Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Govt calls for overhaul of sex education

Time to talk about sex - and the revamp of how it's taught in our classrooms. Photo / Thinkstock
Time to talk about sex - and the revamp of how it's taught in our classrooms. Photo / Thinkstock

Respectful attitudes to sex would become a core part of sex education in schools under an overhaul recommended to the Government.

The revamp would aim to broaden the subject beyond a narrow focus on the physical mechanics of sex and reproduction.

The proposal has come from Parliament's health select committee after a cross-party inquiry which found New Zealand's high teenage-pregnancy rate was partly the result of inconsistent and sometimes non-existent sexual and reproductive lessons in schools.

Sex education is mandatory, but the 18-month inquiry found programmes were "fragmented and uneven", parents were able to keep children out of them and classes often focused on physical aspects of sex.

The select committee recommended that the Government give all schools two years to create programmes that meet Ministry of Health standards.

The Education Review Office would monitor whether schools were meeting the needs of students of all cultures, ethnicities and sexual orientations.

Cabinet ministers said yesterday that they would "partially accept" the recommendations.

The committee made 130 recommendations for changes to sex education and to healthcare, maternity care, alcohol abuse, nutrition and early intervention programmes.

The Government accepted 55 recommendations, partially accepted 54, noted 14 and rejected seven.

Committee chairman and National MP Paul Hutchison said he was encouraged by the Government's overall response and was optimistic it would adopt the sex education proposals.

"Given the issues with the Roastbusters case and other recent cases, there's a growing view that we need to do this. I would hope that the Government will look to the evidence and then form a basis of action."

Others were sceptical.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmonds said it appeared the Government had no intention of requiring the ERO to monitor whether schools were meeting students' needs in sexual health and education.

The inquiry found that the ERO had been "very passive" in monitoring sex education.

Labour health spokeswoman Annette King said the Government's response was a "two-fingered salute" to two years of hard work because it did not commit to deadlines and half-heartedly accepted the recommendations.

Late last year, 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, while others felt more education would enable young women to know their rights.

Dr Hutchison said the Government would have to consult parents and schools.

"I think this area needs to be made ... acceptable to the majority of parents and students so that they will regard human reproduction and health as a normalised part of general education, rather than putting their head in the sand over it."


'Allow families to decide'

Jo-Anne Sim resigned as a trustee of Blacketown Primary School last month.
Jo-Anne Sim resigned as a trustee of Blacketown Primary School last month.

A former board of trustees member who resigned over "unacceptable" sex education classes at her school opposes recommendations that sex education programmes be mandatory for all schoolchildren.

Jo-Anne Sim resigned last month as a trustee of the Blaketown Primary School on the West Coast after a teacher taught what Ms Sim said were explicit lessons that were not appropriate for Year 7 and 8 pupils.

The classes included discussion about oral and anal sex, flavoured condoms, and pleasure points - despite parents having been told in writing beforehand that pupils would be taught only the basics.

Ms Sim said families should be given a choice when it came to educating their children about sexual health.

"Some parents like to be the people who give that advice in the family and guide the children at the right time," she said.

But if sex education was to be taught in schools, it had to be by a health professional.

- NZ Herald

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