It's a controversial idea in a land known for prudishness about sex – teaching kids as young as 5 about the birds and bees.
But with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe, the British government is bringing sex education to all schools in England — including kindergarten-age children.
While countries like France, Holland and China already require sex education, few places demand that it be introduced at such a young age.
“It's vital that this information doesn't come from playground rumor or the mixed messages from the media about sex,” Schools Minister Jim Knight said Thursday, announcing that sex ed would be added to the national curriculum.
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English schools now are required to teach basic lessons on reproduction as part of the science curriculum. Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have separate education departments and standards. Only Scotland makes sex education voluntary.
The government hasn't detailed what the new curriculum will look like, but schools will be asked to provide lessons on relationships and contraception, topics not previously required. Lessons will become more sophisticated as kids get older.
Elementary schools can offer lessons in naming body parts, preparing for puberty and relationship feelings, Knight said.
For the very young, sex ed will mainly be about self-awareness, he said.
“We are not talking about 5-year-old kids being taught sex,” he said. “What we're talking about for key stage 1 (ages 5-7) is children knowing about themselves, their differences, their friendships and how to manage their feelings.”
British government figures show that about 39,000 girls under age 18 became pregnant in 2006, the year for which the most recent figures are available. More than 7,000 of those girls were younger than 16.