Nadine Dorries: Sex and Relationship Education expert
May 5, 2011 5 Comments
Until recently I hadn’t even heard of Tory MP Nadine Dorries (mid Bedfordshire) but her abstinence bill got Twitter all of a flutter yesterday. She introduced a ten minute rule bill that would require girls aged 13 to 16 to be taught about abstinence during their sex and relationship education (SRE) at schools. MPs worryingly voted 67 to 61, not enough to get the bill passed but enough to seriously worry SRE practitioners. I’ve written about the dichotomy of attidues to sex in the UKuntil I sound like a broken record but there is still such a huge misundertanding about SRE among parents, teachers and now it would appear, MPs.
Good SRE includes plenty of teaching about the emotional side of relationships and engages pupils in discussion. Discussion that includes the reasons that young people may feel pressurized and how to delay sex until they are older or in stable, loving relationship. It’s a given that we want children to be safe, healthy, protected and empowered.
Abstinence teaching is an American favourite (Sarah Palin is a fan. Her daughter got pregnant at sixteen) and is one way for young people, perhaps if they are religious or wish to make that choice. It doesn’t work for everyone, just look at America’s teenage pregnancy figures. They’re even worse than ours. I don’t understand why Ms Dorries hasn’t looked toward countries with exceptionally low TP rates to consider what they are doing right. America in this instance is really not a good example to be following. It’s like copying the kid who is bottom of the class rather than the A grade pupil.
To add insult to injury, Dorries appears very uninformed about SRE in schools herself:
‘The thrust was that girls as young as seven are taught about intercourse, safe sex, how to apply a condom on a banana, where to get condoms, how to detect an STI and that they don’t need to tell their parents anything,’ she bleats on her blog. (Unfortunate use of the word Thrust Dorries’ own.)
I’ve been in many classrooms in primary schools and can say hand on heart than I have never seen or heard of seven year olds putting condoms on bananas. That would be just wrong. At seven, they’re still talking about healthy, happy relationships and how to keep safe and healthy. It’s exactly this sort of ill informed rubbish that has parents frightened to death about SRE. She also sadly says ‘sex education’ which sounds like it does just that, teach children about sex. We’ve used the title Sex and Relationship Education (or even Relationships and Sex Education) for years now, emphasising that relationships and sex go hand in hand.
‘In schools,’ she adds in her blog, ‘children are taught to base the decision whether or not to have sex on their feelings and wishes.’ All schools? Some schools? One or two schools? I do love a sweeping statement and I’d to know how many schools she’s visited to observe the SRE in action in order to make a statement like this. Urban schools? Rural schools? Faith schools?
I will be writing to my MP –who wasn’t even in parliament for the vote- to try and persuade him that legislation about high quality SRE that has support from the whole school community with the support of experts is what is needed in our schools and this not a pick ‘n’ mix approach by those with a flag to wave.