Computing classes not the place to learn about consent

Computing classes not the place to learn about consent

A debate in the House of Lords (18 June 2013) has raised questions about the teaching of responsible use of the internet and social media in schools. The Sex Education Forum fully supports teaching internet safety in primary and secondary schools. The proposed computing curriculum requires that primary school children learn to 'communicate safely and respectfully online, keeping personal information private'.

Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum said: "It is inevitable that when learning about internet safety children will have questions and concerns about internet pornography and it is right that teachers address these pro-actively.

However, we believe sex and relationships education (SRE) - not computing - is the right place to learn about consent, gender, body image and relationships - themes that are central to discussion about pornography. To ensure this happens SRE should be guaranteed for all children and young people and learning should be of good quality and delivered by specially trained teachers."

There is widespread support for making SRE a statutory subject. Almost 1 in 9 of the 1000 parents polled by the National Association of Headteachers believe 'sex education and lessons on adult and peer relationships should be mandatory in schools' and 83% want to see issues surrounding pornography included in sex education (NAHT, 2013).

The Office of the Children's Commissioner has also called for the Government to 'ensure that all schools deliver effective relationship and sex education'. This follows their study on pornography: 'A Rapid Evidence Assessment on the Effects that Access and Exposure to Pornography has on Children and Young People' (2013).

It is therefore very disappointing that the government has reiterated that they have no intention to make PSHE statutory. Schools need a clear message that teaching about the personal, and social issues surrounding internet pornography is of equal importance to the technical aspects of online safety.

Ofsted recently found that SRE is in need of improvement in a third of schools. Secondary school pupils said that SRE 'avoided discussion of sexual and emotional feelings and controversial issues such as sexual abuse, homosexuality and pornography'. This situation will not improve without significant investment in teacher training and an up-grade to the status of SRE.  

The Sex Education Forum also welcome Lord Nash's recommendation of the Sex Education Forum as a useful resource that schools can turn to for help.

Full text of the debate in the Lords available from Hansard, Columns 135-138  

Report from the BBC: 20 June 2013


DfE (2013) Computing Key Stages 1-4

Horvath and others (2013) ' is everywhere'; A Rapid Evidence Assessment on the Effects that Access and Exposure to Pornography has on Children and Young People, Middlesex University London

NAHT (2013) The research was carried out in April 2013 by Research Now and was commissioned by the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) and press released by NAHT in May 2013

Ofsted (2013) Not yet good enough: personal, social, health and economic education in schools