Friday, 23 July 2010

Don't hold your breath when reading new Ofsted report on sex and relationships education

The BBC, and a host of other news services, reports today Ofsted's claim that lessons about sex, relationships and health are not good enough in 25% of schools in England.
"Teacher embarrassment and lack of knowledge were often to blame, Ofsted said in a report based on findings at 92 primary and 73 secondary schools."
Whilst it will undoubtedly be interesting to read in detail this 43-page report (36 pages if you cut out the blank spaces on various pages) and its recommendations, I am not holding my breath that it will provide any hard evidence that alleged "better" sex and relationships education will make for the better results. 
Paul Tully, SPUC's general secretary, pointed out earlier this year (in a SPUC briefing you should read in full on the previous government's unsuccessful legislative plans for sex and relationships education):
"Advocates of sex education often try to explain the poor outcomes of current sex education by saying that it is not taught consistently, that it is delivered by non-specialised or poorly-trained teachers, that it does not have sufficient status as a subject, or that it doesn’t link information to local sexual health services."
Paul looked at a number of studies researching into the problem. One of these studies, entitled SHARE, was designed to combine the most effective educational techniques available, including small group work, role-playing, handling condoms, interactive video, etc. The study by Henderson, Wight and others, appeared in the British Medical Journal [BMJ 2007 Jan 20 334(7585) 133] in an article entitled Impact of a theoretically based sex education programme (SHARE) delivered by teachers on NHS registered conceptions and terminations: final results of cluster randomised trial.

Paul notes:
Despite all this care and effort, the researchers concluded about SHARE that: “This specially designed sex education programme did not reduce conceptions or terminations by age 20 compared with conventional provision. The lack of effect was not due to quality of delivery.”

In fact, earlier published data had suggested a higher rate of abortions among the SHARE programme pupils.
As David Paton, professor of industrial economics at Nottingham University Business School, has pointed out: the government had spent £250 million on developing a programme to provide information on sex, including contraception and abortion, and to link schools to sexual advice clinics. While the rate of pregnancies in under-18s had fallen, pregnancies among under-16s, sexually transmitted diseases and teenage abortion rates had increased.

We must persuade our new coalition government, not least Michael Gove, the secretary of state for education, that it's time for a new chapter in sex and relationships education - by abandoning the government's devastating failure in the classroom and by recognizing parents' rights and responsibilities as the primary educators of their children - rights recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (as I pointed out in my talk at 4th world pro-life congress in Spain last year).

I will, no doubt, return to the Ofsted report and its findings, very soon.

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