Although sex education lessons have been provided in our schools for many years, concerns about the sexual health and practices of the nation's youth remain centre stage. In recent years, a number of initiatives have been introduced, with varying degrees of success, to increase young people's awareness of sexual matters and to reduce the high number of unplanned teenage pregnancies. One particularly controversial idea is that parents should be divested of the right to withdraw their children from sex education classes. In this paper, I consider the implications of this proposal, paying special attention to the response of those conservative religious organisations most likely to oppose it. My central thesis is that, while the state should be careful not to ride rough-shod over the wishes of parents in what is an extremely emotive area, the interests of the child are paramount and all young people in maintained secondary schools should have access to comprehensive sex education programmes
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