Sex between 13-year-olds is NORMAL, says controversial ‘traffic light tool’ sent to schools to teach about relationships


Sex between 13-year-olds is a normal part of growing up, according to official guidance for teachers. The online resource for school staff also gives sexual behaviour in nine-year-olds the green light. Drawn up by sexual health service Brook, the national guidance was sent to all schools earlier this year.

Education select committee chairman Graham Stuart warned youngsters should be told that under-age sex is 'dangerous'

Education select committee chairman Graham Stuart warned youngsters should be told that under-age sex is ‘dangerous’ while Sarah Carter, of the Family Education Trust, said that sometimes what is taught in school sex and relationship lessons is against the law

The Family Education Trust – which sounded the alarm over the pack in evidence to MPs on the Commons education select committee – yesterday urged the Government to distance itself from the advice.

But it has already been endorsed by the Department for Education and a string of ministers including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Although it is not specifically intended to form part of sex education lessons, it encourages teachers to view sex between 13-year-olds as normal.

Campaigners warned MPs yesterday that it effectively condones unlawful behaviour because the age of consent is 16.

The advice also describes masturbation and ‘consensual kissing’ as a ‘green behaviour’ – a permitted one – for children as young as nine.

The traffic light code used by Brook tells teachers and other professionals how to assess whether children’s sexual behaviour is healthy or unhealthy. It lists green, amber and red ‘behaviours’ for different age groups.

For 13 to 17-year-olds, green behaviours include ‘having sexual or non-sexual relationships’, ‘sexual activity including hugging, kissing, holding hands’ and ‘consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability’.

These behaviours are said to reflect ‘safe and healthy sexual development’ and ‘natural curiosity, experimentation, consensual activities and positive choices’.

They also provide teachers with ‘opportunities to give positive feedback and additional information’ to the pupils.

Sarah Carter, of the Family Education Trust, told MPs that the guidance was at odds with what many parents would want their children to be told.

She said: ‘Take the Brook traffic light tool, for instance. It states that young people who are consensually sexually active from the age of 13, [that] this is normal behaviour and development.

‘Whereas, actually, the law states that a young person should wait until they are 16 at least, never mind if they are ready or not. So quite often what’s taught in SRE [sex and relationships education] isn’t always lawful.’

She added: ‘If a teacher has a moral standpoint that young people should be sexually active from the age of 13 then that’s what they are going to communicate to their classroom, when actually that’s a value that parents may not share. They may like their young person to wait before they are sexually active.’ Brook insisted yesterday the tool was specifically designed to help teachers identify children who were being abused or exploited, rather than being used in sex education lessons.

But the tool is recommended in the guidance under a section headed ‘How do I teach about healthy relationships, sexual consent, exploitation and abuse?’

There was further pressure on the Government last night as an authority on teenage pregnancy rates added his voice to calls for the guidance to be ignored.

The Brook 'Traffic Light Tool' states that for children as yoiung as 13 'green behaviour' includes 'consenting oral and/or penetrative sex'

The Brook ‘Traffic Light Tool’ states that for children as yoiung as 13 ‘green behaviour’ includes ‘consenting oral and/or penetrative sex’

David Paton, a professor of economics at Nottingham University Business School, has already given evidence to the committee’s inquiry. He said there was a ‘big issue’ with describing sexual relations among 13 to 17-year-olds, even if they were a similar age, as ‘safe and healthy development’.

‘I don’t think anyone would agree that it is,’ he said. ‘There’s an awful of evidence that early sexual activity is associated with all sorts of adverse outcomes including early pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases but also mental health issues and adverse academic outcomes.

‘The advice is both misleading and potentially dangerous.’

Joe Hayman, chief executive of the PSHE Association, said he would look again at the links included in the guidance

Joe Hayman, chief executive of the PSHE Association, said he would look again at the links included in the guidance

Graham Stuart, the Labour MP who chairs the education committee, warned that critics might argue that to send out messages that 13-year-olds having sex together is part of growing up and ‘not to send out a message that it’s wrong, that it’s harmful, it’s dangerous, is in fact to almost to collude with something which we know is damaging to young people’.

Joe Hayman, chief executive of the PSHE Association, said that all the resources that the PSHE Association produces are clear about teaching about the law.

‘I think the only challenge with dealing with these subjects, and this is why we need really well-trained teachers, is that we’ve got to deal with children’s realities,’ he told the committee.

Mr Hayman said: ‘What I was saying was that it’s really, really important that a dictatorial-from-the-front lesson on what one should and shouldn’t do is less likely to have an impact and I think we’ve got to start from where children are, their reality.

‘There’s no one in our community who feels we should be trying to sexualise children, or any of those kinds of things.

‘What we want is children to develop healthy and safe relationships and it’s really important that teachers are provided with the necessary training in order to do that.’

Questioned further about Brook’s Traffic Light Tool, Mr Hayman insisted it was difficult for him to be accountable for every piece of information linked to in the PSHE Association’s supplementary guidance, which has many links within it. He agreed to write to the committee about the issue.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘No teacher should ever encourage or condone behaviour which is unlawful or risky.

‘Good quality relationship education is an important part of preparing young people for life.

‘Schools should ensure young people develop positive values and a moral framework that will guide their decisions, judgments and behaviour.

‘This guidance by Brook is not intended for use in planning sex and relationship lessons.’


One Response

  1. Glenn Shumway says:

    I would like to see the government turn its attention to what is “normal behaviour” between lawmakers, and publish that, so we would not become so exercised when we see them doing things that, in the pre-Post-Christian era, used to be called “corruption”. The reader may provide their own examples from current headlines.

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