Schools have been formally advised to add lessons about consent and coercion into their sexuality education programmes for the first time.

• Read more: Controversial sex-ed course pitched

However, the Ministry of Education has refrained from changing the curriculum or making the lessons mandatory, so schools are still able to choose what sex lessons they give their students.

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The ministry released updated guidelines on sexuality education today, which have an added focus on decision-making around sex and cultural differences.

They come in the wake of ongoing calls for better sex education in schools, including recommendations from the 2013 Health Select Committee which found "fragmented and uneven programmes" were partly to blame for the high teenage pregnancy rate.

The issue was again raised following the Roastbusters incidents, in which West Auckland youths bragged on social media about having sex with drunk and underage girls, but were not convicted.

Deputy Secretary for Student Achievement Dr Graham Stoop said schools told the ministry they wanted to be able to equip students with the right skills to navigate relationships with others, and to keep themselves safe.

"We understand this can be a difficult subject, so we've also produced a brochure for parents. It tells them what their children are likely to be taught, and at what age, and how parents can express their views."

Dr Stoop said the revised guide was aimed at helping encourage problem-solving and decision-making for students in relation to sexual activity, as well as assertiveness skills and identifying pressures from others.

"The guide has been produced with the help of schools, education groups and professionals, and health experts. It outlines the importance of recognising sexual diversity. Schools should be mindful of diverse student viewpoints when planning classe," he said.

"Research shows that when students feel their personal values are treated with respect by their peers and schools, they stay at school longer and achieve more."

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The report said issues that require attention are consent and coercion; and the sexualisation of young people, particularly girls.

The effects of pornography on young people's understanding of sexuality and relationships also needed to be a focus, as did examining the bias that opposite sex relationships are normal.

Sex education is currently a compulsory part of the health curriculum, however, schools are free to decide how they teach it, in consultation with their school community.

They must consult every two years on how they teach it.

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