A spotlight on sexuality education

Family Planning are desperately trying to save face after the public have been appalled at the Association’s plan to release a sexuality resource for children aged 5 to 8 later this month.

The resource has drawn attention to the fact that “sexuality” is already included right through each year level of the health curriculum.  Even in Catholic schools “sexuality” education is compulsory, although parents do have the right to be informed and are given the option of removing their children from these classes.

In an effort to calm the waters, Family Planning’s Health Promotion Director, Frances Bird has used the old argument that “sexuality education is not sex education”.  According to 3 News, Bird said “We’re not talking about sex – the act of sex – at all.”

And that of course, is likely to be true when it comes to our five-year-olds.  The problem is, the content mostly becomes much less obviously disturbing at younger ages (although not in the case of the resource we are speaking of).  Unless parents are aware of what the terminology actually means, and how their children can be manipulated, it can be very easy to think that what is actually being discussed is simply harmless talk about getting along with each other, and our bodies.

What exactly is sexuality education?

According to the Ministry of Education’s 2002 document “Sexuality Education – Revised Guide for Principals, Boards of Trustees, and Teachers” the term “sexuality education” refers to the following:

The curriculum emphasises the holistic nature of sexuality education (which has physical, social, mental and emotional, and spiritual aspects) and defines “sex education” as relating only to the physical dimension of sexuality education.

Family Planning, when explaining the term to parents and caregivers, have a similar definition, expanding it slightly:

Comprehensive sexuality education is learning about:

  • the emotional, social, spiritual, physical and biological aspects of growing up
  • relationships
  • sex
  • human sexuality
  • sexual and reproductive health.

It involves young people in expanding knowledge, exploring attitudes and developing skills in order to lead fulfilling and healthy lives.

Family Planning supports and has developed an ‘age appropriate’ approach to sexuality (and relationships) education.  This means that programmes are developed in response to a child or young person’s stage or level of development.

So sexuality education in the eyes of those entrusted with our children’s care is to do with the whole person.  The term certainly gives opportunity to those who wish to deceive that it’s not all about sex, making it seem like anybody opposed are unnecessarily concerned.

One should consider who is the arbitrator of an “age appropriate” approach.  From family to family and from child to child the appropriateness of this sort of material is subjective.

Family Planning goes on to say:

Because sexuality education is much more than “the birds and the bees” it should start young. Normalising conversations about bodies, good and bad feelings, families and relationships and learning communication skills from a young age makes it ok for children to ask questions and build on their understanding as they mature.

The purpose of this resource and all sexuality education materials is to desensitise children from a very young age.  In this way, as a child grows, ideas, behaviours and situations that have once been seen as irregular, immoral and odd, bParts of the Bodyecome normal.

Take the following illustration.  This is a real example of a child’s work from Year 3 (ages 7 and 8).  The parents had been told that the child would be filling out the names of body parts, but that private areas would not be included.  Why is it necessary for the children to be scantily clothed?  Why are the children – a boy and a girl – holding hands?  The only answer can be to desensitise the children.

It must be noted that the teachers handing this worksheet out may not have been aware of the deep implications of doing so.  It is also true that many good teachers will go along with what a resource says because the people who put it together know what is best, as it is their area of expertise.  It should also be noted that the book from which this worksheet comes from is unknown.  It may not be a Family Planning resource.  But it is a good illustration of the type of material that can come before our children at school at a very young age.

Parents must also be aware that some teachers fully embrace the same ideology as Family Planning and they may choose to impart even more information than is required in the resource.

What does the Family Planning resource for Years 1 to 4 include?

According to the NZ Herald, the children at Year One (age 5) will learn the following:

  • Working together as a class to create a safe classroom environment
  • Discussing the meaning of respect and showing respect for others
  • Describing themselves and their relationships with others, including similarities and differences
  • Describing themselves in relation to their gender
  • Exploring and sharing ideas about friends and classmates
  • Using ‘I’ statements to express ideas and feelings
  • Identifying body parts, including sexual parts
  • Discussing changes to the body and ways to care for the body

There is much on the list to be concerned about.  Parents need to ask if this is something that our children need to know at such a young age.  Teachers, Principals and Boards of Trustees must seriously consider the appropriateness of these materials for the children in their schools before embarking on teaching this type of ideologically led propaganda.

What is Family Planning’s reasoning for needing this type of resource?

Family Planning’s reasoning behind the resource so far is two-fold.  Frances Bird has given two explanations over the weekend:

  1. “young people are being exposed to more media and materials”
  2. “if you start to build the foundation knowledge for them, by the time they do learn about it [sex], they’re less likely to have early sex, they have fewer partners, they have less sex as well.”

But both of these reasons are seriously flawed.

Countering graphic media and materials by providing more graphic media and materials defies logic.  The only true way to protect children’s innocence is to ban the showing of graphic media and materials to children.  That must include advertisements in print publications, magazine covers in supermarkets, tv advertisements, and online restrictions.  Providing resources such as the one Family Planning have produced only serves to feed the cycle.

As for the argument that earlier sexuality education will result in youth having fewer partners, have less sex and less likely to have early sex, one just needs to look at the evidence around to show how prolific teenage sexual activity is.  People need to be aware when reading comments like this, that Family Planning are only talking about sexual intercourse, young people can “fool around” just as much as they like, with whomever they like, and that will never be factored in to the statistics.

The more sex is placed in front of our children, the chances of them being able to resist diminish.  It is simple logic.

What can parents do?

It is absolutely critical that parents are fully aware of what is happening in their children’s schools and pre-schools.  There are resources out there already that many parents would be surprised to learn the content of.  Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • The first person to speak with is your child’s teacher.  Speak respectfully and with genuine questions to find out what is included in the classroom programme.
  • If, you discover that there are elements of the classroom programme that you are not satisfied with, and having discussed it with the classroom teacher, take your issue to the Principal.
  • Your final point of call at the school is the Board of Trustees.
  • Parents must bring this new resource to the attention of their classroom teachers, principals and Board of Trustees.  Tell them that you do not wish to have such a resource available in the school.
  • Withdraw your children from sexuality education classes.  A letter should be sent home informing you that these lessons will be taking place and the intended content.  You have a right to withdraw your child/ren.  You also have a right to teach your children about these matters in your own home, with your own values at the time you see fit.

While these suggestions may not completely protect your children (there is no telling what might be brought up in the playground, or in the classroom by the teacher outside of the health lessons), they are opportunities for you to be pro-active.

What can teachers and principals do?

Teachers, every day parents put their trust in you to teach and protect our children.  You have a massive influence on our children’s lives.  Many of you feel ill-equipped to teach the children in your care sexuality education.  Some of you may feel very uncomfortable about teaching this and you look to the various resources available for guidance on what to teach, parents understand that.

Please consider how sexuality resources may impact the children in your care.  Please consider how easily the innocence of children is lost in these days where so much is foisted upon them.  Consider how quickly our society is asking children to grow up.

Children, as you are aware, come from families.  Sometimes those families have many, many issues.  But families that face difficulties and neglect should not be the excuse for including sexuality education in our classrooms.  Most parents have the ability to teach their children about sexuality.  Our young children especially, do not need to be robbed of the innocence.

Please take the time to review your sexuality education programme.  Is it necessary to include all that you do within the classes?  Is there any way that you can involve parents?

Most importantly, please consult with the parents and caregivers in your school.  Find out how you can help them teach their children.  And please, do not purchase this Family Planning resource for your schools.


All those who work towards removing our children’s innocence, no matter how pleasantly they couch their rhetoric need to have their true agenda exposed.  Parents, teachers, priests, ministers and all people of good will must work together to keep organisations like Family Planning out of our schools, out of our youth programmes, out of our families.  We must work hard to ensure that our children’s innocence is protected for as long as possible.


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