Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Sex education lagging: poll

Greater focus on respect and attitudes needed, survey after Roast Busters case finds.

High schools should teach more than the physical and medical aspects of sex and also emphasise respect for sexual partners. Photo / Thinkstock
High schools should teach more than the physical and medical aspects of sex and also emphasise respect for sexual partners. Photo / Thinkstock

Nearly three-quarters of New Zealanders feel that the Roast Busters case showed high school students needed to be taught about respectful attitudes to sex, not just the mechanics of sexual intercourse.

Sex education and rape prevention came into the spotlight in October amid allegations against Auckland teenagers who boasted on the internet about having sex with drunk and underage girls.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey showed 74.7 per cent of respondents believed high schools should teach more than the physical and medical aspects of sex and also emphasise respect for sexual partners.

Following the Roast Busters scandal, Prime Minister John Key said the Government would have to tread carefully in expanding sex education in schools because some parents felt it would cut across their responsibilities and rights and others would feel that more education would keep young women safer and allow them to better understand their rights.

It was a very delicate balance which had to be right, he said.

Fewer than one in five people surveyed felt that shaping attitudes to sex was the sole domain of parents.

Politicians on both sides of the spectrum agreed that sexual education needed an overhaul, though there was disagreement about who was responsible for giving teens a more holistic education.

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig said parents should be responsible for teaching kids about sexuality, but there needed to be an institutional backup if parents failed.

Post Primary Teachers' Association President Angela Roberts said the poll result wasn't surprising.

"A really good place for kids to learn this stuff is in schools where they can be taught by specialists."

However, Ms Roberts said any changes to sex education programs was the responsibility of the individual school's board of trustees.

Parliament's health committee reported last month that sexual education in New Zealand was patchy, outdated and often non-existent.

Committee chairman Dr Paul Hutchison said most of the public would "come on board" when they witnessed the effect of education on reducing abuse, unplanned pregnancies, STIs and abortions.

- Additional reporting: Ben Irwin

- NZ Herald

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