Lib Dems pledge sex education for seven-year-olds

Compulsory sex education would be extended to children aged 7 to 11 under Lib Dem plans
Compulsory sex education would be extended to children aged 7 to 11 under Lib Dem plans (AFP Photo/Fred Dufour)

London (AFP) - Children in all state schools in England would be given "age-appropriate" sex and relationships education from the age of seven under plans announced Tuesday by the Liberal Democrats.

Financial literacy and citizenship would also be taught as part of what Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's party termed a "Curriculum for Life".

The plans form part of the Lib Dem manifesto for the 2015 general election and would make personal, social and health education (PSHE) compulsory in all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools.

Compulsory sex and relationships education would be extended to key stage 2, which covers primary school children aged between seven and 11.

Under existing policy, sex education is obligatory in local authority-run state secondary schools, but not in academies or free schools.

Liberal Democrat schools minister David Laws said: "It is vitally important that children learn all the life skills they need when they are at school, and Liberal Democrats believe that should include learning financial literacy, citizenship and age-appropriate sex and relationship education.

"We believe that by educating children about sex and relationships in an appropriate way we can help them to make informed choices in their personal lives and ensure that they have the best opportunity to succeed in life."

The announcement appears to signal a move by the Liberal Democrats to distance themselves from their Conservative coalition partners ahead of next May's election.

Compulsory PSHE has been "strongly resisted" by the Conservatives within the coalition government, the Lib Dems said.

The Department for Education (DfE) stressed that sex education is considered a key requirement for all young people.

"Sex and relationship education is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools and many primary schools also teach it in an age-appropriate manner.

"We also expect academies and free schools to deliver relationship education as part of their provision of a broad and balanced curriculum," a DfE spokesman said.

Financial literacy has been made compulsory for the first time ever for 11-to-16 year olds, covering budgeting and money management and the principles of financial services, the DfE added.