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06 / 11 / 2009 - Parents to be fined if they take their children out of sex lessons
Parents will face fines if they remove 15-year-old children from sex education lessons as they become part of the national curriculum for the first time.
Lessons in relationships and sex will begin at five, with prescribed content for each age group.
Parents will still be able to withdraw children on moral and religious grounds, but this right - which currently extends until students are 19 - will be lost at 15.
Mothers and fathers risk being fined and prosecuted under anti-truancy laws.
Under current arrangements, secondary schools must teach sex education but can choose the content. Primary schools do not have to offer it at all.
The shake-up, outlined by Children's Secretary Ed Balls, will affect 600,000 children from September 2011. It drew immediate protests.
Campaigners said sex education in the last year of secondary school - to which all children will now be exposed - is often the most explicit, with pupils taught about how to use a condom and access to contraception and abortion.
Religious leaders said parents would 'vote with their feet'.
The Government insists that only a 'tiny minority' of parents exercised their right to pull their children out of sex education.
Mr Balls said it would not make sense to keep the age limit of 19, because teenagers can vote at 18 and the age of consent is 16.
In a Government-backed poll nearly a third of parents wanted to retain the right regardless of age. But another third said it should end at 11 and 20 per cent said there should be no opt-out at all.
Mr Balls said the aim was for all children to have at least one year of sex education. He said the changes would help tackle teenage pregnancies. But critics said the Government's strategy of handing out contraceptives and spreading sex education was already failing.
Tahir Alam, education spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: 'It is not for the state to become a parent.
'We will be making representations to fight for the right of parents to withdraw their children from sex education.
'Some parents view exposure of their children to this sort of material as morally objectionable and morally corrupting.'
The Catholic Education Service said it was 'disappointed' the blanket right of withdrawal had been dropped.
But the Right Reverend John Saxbee, chairman of the Church of England's Board of Education, said:
'Students already receive some sex education through the biology curriculum, for which there is no right for withdrawal.
'Giving students aged 15 and above access to factual information and the opportunity to discuss relationships in a supervised setting seems a responsible and appropriate response to a context where these topics are widely discussed among young people.'
Source: Laura Clark , Daily Mail