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Primary Education News
News Schools should teach teenagers about threat of web pornography, says Clegg
Deputy PM says he is in favour of updating guidance on sex education but says Michael Gove is resisting the idea
Michael Gove is resisting plans to require schools to teach teenagers about the "menacing" threat of internet pornography, Nick Clegg has said.
The deputy prime minister said guidance on sex education, which was last written in 2000, should be updated to take account of the "explosion" in internet pornography.
Clegg made his comments on his weekly LBC Radio phone-in programme after a 17-year-old woman said that young people face pressure to conform to what happens in internet pornography.
The caller said of the sex education lessons at her school: "It is quite old fashioned. There's nothing really about the social side. It is very biological. We were watching VHS videos in our classroom."
Clegg said: "I have very strong views on this. It has been a bit of a subject of debate in government. I have heard this from quite a lot of teenagers and young men and women: this explosion in internet pornography and particularly the indirect pressure it seems to bring to bear on young women is a new problem, which clearly wasn't there when the guidance was last written in 2000.
"My own view is that, yes, the guidance should be updated. The last time the guidance was changed was 13 years ago and the world is a very different place now. In many respects it is a more liberating place not least because of the internet [but] it is also a more menacing place, particularly but not only for young girls.
"I suspect all parents want their teenage sons and daughters to be not just given the biological facts of life, but also to be given some sex and relationship guidance. It doesn't matter what school they go to – that should be made available to them.
"At the moment there are lots of schools – academies, free schools and so on – who don't need to follow the guidelines, even the outdated ones."
But Clegg said his Tory coalition partners disagree with him. He said: "This is not shared across government. I haven't been able to persuade Michael Gove and the Conservatives to move all the way on this.
"They have moved some of the way, so there is going to be guidance in the national curriculum on IT classes, which has some bearing on this. And the national curriculum, even though that doesn't need to be taught by all schools, does at least raise the expectations that schools should teach this. And Ofsted, very usefully, will be showing what is the best practice in all of this.
"Michael Gove has got a very well expressed and articulate view that schools shouldn't be burdened with too many directives from central government. In general terms I support – particularly after the excessive micro-management by previous Labour governments – his wish to liberate teachers and headteachers to do what they judge is best for their children.
"I just happen to think in this instance, given how menacing this is, particularly for young girls, this is an area where we do need to update the guidance and raise the expectation that all schools do this properly in the classroom."