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Education – Scottish schools in sex education row

October 2018

The Scottish government has given its backing to draft lesson plans that could effectively lower the age of consent to 13.

The draft Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) curriculum suggests teaching pupils aged 12 to 14 that although sex under the age of 16 is illegal, those aged 13 and over could engage in sexual activity without fear of reprimand.

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, commented, ‘The intention of this draft resource is, in effect, to lower the age of consent without a change in legislation. This bypasses parliament and is an affront to democracy’.

Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, called the resource ‘ill-advised’, as it would ‘give children the impression that engaging in sexual activity under the age of 16 is no big deal.

‘Such messages leave young teenage girls vulnerable to predatory male approaches’, he warned.

But the draft plans go further, with recommendations on teaching gender and identity to primary-age children. This means infants as young as five could be told they can be a boy, a girl or neither.

According to The Christian Institute, the draft lesson plans for five to eight year olds also include recommendations to teachers to use a video from lobby group Stonewall to promote LGBT issues. It also states that gender is different from the sex we are assigned at birth, something critics have warned is too big an issue for such young children.

Critics have cautioned that discussions of this nature ‘will be very confusing’ for younger children, and even proponents of the scheme have warned that parents may feel their children are too young for such topics. Mr McGovern said, ‘It is deeply worrying that adults are foisting this anxiety on children — it is a darkly sinister intrusion into childhood and it’s cruel’.

Even Scottish Conservative Shadow Education Secretary Liz Smith MSP, who agrees children should be taught about gender differences, conceded, ‘many parents might feel this is too young for their children to learn about it’.

The final lesson plans — which are supported by groups including the Scottish Government and NHS boards — are expected to be completed by next summer.