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Public backs education for children about consent, ‘sexting’ and pornography – survey

Public backs education for children about consent, ‘sexting’ and pornography – survey


London – A large majority of Brits are in favour of children being taught about sexual consent, ‘sexting’ and the impact of pornography at school, research by the children’s charity Plan International UK has found.

The survey, commissioned by the charity and carried out by Opinium, asked the public whether they backed the inclusion of the subjects as part of sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools.

There was strong support across the board for the inclusion of a number of topics in SRE:

  • 86 per cent supported the inclusion of education on sexual consent (just two per cent disagreed)
  • 82 per cent favoured education about violence and abuse in relationships (just four per cent opposed)
  • 75 per cent supported the inclusion of education about the impact of pornography (just seven per cent opposed)
  • 71 per cent were in favour of education about ‘sexting’ (with just 12 per cent disagreeing)

Support was generally slightly higher among parents, with 87 per cent supporting education on sexual consent, 83 per cent for violence and abuse in relationships, 77 per cent supporting education on the impact of pornography, and 73 per cent for ‘sexting’.

Seven out of ten parents also backed the inclusion of education about different sexualities.

Plan International UK’s chief executive Tanya Barron said: “It’s clear that the UK public – including parents – feel that educating our children about issues such as sexual consent, different sexual orientations and the impact of pornography is important.

“Parents are simply demanding that their children’s education reflects the 21st century reality of their lives. Children today can be exposed to all sorts of sexual imagery on a daily basis which we know to be causing harm.

“Children themselves – girls in particular – are telling us that they feel they need improved, age-appropriate mandatory sex and relationships education to help them navigate these difficult issues.

“Such education is categorically not about exposing children to harmful or distressing material unnecessarily. Clearly such education would need to be appropriate to the age of the child, and we as a society need to discuss what that would look like.”

Plan International UK’s findings follow an earlier poll released last month by the charity which showed that more than eight in ten Brits were in favour of sex and relationships education being mandatory in all UK schools.

Maria Miller, MP for Basingstoke, is Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee. She said:

"Digital mobile phones and 24-hour-a-day access to the online world are an everyday part of British childhood. As a result most children will have seen online pornography before they leave primary school and will have been asked for a sexual digital image of themselves by a friend before they leave secondary school.

“Parents and children know they need help and that is why I want compulsory lessons at school to help children better understand the signs of an abusive relationship, issues such as consent and the harm that is done by sexting and underage viewing of pornography,” she added.

“Evidence given to the Women and Equalities Select Committee on sexual harassment in schools clearly indicates abusive relationships are spilling over from the offline world into everyday school life. Better relationship education can help children handle these pressures better."

Research carried out by Plan International UK last year also found that reports of sexual offences in UK schools more than doubled between 2011 and 2015* - showing, the charity argues, the need for improved, statutory sex and relationships  education.


Notes to editors

About the research

Opinium polled a nationally representative sample of 2,007 adults (aged 18+). Fieldwork was carried out 13th to 17th January 2017 via online survey. Results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

Opinium is an award winning strategic insight agency built on the belief that in a world of uncertainty and complexity, success depends on the ability to stay on pulse of what people think, feel and do.

* In August 2016, Plan International UK published research based on Freedom of Information requests submitted to police forces about incidents of sexual offences reported in schools. Alleged cases increased from 719 in 2011-12 to 1,955 in 2014-15, based on responses from 34 police forces across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.