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'Sexting' investigation leads to calls for compulsory sex education

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The government has faced fresh calls to introduce compulsory sex education after an investigation exposed that tens of thousands of schoolchildren have been caught sharing sexually explicit videos and images.

An investigation by The Times discovered that since 2012, 1218 children from 50 secondary schools had been caught in incidents of so-called 'sexting'.

"When scaled up nationally, the figures suggest that at least 44,112 secondary school pupils have been caught sexting in the past three years", the paper stated.

The freedom of information requests also revealed more than a third of all 'sexting' cases involve children aged 12 and 13, while more than one in ten pupils have sexted a "non-school adult".

The findings have prompted some politicians and child-protection groups to call for mandatory sex and relationship education. 

Sex education call

Maria Miller, who chairs the Women and Equalities Select Committee has called for the government to introduce compulsory sex education lessons in schools, in order to tackle the "appalling" effect sexting was having on both young girls and boys.

Speaking to The Times she said: "There has been historically a very negative attitude to making sex education compulsory from the government, but I think the tide is turning,".

"I have changed my position on it. I used to think it should be schools who decide what's appropriate but the way the internet is impacting on young people's lives — and particularly young girls — leaves them in need of far greater support. We have to make sure that we have teachers and organisations who are specialists in these areas to be able to tackle it properly."

She also urged Education Secretary Nicky Morgan to make it compulsory for schools to report to the police any sexting by or to under-18s. "It shouldn't be under schools' discretion," she said. "It is an illegal act."

Lucy Powell, the shadow education secretary, joined Maria Miller, calling for "age appropriate compulsory sex and relationship education in schools".

'Crystal clear'

Nicky Morgan responded to the calls saying guidance has been issued to "put in place stronger measures for protecting children from harm online", but has stopped short of making it a mandatory part of school life.

She added: "The law is also crystal clear that where teachers find indecent images of children they must report this to the police."

'Limit parents' freedom'

Christian Concern has previously warned of the dangers of compulsory sex education. Earlier this year Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern, warned that making SRE compulsory would remove the freedom of parents to decide how and when their child is educated on this subject, she said:

"For many years, sex and relationship education has not provided a godly stance on sexuality or sexual relationships. Instead, it reflects our society's increasingly liberal sexual norms.

"Making SRE mandatory would limit parents' freedom to withdraw their children from these lessons if so desired and usurp their responsibility in deciding what they should and should not be taught at what age." 

Related Links:
New guidelines to avoid criminalising children
Watch Andrea Williams discussses education on Sky News Channels Sky Debate  

Related Coverage: 
Schools hit by sexting epidemic (Times)
Wave of sexting by school children raises fears of grooming (Telegraph)


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