Who Is Raising Britain’s Children?

Posted on September 8, 2010


Chris Bryant MP plans to introduce a bill today under the ten-minute rule attempting to make sex and relationships education (SRE) compulsory in state schools. It is rare for a ten-minute rule bill to pass onto the statute books, although since 1945 there have been sixty Acts of Parliament which began life in this way. This particular bill, moreover, is part of a disturbing trend.  The previous government attempted to introduce compulsory SRE, and to extend the curriculum to cover children as young as five – an attempt which was only halted thanks to a lack of time in the pre-election ‘mop-up’ period.

It is known that Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe, and one of the highest rates of sexually transmitted disease (STD). The solution, we are told, is to have more sex education at a younger age, coupled with easier access to contraceptives. Many people accept this proposed solution. A BBC/NOP Poll in 2008 found that 87% of those questioned thought that SRE lessons should be compulsory. Yet simple common sense ought to tell us that if this claim was true, then in proportion as sex education and access to contraceptives have become more widespread during recent decades, rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs should have fallen.

Peter Hitchens, who has carried out research into the history of sex education in the UK, observed that in Norwich in 1963, parents were told to instruct their young in sexual matters because the illegitimacy rate had reached almost 8%. The national rate is now 46%, rising to almost 94% amongst teenage pregnancies. Recently released statistics for rates of STDs show that there were almost 500,000 new such infections in 2009, a 3% increase on the previous year. The fact staring us in the face is that the more merely technical sex education young people are exposed to, and the easier access they have to contraception, the more teenage pregnancies and STDs occur.  Trying to stem the problem by more of the same is akin to trying to put out a fire by throwing petrol on it.

Dr. Edward Green, former Director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University has, in the context of the Third World, spoken critically of an industry ‘drawing billions of dollars a year promoting condoms, testing, drugs, and treatment of AIDS’. We could make a similar observation regarding the UK, which has spawned a network of organisations providing contraceptive and related advice to young people, such as the Brook Advisory Clinics, Connexions, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service and so on. Bureaucracies tend to defend and enlarge their own existence, and some organisations would be out of business if rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs genuinely began to decline.

Parents have not only a right but a responsibility to provide their children with suitable social formation. The purpose of a school is to provide basic academic training on behalf of those parents who send their children to it, not to replace the parents in their role as educators. In 2007 it was reported that the UK had fallen from 8th to 24th place in a survey of mathematical standards in the schools of 50 countries. Similar decline has been noted in reading skills, science exam standards, and in just about every area, yet in spite of plummeting academic standards there are some who are determined to pack the curriculum with politically correct subjects such as citizenship, careers education and the like, which teach children basic social skills once taught in the home. The fact that 87% of people agree that SRE should be made compulsory in schools only shows that many who are parents have given in to the prevailing fashion and abdicated their own responsibility for the education of their children which, particularly in such delicate matters, ought to be given within the family home as far as possible. If parents do not begin to take seriously their own responsibilities, the State will tend increasingly to offer children basic social formation, and will therefore have potentially an ever-increasing influence over how each member of the next generation thinks and acts – a frightening prospect indeed.