Sex education in UK schools may be facing a retrograde step under plans to ban graphic sex education films from primary schools. Kirsty Walker, writing for the Daily Mail, reports that Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has confirmed that the government is considering attaching age ratings to educational videos; which are currently exempt from the classification system. The likely 12 or 15 certification, if it comes to pass, would mean that they would be effectively banned from primary schools.
Mr Vaizey was responding to a question from Tory MP Andrea Leadsom. Leadsom has previously compared some of the scheduling on Channel 4 and the BBC to pornography.
Mrs Leadsom told Mr Vaizey: ‘There are many parents across the country who are very concerned about the content of sex and relationship education videos that are being shown to children as young as six and have no external rating whatsoever.
‘In fact, they are being sold for profit by organisations.
‘Can the minister tell me whether he would consider requiring them to be rated by the British Board of Film Classification?’
Mrs Leadsome made particular mention of a BBC sex education video for nine year olds which contained animated cartoon couples engaging in sex along with information on ‘wet dreams’ and masturbation. She claims to have been contacted ‘by many parents’ who say the films made their children upset. In his response Vaizey said that he was meeting with the British Board of Film Classification to discuss the matter.
‘If something is aimed at 12 and over, then it would need a statutory classification and it would be an offence to supply it to someone who doesn’t meet the age criteria.’
The move is part of a general government trend with ministers also lowering the threshold for pop videos and video games to receive statutory age ratings. While the latter move may have some arguably redeeming social value, removing the exemption for education videos will mean that many children view the material after they have already started engaging in sexual conduct. Critics of the plans fear that this will undo many years of campaigning for greater sexual health awareness in the young and lead to an increase in teen pregnancy.
A BBC spokesman said: ‘All educational resources from BBC Active are produced in collaboration with education experts and are issued with clear guidance so teachers can use them appropriately in their classrooms.
‘We began to update the Sex and Relationships CD-ROM and accompanying teaching materials earlier this year after feedback from teaching professionals.’