School sex education row

Pictured is Louise Leahy at home in Main Street,Grenoside
Pictured is Louise Leahy at home in Main Street,Grenoside

UP to 20 families at a Sheffield primary school say they are prepared to withdraw their children from classes in protest at plans to teach explicit sex education lessons to pupils as young as six.

Already Grenoside Primary offers sex education to youngsters in the two oldest year groups, but is seeking to extend its programme to younger children.

But some parents believe the school is now going too far, with proposals which could see subjects such as ‘good and bad touching’, homosexuality and the names of sexual body parts being taught to children aged six to nine years.

Consultation on the classes is currently taking place and a meeting for parents has been held at the school.

Headteacher Colin Fleetwood said the curriculum has been taught successfully in other city schools for a number of years.

However, Katie Burrell, aged 26, who has a six-year-old son, Redd, at the school, said she thought the planned lessons were disgusting.

“At first I thought it was a joke – the lessons go way too far. My boy still believes in Father Christmas, he doesn’t need to be told about these sorts of things,” she said. “The lessons for six and seven-year-olds are far too explicit. I think a lot of parents will take their children out of these classes.

“I am by no means a prude but some of this material is beyond stupidity. One part of a video even showed a woman on top of a man – it was so inappropriate.”

Louise Leahy, 41, who has four children aged between five and 10 at the school, said she felt pupils were being sexualised at too young an age.

“My view is children should be allowed to be children – we do not want them to be growing up too quickly,” she said.

“There is too much pressure on youngsters already with all the tests they have to pass, and I feel the sex education curriculum adds to this, treating children as if they are mini-adults.

“The videos which are shown as part of the curriculum talk about children touching themselves and tell them it feels good. To me that is encouraging them to think in a sexual way – if anything new is presented to a child, they will be curious and they will want to investigate it, that’s only natural.”

Not all parents are against the idea, however.

Amanda Oates, 47, mum to a seven-year-old boy at the school, said: “I went to both of the meetings and was happy with everything they told us.

“In the times we live in, when you see sex on Coronation Street and EastEnders, way before the watershed, children will know about this stuff anyway. I’m happy it comes from the teachers instead.”

Mr Fleetwood said he was looking at introducing classes which had been followed successfully in many other Sheffield primaries for years.

“No decisions have yet been taken about what we will teach, because we are currently consulting with parents,” he said.

“A copy of the curriculum has been made available to all parents and about 50 came to a meeting last week to look at the materials we propose to use. This was an excellent turnout and the response we’ve had from parents so far has been positive.

“This curriculum starts in the infant years with very basic information and builds on their understanding in subsequent years. It is vital children learn what is appropriate to their age.

“The school’s governors want to gain a balanced picture of the views of parents and hope as many as possible will take part in this important consultation.

“After the consultation, the governors will make the final decision on what is taught in school but we want this to be a positive learning experience which will help our children make sensible and responsible decisions as they grow up.”