Firstly I need to add the disclaimer I am not a primary school sex education specialist as most of my work concerns secondary aged students however I am a mum of children who will one day be going to primary school so I am as keen as the next parent to know what is going on in schools regarding their sex education.
As it happens I have a copy of the BBC Active Sex and Relationship Education DVD* at home in my resource bank but I have never had opportunity to use it- so I fired up the laptop to watch it in it’s entirety. I’m afraid I don’t know how to screen grab, but I insert the same pics as from the Mail website:
In the articles I linked above, the word “graphic” is continually used but to be frank, often the only thing graphic about them is they are drawn images, I have definitely seen a lot more graphic explicit cartoon images than those just by doing a google image search! I think this is a very deliberate use of the word to encourage people to jump to erroneous conclusions about the material. There are also some real life naked people within the resource, but I’m not sure what is “graphic” about a naked human body. Isn’t it simply what we all look like under our clothes!?
The other word continually used is “explicit”,- one definition of “explicit” is “having sexual acts or nudity clearly depicted” which yes the video does show nudity and cartoon drawn or computer generated images- but the spin being put on it, by SPUC and the Mail, is that this is akin to showing pornography, and it is “paedophilic” to show it to children (there is another rant in me on about that vile accusation but will leave it for tonight!). Believe me the videos are the least pornographic (and least sexy or titillating images I have ever seen!). Obviously would be wholly inappropriate to deliberately show pornography to school children as part of a sex education lesson (but remember many of primary school children are seeing such images online or even in magazine stands without parental knowledge or explanation). Yes the CD-ROM shows the mechanics of sex (which they call “making love”-and the importance of positive romantic relationships is continually reinforced), but to be quite honest, I would be more than happy for the vast majority of the CD-Rom to be shown to my children at 9 years old. If I was a primary school teacher I would also be happy to use this resource in the classroom as it actually is a really good teaching tool.
Bearing in mind this resource is designed for 9-11 year olds (ie. it isn’t ALL to be shown in Y5), as a parent I would probably be more comfortable if the “making love video” and “computer sex animation video” was shown at an age they typically start asking more questions about the actual mechanics of sex, which in my experience usually does come in year six/ year seven ie. when they are eleven-ish. (However if they ask the questions earlier I would tell them or maybe show them those sections earlier.)
That is what is so frustrating about the media reporting on this. It ISN’T “EXPLICIT SEX VIDEOS FOR 9YEAR OLDS” at all, but the headline “cheesy cartoon on “making love” to support 11year olds’ sex education” isn’t nearly as exciting is it? I know how teachers use such materials- they will pick and choose the bits they are most comfortable with and leave out the bits they are not, I would be extremely surprised if many primary school teachers had shown the “making love” video or sexual intercourse sections to their nine year olds- (but if they had made a professional judgement that their class was mature enough and ready to watch that video with parental support, then I would also support them in that.). It is important to also bear in mind their current playground misconceptions (plus the general sex in media issue that our young people are being exposed too constantly from a young age) are probably a lot ruder and much more explicit than anything the DVD-Rom actually shows and clarifies.
It is so frustrating that yet again the media are seizing on a small section of a resource that may not even be used in 30% of primary schools (I have no idea how many schools use this resource but I would say 30% is a very generous estimate) and ranting about it as if it was indicative of primary school sex education as a whole when it really isn’t. But even if it was – those videos and images are not inappropriate at all for Y5, Y6 and Y7 students to see. I would be more than happy for my kids’ school to use that resource with my own children and I know many other parents who would feel the same.
Personally I actually am quite disappointed that yet again the government seems to have got sidetracked, into expending it’s energy on challenging a media provider to review a resource that has been already available for 5 years, instead of what we so desperately need which is to properly sorting sex education once and for all with proper guidance and training for teachers, and decent support for parents. But I am hopeful and optimistic that this is coming.
For parents worried about sex education in primary schools and sex education in general please my previous posts:
*The Mail article appears to be confusing this video with the Channel4 Learning Living and Growing resource which is also pretty decent but I don’t have a copy at home (it used to be available on teachers TV but isn’t anymore) but I have watched in full and again I would be more than happy for my kids to be shown diff clips at different age appropriate ages- led by their questions and needs.