By Hilary White

  LONDON, March 3, 2008 ( – Three quarters of teachers polled by a quasi-official teachers’ professional journal said they think sex education should be compulsory, with parents losing their right to pull their children from the classes, the Daily Telegraph reports. The Times Educational Supplement (TES) poll found that more than 60 per cent of primary teachers and 35 per cent of secondary teachers said lessons should start as young as nine. A further quarter of primary staff said classes should begin at seven.

  Gregory Carlin, spokesman for the Irish Anti-Trafficking Coalition, a group that monitors the sexual exploitation of children, told that such a move would be a case of coercion where no coercion is necessary. He said, “According to every criterion sex educators use to audit their work” (age of first intercourse, under-age sex, teenage pregnancy, incidence of abortion, sexually transmitted diseases) “sex education as currently practised in Britain has failed to produce the positive outcomes”.

  Government records show that the parental opt-out is rarely used anyway. Only about 0.04 per cent of pupils are withdrawn from non-statutory sex education lessons in British schools.

  At the same time, the government’s Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) have produced a “toolkit” booklet on teenage pregnancy that guides teachers in sex-education classes, that pro-family critics say takes a morally neutral stand on sexual relations outside marriage.

  Developed by the Sex Education Forum, the booklet gives questions children must answer on sexual morality, with the government-approved answers given. Children will be asked whether they agree, disagree or are unsure if “Sex and relationship education should teach you to make choices, not tell you what to do”; the desirable response is “Agree”. Another question asks whether “Schools should only teach Christian values” and the correct answer is “Disagree”. A third question asks “Homosexuality can be discussed as part of school lessons”, with the correct answer being “Agree”. Another asks “Schools should tell young people not to have sex” with the correct answer being “Disagree”.

  Norman Wells, director of Family and Youth Concern, told the Daily Mail newspaper that the programme is “verging on brainwashing.”

  Wells said, “The forum is committed to promoting the view that there are no rights and wrongs when it comes to sexual relationships. The authors of this toolkit are clearly aiming to steer children away from a belief in moral absolutes and encouraging them to think everything is relative”.

  Meanwhile statistics released last week show that although the overall rate has slowed, Britain still has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe. Following complaints that the “delivery” of sex-education is “patchy” in schools, with some young children not knowing how to use a condom, the Labour government recently pledged £26.8 million for more sex-education.

  But some say that this kind of government-sponsored sex education is the problem and programmes like the DCSF toolkit will only serve to throw gasoline on an already roaring fire. Pro-family groups have long protested the quasi-compulsory and explicit nature of school sex-ed courses, saying they take the matter out of the hands of parents and encourage children to become part of the wider culture of sexual obsession that encourages sexual activity for the young.

  The London-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) said that the apparent decrease is only in comparison with the peak year of 1998, a year before the government strategy was implemented. Teenage pregnancy statistics released last week, the group says, prove that the government’s strategy “has been a massive failure”. This failure, the group says, has contributed significantly to the abortion rate.

  Anthony Ozimic, SPUC political secretary, said such strategies had failed, at the expense of the lives of unborn children, by removing children from their parents’ protection, and “exposing children to an adult culture of promiscuity”. He said, “In fact, the number of teenage pregnancies had already started falling before the strategy began.” He points out, moreover, that the government’s intervention in sex-ed actually inhibited this improvement. Ozimic added, “The strategy has failed and should now be abandoned”.

  At the same time, a report shows that children, especially girls, are being pushed out of the innocence of childhood at earlier ages than ever. A survey of 1,170 parents with children under 18 by Random House publishers found that childhood was effectively over and children were “young adults” by age 11. By age six, the survey found, little girls are abandoning dollies and moving on to pierced ears, make-up and hair dye.

  Nearly half the parents polled said they allow their 16-year-old children to spend the night at a boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s house. Almost three-quarters said their children have “scant” regard for their authority.