covered in continuous professional development sessions.

Six out of 10 respondents said they would have concerns delivering lessons around sexually explicit content.

Of those, 60% said they would have concerns with pupils not taking the subject seriously and 51% said they felt it may put their reputation at risk.

'Sensitive issue'

In addition, 38% of respondents said they were aware of pupils sending or receiving sexually explicit texts, images or videos on their mobile phone, a practice known as "sexting".

More than 40% said they had seen an increase in the sharing of sexually explicit content among pupils.

The union's general secretary, Mary Bousted, acknowledged pornography was "a sensitive issue", but said schools had a duty to tackle it.

"It is important that education staff work with parents, carers and governors to help young people develop confidence to deal with their personal relationships," she said.

"The majority of our members feel it's important that young people are taught about the dangers of pornography so they can protect themselves in today's increasingly sexualised society," she said.

Dr Bousted also stressed the importance of professional training and development.

"Education staff believe schools and colleges have a key role to play in providing young people with the guidance and support they need, which is why we repeatedly call for all schools to provide access to good quality sex and relationships education, taught by professionals."

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