That’s Life! The government appoints charity to sexual health advisory group

The trouble with health education and dealing with issues like sex, drugs and alcohol is that many people have very fixed ideas about what children and young people should learn. Add to this the fact that teachers are often anxious and unsure of how and what to teach and parents are anxious about their children are learning and we have a very shaky situation. When the phone rings and someone offers to come and teach about sex or drugs to students, many head teachers and teachers breathe a sigh of relief and quickly book them in.

But how many schools take the time (or indeed have the time) to do a little research on these groups? A quick google is usually all it takes to find out what you need to know. There are some excellent groups out there teaching SRE and drug and alcohol education but there are an awful lot of charlatans too and my worry is that more and more of these charlatans will find their way into schools because local authority staff are not there to advise them.

I used to get regular phonecalls from schools asking me about groups that had contacted them. Part of my job was the check these people out. I’d observe lessons, check lesson plans and watch theatre groups in action to see if what they were offering was in line with good practice. I’d tell schools to ask for detailed lesson plans and references before booking. Anyone with good track record will be happy to offer these.

A good example of this is Narcanon. A quick search on the internet will tell you that they’re Scientologists and offer lessons based on L Ron Hubbard’s teachings. Now they don’t call up and say, ‘Hi! We’re the Scientologists and we’d like to give your students some spurious Science about drugs.’ If you’ve done your research and believe that they are a group who should be speaking to your pupils then, fine, invite them in. but make sure the parents know what their children are learning and from whom.

Another group who offer talks to schools are Life. This pro-life charity will come and talk to your children about how a baby grows (primary) and about abortion and assisted reproduction (secondary)and to be fair to Life, they offer clear, detailed lesson plans and are a hit with many schools, including faith schools. I advise schools again to do their research carefully and make an informed decision while informing parents of exactly who is talking to their children as part of a well-planned programme of SRE that addresses the needs of all children. The fact remains, however, that Life is a group with an agenda and a point to get across. 

It was interesting to see then that Life has been given membership of the government’s sexual health forum while the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has been given its marching orders.

Abortion issues have always been a hot political potato in the US but in the UK we’ve usually taken the pro-choice stance. It seems now that the coalition government is looking west for all things sexual health. If I was an MP I’d be looking towards countries where teenage pregnancy, STIs and were lower than ours and find out what they were doing right. Our American cousins do many things well but sexual health? Not so much. What next? Looking to see how the US addresses childhood obesity and demanding that chips and turkey twizzlers are brought back into schools?

BD (before Dorries) I’d have been horrified by this latest move but now? I’m feeling jaded, fed up and more than a little depressed. Those of us who are passionate about children’s health are not all leftie lunatics; we do what we do because we believe that we can make things better.

Next time, Mr Cameron et al, just give us a call and we’ll be there to help. Agenda-free.

For more information on pro-choice check out Education for Choice.


3 Responses to That’s Life! The government appoints charity to sexual health advisory group

  1. Citizen CW says:

    It’s a funny thing, this campaign millarky. Those of us with passionate views feel very strongly tat our children must be taught about this, yet never taught about that. As my daughter starts that rocketspeed journey to adulthood (she reaches 2 next month…2….I know, where did that time go) I know I’m going to be that annoying parent who emails the school demanding that my somewhat extreme agenda isn’t contradicted in the classroom.

    The thing is, I actually wouldn’t have a problem with a LIFE school talk. In fact I’d welcome it. I spent a good deal of time in my 20s doing school talks around the subjects of vegetarianism and animal liberation ethics. I’m sure that many parents, and probably many readers in here, will now be recoiling a little and assuming me being the stereotypical animal rights nutter. I can assure that I was (and remain) far from that and that I always took great are to ensure talks I gave were factual rather than emotional and provoked a debate, rather than gave answers. The fact is, the average teacher could no more explain vegetarianism without scorn than I could creationism. You need someone with passion and expertise to explain these issues, and abortion is no exception. The key point is where and how these lessons take place.

    I have no issue with youngest CW being told that abortion is wrong. But it should not be by a teacher who she presumes to be enternally right and it should not be in the context of science or direct education about sexual health. In terms of the latter, the education should surly be about the options, one of which is a legal abortion. As a follow on to that lesson, it would then be worthwhile asking if abortion was right or wrong as a debate and, while encouraging the students to find, evaluate and question materials, get preassure groups in to put their points.

    My worries come when bias is involved. In thus government’s advisory body, one side has been pushed out instead of another. I already know of faith schools where abortion and homosexuality are frowned at…it’s important children and adult learners are presented with all the facts…how else can they make up their own minds?

  2. guerrillamum says:

    As in so many things since the new government came into power, one side of the discussion is being promoted to the exclusion of other arguments. It is not healthy, it is not informative and it is not right. It is quite scary to think that very often children take what teachers/lesson providers say in school is ‘gospel’ and these very formative years are set to be ‘hijacked’ by people with an agenda to promote.

  3. I am a bit wary of any claims to “agenderlessness”. Ofcourse there is an agenda within any government policy. The difference between now and the proceeding one is that the “liberal” agenda has been somewhat, although not entirely, impeached. Afterall just to placate you, all parties support civil marriage, and neither would repeal gender equality legislation. I would say the inclusion of the organisation Life to the public discussion on sex education represents balance as long as their agenda or posiion was transparent. Transparency is the real issue. And once organisations start to hide their true intentions as your post describes then public institutions of all types need to start worrying.

    Dean Cowan

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