The Methodist Church in Britain has welcomed the UK government’s decision to make education in schools about sex and relationships compulsory for children of all ages.
MP Jim Knight, Minister for Schools, was met with loud applause from delegates when he made the announcement at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster today.
Sandy Youngson, a drugs and sexual health trainer and Methodist Church representative who sat on the review board that advised the government, said he was delighted at the decision.
He declared: "I think this is a positive and exciting move,’ he said. ‘It puts the importance of relationships and sexual health education into a framework that can be supported and managed. It gives teachers clarity about what they teach in schools and assurance to parents that what is being taught is age appropriate."
The change in the law will mean that all school children aged five to 16 will receive personal, social and health education covering drug and alcohol misuse, healthy living, sex and emotional education. It is hoped that the new curriculum will be ready by September 2010.
Mr Youngson said: "We are not talking about teaching six and seven-year-olds the Kama Sutra. The Methodist Church wants to support young people to develop as a whole. We live in an increasingly sexualized society. We are not trying to encourage that, but prepare young people for that reality, prepare them for the wonderful side of relationships and reduce risks."
He continued: "Just talking about sex does not increase the chances of somebody doing it; in fact, it is the opposite. There is evidence that good quality education about sex and relationships, covering a wide range of topics, in fact delays a young person’s first sexual encounter. At some point in most people’s lives they will become sexually active, and preparing them for it on the basis of having a good understanding of relationships is a good way of supporting young people."
Graham Russell, chief executive of Methodist Schools, added: "It is necessary to prepare young people to confront the problems they will encounter in the modern world: ignorance will provide no defence at all."
The Methodist Church is one of the largest Christian churches in Britain, with nearly 265,000 members and regular contact with over 800,000 people. It has about 5,800 churches, and also maintains links with other Methodist churches totalling a worldwide membership of 70 million.