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Published on November 30th, 2011 | by Lorna Gledhill
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300"] (c) incurable_hippie[/caption] Last week, a group of British National Party activists demonstrated outside a Sheffield Primary School in protest against a consultation being held between governors and the head teacher about the provision of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) to children under 13. After delivering letters to the city council and the head of governors, BNP members gathered outside Grenoside Primary to ‘warn’ teachers and staff of the “mental paedophilia” purported by the school’s administration. Grenoside Community Primary School is in the process of consulting governors and parents about the introduction of basic biological education to children between the ages of 4 and 6. Early stages SRE requires primary age children to be taught about the scientific basics of reproduction, with older children being educated about the human body and sexual organs. Rather than defy the current Key Stage One guidelines, the changes proposed by the school run in complete concordance with both government policy and recent research findings. The inflammatory letter distributed by BNP activists contained the following introduction:

“It has come to our attention that you are currently in consultation regarding the sexualising of children in your care. You have been quoted in the press as being in favour of teaching younger pupils at Grenoside School subjects which include masturbation and homosexuality.”
This terrifyingly misinformed statement has completely ignored the importance of SRE to young people and their parents. Years of research has revealed that young people rarely obtain crucial information about puberty, relationships and sex from their parents, with a recent Brook survey revealing that only 6% of a 2,000 strong sample of young people receive any sexual health education from either their mother or father. A frighteningly high statistic of over half of today’s secondary school age pupils felt that the SRE they received does not cover what they really need to know about sex and relationships. The Department for Education commissioned a Customer Voice Research project into the provision of SRE in 2008. This report concluded that much of parents’ fear about SRE comes from a lack of information about its actual content:
 “It is interesting to note that once they were informed about the content of the curriculum the majority of parents did not believe any parents should have the right to withdraw their child from SRE. They felt that to do so would potentially disadvantage the child for life and rob them of fundamental life skills.”
Unfortunately, parent-based sex education in the UK is proved to be reactive rather than proactive. When only a tiny fraction of young people feel comfortable asking their parents about sex, relationships and sexual health, the duty lands with schools to arm young people with this important information. Well conducted, school-based SRE, is a crucial tool in creating a positive approach to sexual health, often delaying sexual activity rather than ‘sexualising’ young people, whatever the BNP have decided that means. Colin Fleetwood, the head teacher of Grenoside Community Primary School, stated that the “vast majority” of parents were in support of the changes to their curriculum. Importantly, due to the fact that the government has so far refused to standardise early stages SRE as part of the national curriculum, it falls to schools themselves to detail the content of their sex education and make it transparent to parents and governors. This lack of standardisation, according to the external report commissioned by the DfE, was the largest criticism of SRE received from parents themselves. These BNP activists claimed to speak for the “Silent Majority.” Unfortunately, when it comes to this issue, it seems like many people are happy to voice their own opinions, without being ventriloquised by an aggressive, misinformed political party. Brook’s recent survey of 2,000 14-18 year olds have revealed that young people themselves say that schools should listen to young people when considering the content of SRE. Another Youth Parliament survey revealed that 73% of young people felt that SRE should be taught before the age of 13. Whilst this reaction from the BNP is not surprising, we shouldn’t ignore it. Threatening the head teacher and governors with further demonstrations outside their homes is little more than aggressive intimidation from a political party with a huge personal agenda. Their national organiser, Adam Walker, made the following comment in response to the event:
“Is it any wonder we are creating a nation of young people who have no concept of the past, present or future? If schools spent as much time teaching children to be proud of who they are as they do this type of nonsense, we would be part of the way to getting the Great back into Britain once again.”

Scaring people into national pride is an incredibly flawed tactic. Young peoples’ right to comprehensive, well-informed, confidential SRE can only be based in the foundations laid in early stage education. If the BNP had their way, our young people would be kept ignorant, not innocent. This is nothing to be proud of.

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Kept ignorant, not innocent: the BNP battles SRE in Sheffield

(c) incurable_hippie

Last week, a group of British National Party activists demonstrated outside a Sheffield Primary School in protest against a consultation being held between governors and the head teacher about the provision of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) to children under 13. After delivering letters to the city council and the head of governors, BNP members gathered outside Grenoside Primary to ‘warn’ teachers and staff of the “mental paedophilia” purported by the school’s administration.

Grenoside Community Primary School is in the process of consulting governors and parents about the introduction of basic biological education to children between the ages of 4 and 6. Early stages SRE requires primary age children to be taught about the scientific basics of reproduction, with older children being educated about the human body and sexual organs. Rather than defy the current Key Stage One guidelines, the changes proposed by the school run in complete concordance with both government policy and recent research findings.

The inflammatory letter distributed by BNP activists contained the following introduction:

“It has come to our attention that you are currently in consultation regarding the sexualising of children in your care. You have been quoted in the press as being in favour of teaching younger pupils at Grenoside School subjects which include masturbation and homosexuality.”

This terrifyingly misinformed statement has completely ignored the importance of SRE to young people and their parents. Years of research has revealed that young people rarely obtain crucial information about puberty, relationships and sex from their parents, with a recent Brook survey revealing that only 6% of a 2,000 strong sample of young people receive any sexual health education from either their mother or father. A frighteningly high statistic of over half of today’s secondary school age pupils felt that the SRE they received does not cover what they really need to know about sex and relationships.

The Department for Education commissioned a Customer Voice Research project into the provision of SRE in 2008. This report concluded that much of parents’ fear about SRE comes from a lack of information about its actual content:

 “It is interesting to note that once they were informed about the content of the curriculum the majority of parents did not believe any parents should have the right to withdraw their child from SRE. They felt that to do so would potentially disadvantage the child for life and rob them of fundamental life skills.”

Unfortunately, parent-based sex education in the UK is proved to be reactive rather than proactive. When only a tiny fraction of young people feel comfortable asking their parents about sex, relationships and sexual health, the duty lands with schools to arm young people with this important information. Well conducted, school-based SRE, is a crucial tool in creating a positive approach to sexual health, often delaying sexual activity rather than ‘sexualising’ young people, whatever the BNP have decided that means.

Colin Fleetwood, the head teacher of Grenoside Community Primary School, stated that the “vast majority” of parents were in support of the changes to their curriculum. Importantly, due to the fact that the government has so far refused to standardise early stages SRE as part of the national curriculum, it falls to schools themselves to detail the content of their sex education and make it transparent to parents and governors. This lack of standardisation, according to the external report commissioned by the DfE, was the largest criticism of SRE received from parents themselves.

These BNP activists claimed to speak for the “Silent Majority.” Unfortunately, when it comes to this issue, it seems like many people are happy to voice their own opinions, without being ventriloquised by an aggressive, misinformed political party. Brook’s recent survey of 2,000 14-18 year olds have revealed that young people themselves say that schools should listen to young people when considering the content of SRE. Another Youth Parliament survey revealed that 73% of young people felt that SRE should be taught before the age of 13.

Whilst this reaction from the BNP is not surprising, we shouldn’t ignore it. Threatening the head teacher and governors with further demonstrations outside their homes is little more than aggressive intimidation from a political party with a huge personal agenda. Their national organiser, Adam Walker, made the following comment in response to the event:

“Is it any wonder we are creating a nation of young people who have no concept of the past, present or future? If schools spent as much time teaching children to be proud of who they are as they do this type of nonsense, we would be part of the way to getting the Great back into Britain once again.”

Scaring people into national pride is an incredibly flawed tactic. Young peoples’ right to comprehensive, well-informed, confidential SRE can only be based in the foundations laid in early stage education. If the BNP had their way, our young people would be kept ignorant, not innocent. This is nothing to be proud of.

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