Sex lessons in Northern Ireland

Frank Carson’s catchphrase “It’s the way I tell ‘em,” applies in spades to the tabloids’ treatment of “ sex lessons for five year olds. ” The Sun is fearless and frank as usual

“KIDS as young as five will get compulsory sex education in a drive to cut teenage pregnancies.

Schools will be forced to teach them the facts of life from day one under new rules unveiled yesterday.

Compulsory lessons on the dangers of drugs and booze are also part of the timetable shake-up.

Five-year-olds will learn about body parts, relationships, drugs and alcohol. From seven they will learn about puberty and where babies come from.”

The Independent reports “anger” among some Christian bodies and in its Big Question briefing reports what Alex Salmond said on Question Time last night, that Scotland is the only part of the UK where the instruction is voluntary. In Northern Ireland they brought it in quietly and nobody seems to have made a fuss, am I right? ( If so, great, I hope I not stirring it. We can leave that to Nolan).
In spite of some Christian objections, Catholic bodies in England have taken the news in their stride:

“Supplementary guidance would be produced for Catholic schools advising them that they too must teach all elements of the curriculum alongside Catholic values about contraception, abortion and homosexuality. The Catholic Education Service denied that this could result in mixed messages for pupils if they were being taught the facts of contraception, then that it was frowned upon. Oona Stannard, director of the CES, said: “Young people have a right to have age-appropriate information. We can similarly ensure that they are taught the values of their religious faith.”

In my ignorance I don’t know if Catholics schools in any part of Ireland teach about contraception. I’d like to be enligthened about that and lot’s more.

What is “age appropriate” learning and how close are the links between what ‘s taught at all levels and teenage pregnancy? Does existing sex education have any noticeable effect? What do the kids think of it? While I’m all for knowledge, what’s the theory behind teaching about the body at 5? The pregnancy figures while still high seem to falling UK wide though I can’t find up to date NI figures. The Health Department recognises it has a problem on its hands.( see under age 17 birth rates). These are the current targets for improving teenage sexual health:

“increasing the number of teenagers delaying sexual activity; reducing the rate of births to teenage mothers; reducing the incidence of STIs ( sexually transmitted diseases) ; and reducing the access time to Genito Urinary Medicine GUM clinics to two working days.”

As they did over lowering the age of consent and abortion, local politicians divide up into the majority who yearn for mythical golden yesterday of a life of innocence, and the few who are interested in life as it really is. Do Michael McGimpsey and Catriona Ruane talk together about a cross-cutting sexual health and information plan? It seems unlikely; but perhaps their departments do.

It would be great if someone would come on and inform us.

Finally some year 2000 stats on NI sexual behaviour from the Family Planning Association. I doubt if the situation has changed much

Natsal 2000 did not include Northern Ireland. A separate survey carried out in 2000 by fpa in Northern Ireland and the University of Ulster included over 1,000 young people aged 14–256. It found that:

*
the average (median) age at first heterosexual intercourse was 15.6 years (14.9 for men and 15.9 for women)
*
just over a third had experienced sexual intercourse before 17 (the legal age of consent in Northern Ireland) and a quarter had sex before 16
*
nearly two-thirds (63.8 per cent) had used a condom when they first had sex, either alone or with another method of contraception
*
about a quarter had used no contraception at all when they first had sex
*
just under a third (31.6 per cent) said they felt they had sex too early, and this was more likely (43 per cent) if they had been under 16 at the time
*
on average, the sexually active 14–25-year-olds had had six sexual partners; the average for young women was five, and young men eight.”

As if we needed to be told, Northern Ireland is not a place of special virtue (although I don’t think of sexual abstinence as an uncomplicated “good”) . But it’s often an uphill struggle to make sure it’s not a place of special ignorance.

  • Essentialist

    You are not wrong Brian.

    The Revised (Northern Ireland) Curriculum has introduced a myriad of changes that place the teaching of sex and body matters and relationships to five year olds ahead of reading, writing and spelling.

    Age appropriate teaching of numeracy and literacy by direct instruction methods would rank high amongst parental expectations in the classroom. However teachers have adopted a different set of priorities.

    The fact that the curricular changes are being introduced quietly and piecemeal does not diminish their negative effects.

    The CCEA “enriched curriculum” project is the exemplar. That noone is defending the negative results is telling. Why the silence from these educationalists?

  • George

    The birth rate is really not of much use here if we are discussing teenage sexual activity. We need to know the pregnancy rate.

    For example, Norway and Sweden have much lower teenage birth rates than the Irish Republic so at first glance this would appear that there is less teenage sexual activity.

    But this low figure is due to the much higher teenage abortion rate in Norway and Sweden.

    Ireland actually has a lower pregnancy rate than both these countries but the birth rate figure is higher because it has a much, much lower teenage abortion rate.

  • Essentialist

    Is there an open-access copy of said curriculum posted anywhere so Sluggerites could see where you’re coming from in your analysis?

  • Nomad

    Maybe it’s just me… but are the first two points of that report even compatible? (Not to say likely)-

    the average (median) age at first heterosexual intercourse was 15.6 years (14.9 for men and 15.9 for women)
    *
    just over a third had experienced sexual intercourse before 17 (the legal age of consent in Northern Ireland) and a quarter had sex before 16

    I am having trouble remembering my maths, but if the median age is 14.9 for ‘men’, then surely that would be closer to 60% experiencing sex before 17??

  • Brian Walker

    Nomad – the former is the average age of those who had experienced sex not of the total of the age group, the latter is the number in the age group who had experienced sex?

    I offer the suggestion, I’m not pronouncing…

  • Gav

    Brian,

    Yes Catholic schools do teach about contraception. There are questions about it in the GCSE Biology exam.

  • Essentialist

    Mark Dowling

    See for example http://www.belvoirparkprimary.org/enriched.htm

    Then if you want an early night or to sample progressivist claptrap by proxy try the CCEA website

    http://www.deni.gov.uk/index/80-curriculumandassessment_pg/80-curriculum_and_assessment-programmesofstudy_pg/80-curriculum_and_assessment-programmes_of_study-index_pg.htm

    Perhaps you will get some idea of the extent to which the word teach has disappeared from the curriculum

  • Brian Walker

    Essentialist
    Too much bureaucratic language but not much to how how it translates into the classroom. It seems Slugger contributors at least aren’t worried about ” sex” education for tinies. That’s a relief.

  • Yvette Doll

    Brian

    Sex liberation in the Netherlands had a huge budget, it was paid for by prostitution, narcotics, pornography, racketeering, so it was possible, to make decisions, and then go out and make it happen, it did happen.

    “Through ongoing debate and exploration during the project, members of the project team have challenged the pervasive images of romantic love and life-long monogamy portrayed by the lesbian and gay characters in the children¹s books used in project schools”

    That is what is being used in British primary schools in three LEA areas *today*.

    The thing the people from Cowtown have to ask themselves is why an anti-integrationist agenda is at large prosletyzing five year olds.

    What we have in Britain is coercion for the sake of coercion, it is allied to other things and other platforms, for example the NASUWT has a heavy agenda of transgressive sexual politics.

    The NASUWT are concentrating on the opt-out in a very misleading way.

    “However, placing a statutory requirement on schools will be rendered meaningless if every parent has the right to withdraw their child from sex and relationships classes. If it is important enough to be statutory then it is important enough for every child to receive it. This is a fundamental issue which must now be resolved before the Government discovers that it has committed significant time and resources only to find a handful of children remain in the class.”

    The actual opt-out from sex-ed in Britain is four pupils per ten thousand.

    ‘The fact is that parents are fed bland statements and kept in the dark. Little wonder, as Ofsted records, that only about 0.04 per cent of pupils – four in every 10,000 – are withdrawn from non-statutory sex education lessons. (The statutory elements, which are in the national science curriculum, cover anatomy, puberty and the biological aspects of sexual reproduction.)’

    The big mistake the British make is not keeping track of the COC/PNVD/IPCE, and those people from the PAL/PIE/NCCL initiatives.

    “Through ongoing debate and exploration during the project, members of the project team have challenged the pervasive images of romantic love and life-long monogamy portrayed by the lesbian and gay characters in the children¹s books used in project schools”

    If you see something, that is indentical in many respects to documents used by transgressive sexual agencies, or talking about 5 year olds having sexual desire. One needs to phone the police.

    Being the advice of somebody who stood at the politburo door of sex liberation in Holland.

    If the NASUWT want something, just say no, is the very short warning.

    Yvette Doll

  • Yvette Doll

    “As if we needed to be told, Northern Ireland is not a place of special virtue (although I don’t think of sexual abstinence as an uncomplicated “good”) . But it’s often an uphill struggle to make sure it’s not a place of special ignorance.”

    Prof Donna Hughes asked me yesterday, if she could make a reference to me, ‘Yvette Doll’, on a G/TIP related bulletin list, G/TIP works as a google search by the way.

    When I was in Amsterdam, and indeed London, or campaigning in relation to the Soviets, I was interested in sex liberation, I had a sentimental attachment to Andy Warhol, I often sacrificed efficiency, to pamper the ideas of the New Yorkers, we all favor our friends.

    Sex liberation was going to require more than a safe haven, more than millions of dollars, more than a sound track,

    it had to be narcotized, and at that point, clubs, brothels, bars, porn studios, what drug was it going to be? In retrospect, we kind of gave alcohol too low a rating,

    when we eschewed heroin as ‘too Warhol’ and adopted methylamphetamine as the icon drug, a building block of sexual liberation, we already knew it was 100 percent fatal,

    The only question we asked ourselves was did it work, and as the answer was yes, we had something to rival anything out of Haight Asbury, our idea would last forever and it did.

    The lesson for NI, was that we under estimated the value of alcohol towards the same end. Probably because nobody had thought of drinking it in forms, or quantities that young people in Britain are prepared to do.

    Yvette Doll