Naming body parts

Naming body parts in primary school

A letter published in The Daily Telegraph (19 July 2013) entitled 'Naming of parts' urges the government "to make it clear that primary schools should teach the correct names for genitalia and safeguard children by unambiguously including the essentials of sex education in the science curriculum".

The letter spells out the safeguarding implications if government proposals go ahead: "This will perpetuate shame, and brings the risk of children not having the langauge to understand their bodies or to recognise and report sexual abuse".

The letter printed in The Daily Telegraph is signed by:
Jane Lees, Chair, Sex Education
Hilary Eldridge, Chief Executive, Lucy Faithful Foundation
Professor John Ashton, President, UK Faculty of Public Health
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive, Royal College of Nursing
Reg Bailey, Chief Executive, Mother's Union (Government appointed Independent Reviewer of the Commercialisation and Sexualisation of Childhood)

It was also signed by:
Rosina St James, Chair, British Youth Council - a group of 263 youth organizations, and the 359 Elected Members of the Youth Parliament 


The story is also covered in The Telegraph Family Section by Joe Hayman, CEO of the PSHE Association: Michael Gove's Sex Education plans 'put child safety at risk'. 

What are the proposals?

In the current science curriculum lower primary pupils are taught the main parts of the body: "To recognize and compare the main external parts of the bodies of humans and other animals". No examples of body parts are given. In the latest draft of the national curriculum, a note at key stage one states: "Pupils should have plenty of opportunities to learn the names of the main body parts (including head, neck, arms, elbows, legs, knees, face, ears, eyes, hair, mouth, teeth)."

By providing a list, and not including the genitalia on it, there is an implicit message that schools should not teach these parts of the body, leaving teachers unsure about whether or not it is OK to name penis, vulva, vagina, and testicles.

We have asked government to either remove the list of examples or to give examples that include vagina, vulva, penis, testicles. Even stating in the notes that this 'includes the differences between male and female' would help.

This omission is crucial because of safeguarding. Ofsted found (in their 2013 PSHE report 'Not yet good enough) that: "Younger pupils [in the schools Ofsted visited] had not always learnt the correct names for sexual body parts … This is of particular concern in the light of the recent, much publicised trials in different parts of England concerning the grooming and sexual exploitation of children."

The sex education content of National Curriculum science is the only compulsory SRE at primary level, so it is crucial that the science curriculum teaches children these words so that they can report sexual abuse if they need to. Abuse and violence do not have an age-restriction so simple understanding has to begin early in primary education.