Supporting your child's sex education

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At a glance

How to support your child's sex education - at home and in school.

Sex education in school

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is taught as part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) under the National Curriculum.

SRE aims to:

  • recognise the importance of marriage and stable relationships in family life and raising children
  • provide information appropriate to each age group
  • involve parents as much as possible in their child's sex education
  • reduce the number of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

At the moment parents have the right to withdraw their child from SRE classes up until the age of 19. But from September 2011 sex education will become compulsory for children between the ages of 15 and 16.

Faith schools are encouraged to devise SRE classes that reflect their faith's values and ethical codes.

What your child will learn in sex education classes

Children are taught about different aspects of sex at different ages.

The following is a guide to what's taught and at what age:

ages 5-7puberty, relationships and how to be safe
ages 7-11puberty, relationships (including marriage, divorce, separation, same-sex and civil partnerships), managing emotions and dealing with negative pressures
ages 11-14sexual activity, human reproduction, contraception, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, relationships
ages 14-16body image and health, choices about sex, parenting skills and family life, separation and divorce

Sex education at home

Your role in your child's education about sex and relationships is important. The teaching of these subjects in school is designed to complement the discussions you have with your child at home.

Before talking to your child, think about your own views on sex and what matters to you in your relationships and family life. Work out your own values and morals so that you can give your child clear, consistent messages about sex and relationships throughout childhood. Sex education is most effective when it’s built up gradually over a number of years.

Don't ignore the subject altogether - you don’t want your child to grow up being confused about sex and relationships.

Tips on talking to your child about sex and relationships:

  • Try to make discussion of sex a part of normal life not just a one-off talk.
  • Talk as naturally as possible to your child as this will encourage him or her to be more relaxed and open with you.
  • Answer any questions your child asks as clearly as you can so that he or she doesn't become confused.
  • Listen carefully to what your child has to say and try to deal with any fears, concerns or misunderstandings as they arise.
  • Be truthful if you don’t know the answer to a question - try to find out the answer and then raise the topic again another day.
  • Don't avoid a topic if you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed about raising it. Consider introducing the subject via discussion of a TV programme or magazine article or what your child is learning in class.
  • Make sure any discussions are appropriate to the age of your child.

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