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Tampons, periods
Photography Josefin, via Unsplash

Period health and consent will be taught in English schools by 2020

A monumental and much-needed new reform to sex education

The next generation are bound to have much healthier sex lives than their repressed predecessors. As the BBC reports, from 2020, schools will have to take a more social approach in unpicking taboos as the Department for Education (DfE) has given fresh guidelines that will be implemented nationwide. Lessons will now cover sexting, consent, and periods.

Sex education in this country has long been in need of a revamp as campaigners have been calling for the school curriculum to go beyond elementary teaching around the mechanics of the reproductive system. Charities like Endometriosis UK have recently gained significant support for their online petition entitled: “Stop treating periods like a dirty secret; teach menstrual wellbeing in schools”. Over 107,059 people lent their voices to the cause as the organisation tasked the DfE with “overcoming the stigma” attached to periods so that girls know “what’s normal”.

Secondary school students will also be taught about online safety, including the risks of sharing nude images, the impact of viewing explicit material, grooming, domestic abuse. They’ll also unpack complicated issues like FGM, informing students of its illegality and telling them where they can find support if necessary.

Education secretary Damian Hinds said it had been 20 years since national sex education was last updated. “There is a lot to catch up on,” he said. “Although sex education is only mandatory to teach at secondary, it must be grounded in a firm understanding and valuing of positive relationships, and respect for others, from primary age.”

The new curriculum also seems to really be getting to grips with the teen mental health crisis. Children will be taught to spot mental health conditions like anxiety in friends. There’ll even be classes on self-care to improve your own well being that will lay out the benefits of getting enough sleep, socialising with friends IRL, and monitoring your use of devices.

As always a small group of parents are abashed by the idea of providing factual, inclusive information on same-sex relationships. Recently, a number of parents protested a teacher in Birmingham for teaching LGBT rights and equalities in school. A petition calling for parents to be able to remove their children from sex ed classes attracted over 106,000 signatures.

With this new plan, parents can withdraw all children under 15 from the classes, however, the schools will discuss the benefits of teaching children about healthy relationships and sexual behaviour.

According to The Guardian, a third of children under 12 have seen porn, 20 per cent of sexts are photos of girls under the age of 15, and most children now have access to internet and social media which is awash with information about sex. Taking all of this into account, it makes sense to have a balanced education to explain this landscape, rather than letting young people explore it alone.