Monday, June 17, 2024

My daughter had her first sex education lesson aged 10 – she (and I) were shocked

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“How was your day?” I ask my just-turned 10-year-old daughter, Jemima, after I pick her up from primary school. “Hmm, not fun,” she says, pulling a face. “Why’s that?” I ask.“We had our first PSHE [personal, social, health and economic] class and it was really embarrassing. They talked about boobs and private parts. Two girls ended up crying and the boys kept laughing.”

A bit of further digging reveals that she was shown detailed diagrams of male and female reproductive systems with labels showing the correct terminology, including the word “vulva”, which I didn’t even really learn about until embarrassingly recently. My daughter tells me this made her feel uncomfortable and I can quite understand why.

This lesson, I learn, was about changes to their body during puberty and covered both boys and girls. I suppose it is, of course, all natural, but my daughter was quite shocked to see pictures of developing bodies. The girls sat on one table and the boys sat on another.

Over the next few lessons, this group of nine- and 10-year-olds (she is in Year 5) will be covering menstruation, baby development in mammals and the development of an embryo/foetus during pregnancy. All important stuff, of course, so I’m not sure why hearing about this first lesson has given me the ick. Perhaps I’m just being a prude.

“Can you ask if we can be taught separately from the boys next time?” my daughter asks. I message a few other mums I know with children around the same age. A teacher friend assures me that everything they are learning in Year 5 is age-appropriate. It is, she says, all on the national curriculum. Another, echoing my thoughts, says that she wasn’t prepared for the level of detail in the class. “Do they really have to know all of that?” she messages. “I’m not sure I even know all that.”

Another friend, who has Scandinavian roots and practically grew up in a sauna, tells me her kids learnt all about this stuff years ago from a biology book and numerous conversations. “What are you worrying about?” she asks. 

What indeed? And one who has a daughter in Year 6 says that “they’ve already had a lesson on the perils of penis pictures in her class”. 

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