When and what are children taught?
How is sex education taught in Scottish schools?
And at what stage do children learn in class about the different parts of their bodies, how to make babies, how to use contraception, and about sex?
The controversy over explicit questions about sexual experience in a school survey saw many people dismayed that children as young as 14 and 15 are being asked about oral sex and even anal sex.
But others have argued that they are already talking and learning about such matters, so it’s best to be frank and find out how many are actually doing it.
So we took a look at how sex education is delivered in Scottish schools and what is taught at each stage from Kindergarten to S6.
Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenting (RSHP) are part of the health and wellness component of the Scottish Excellence Curriculum (CfE).
Each school will offer lessons in its own way, but a curriculum-related resource created by local authorities and boards of health with the councils of Education Scotland and the Scottish Government suggests the following as appropriate learning for each step.
Sex education in primary schools
Preschool and P1
Children can begin to discover their bodies, how their bodies belong to them, that some parts are private, and that each is unique and similar but different. They can also learn about personal space and intimacy, emotions, pregnancy and where babies come from.
Correct terminology is used for body parts, and in P1 children can be asked to label body parts in a picture, including the vulva, vagina, penis, and scrotum, and encouraged to use these terms. instead of the nicknames they may have learned.
P2 to P4
Children will continue to learn the correct terminology for body parts and what the body parts are for. Using correct terminology is intended to remove embarrassment or shame about the parties and to help children make it clear if they are sick or have concerns.
They learn that some parts of their body are private and this applies to other people. This includes learning the PANTS rule promoted by the NSPCC, that what is under their underwear is private.
The terms heterosexual, gay, lesbian, and bisexual and what they mean can be taught, and children will learn how babies are made by sperm and an egg coming together. If children ask – more likely in P4 – they will be factually informed about sex or assisted / donor fertilization.
P5 to P7
Children will learn how their bodies change with puberty and how reproductive organs make babies. Topics such as menstruation, wet dreams, masturbation, and hormones can be covered. They will also talk about how puberty can affect their emotions and how they feel as well as physical changes.
At this point, they will also be encouraged to understand the diversity of sexuality and gender identity, and learn what it means to be transgender.
They will learn the concept of consent and bodily autonomy and what sexual abuse is.
They will learn about romantic relationships, sexual relations, conception, pregnancy, childbirth and contraception.
Sex education in high schools
S1 to S3
Young people will learn more about the impact of puberty on them and on the development of their sexuality.
They can be given basic knowledge about sex, including mutual masturbation, vaginal, oral and anal sex and what a first sexual experience might look like. They will be encouraged to delay sexual activity and to learn about contraception and STIs.
Sexual orientation and LGBT equality may be covered, as well as learning about consent in a relationship, the legal age of consent, and how to act in a situation involving abusive or inappropriate sexual behavior.
We can talk about pornography and how it can represent violent or degrading sex that is not appropriate in real relationships.
Other topics are likely to include “sexting” – sharing and sending nude pictures – grooming and sexual exploitation.
S4 to S6
At the senior stage – when the ages range from 14 to 18 – young people will learn to recognize when they are ready to have sex. They will talk about what a positive sex relationship looks like.
Educators will make sure they know how to find information and support regarding sexual health, male and female contraception will be explained, and demonstrations of condom application are likely. The importance of planning for parenthood is also part of the curriculum here.
Other topics that may be taught are the impact of alcohol and drugs on sexual relationships and choices, as well as prostitution and human trafficking.
How parents can help around the house
In addition to providing learning materials for use in primary, secondary, and ASN schools (additional support needs), the RSHP resource can be used by parents and home caregivers.
The NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is among the health boards that have helped its development.
A spokesperson said: âThe RSHP, along with other areas of health and wellness, is designed to ensure that children and young people aged 3 to 18 are supported to develop knowledge and skills. understanding, abilities, skills and attributes they need for mental health, emotional, social and physical well-being.
âFrom the start of the development of this resource, we recognized the primary role that parents and caregivers play as educators of their children and youth.
“The resource is freely accessible and contains information that helps them have conversations at home, if they wish.”
School sex survey: more on this story