Poor sex lessons leave youngsters vulnerable, says schools watchdog

Many schools are failing to give pupils decent sex and relationships lessons, which could leave them open to sexual exploitation or inappropriate behaviour, inspectors have warned.

Secondary school pupils should learn more about pornography, relationships, sexuality and staying safe, rather than just the “mechanics” of reproduction, Ofsted said.

It also criticised primary schools for spending too much time teaching pupils about friendships and relationships, leaving them ill-prepared for puberty.

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In a damning new report, the schools watchdog said that in a “sizeable proportion” of England’s schools personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is still not good enough. Sex and relationships education needs to be improved in more than a third of schools, Ofsted said.

“In primary schools this was because too much emphasis was placed on friendships and relationships, leaving pupils ill-prepared for physical and emotional changes during puberty,” the report argues.

“In secondary schools it was because too much emphasis was placed on ‘the mechanics’ of reproduction and too little on relationships, sexuality, the influence of pornography on students’ understanding of healthy sexual relationships, dealing with emotions and staying safe.”

It adds: “Lack of high-quality, age-appropriate sex and relationships education in more than a third of schools is a concern as it may leave children and young people vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation. This is because they have not been taught the appropriate language or developed the confidence to describe unwanted behaviours or know where to go to for help.”

In March, Education Minister Liz Truss announced that PSHE will remain a non-compulsory subject, saying it should be down to schools and teachers to decide on the topics covered in lessons.