Children as young as four will be taught “sex and relationship education” in all Britain’s schools, the Education Secretary is expected to announce Tuesday afternoon.
The controversial guidelines will be compulsory for every primary and secondary school, even private and religious establishments.
Currently, only local authority-controlled schools are required to teach children about sex in biology classes, with no such requirement in academies, free schools, or independent schools.
Little is currently known about the content of the new curriculum, but ITV News reports it would likely include age-appropriate lessons on sexting, online safety, and abusive relationships.
The curriculum is likely to cause concern among family and religious groups, especially as some reports suggest parents would be unable to remove their children from the classes, as they presently can.
A spokesman for 10 Downing Street said: “There is a threat online and that threat we would all recognise has grown.
“That does mean that now is the right time to look at how we can ensure children have the access they need to the teaching in those subjects.”
The policy is likely to be introduced as an amendment to the Children and Social Care Bill, tabled by Tory MPs David Burrowes and Maria Miller, the chair of the Women and Equalities Committee.
They say failure to teach children about sex and online relationships had led to consequences including “physical and emotional harm, including teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases; girls feeling unable to participate in educational and extra-curricular opportunities; teachers spending valuable time dealing with incidents of sexual harassment and bullying; and young people developing a sense that sexual harassment and sexual violence are acceptable behaviours and learning social norms that are carried through to adult life.”
The Downing Street spokesman said: “The department will be saying more than this in due course. High quality relationship and sex education is an important part of preparing young people for adult life.
“The education secretary has been clear she is looking at options to make sure children have access to education in those subjects. Clearly, there is a threat online and that threat has grown and now is the right time to look at how we can ensure children can have the access they need to teaching about those subjects.”