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Overhaul of sex-education needed to teach consent to boys early, education expert warns

Some boys in school are abusive towards girls and women, not because of the way they have come to relate to girls and women, but because of the way they relate to each other.

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An education expert in the UK suggested that a drastic overhaul of sex and relationship education is needed, to tackle harmful boys’ attitudes towards girls and women.

In a new book released this month, the former headteacher says that schools need to ‘radically change’ their approach in teaching young boys to respect girls.

In Working With Boys, Andrew Hampton, condemned the current teaching of relationship and sex education (RSE) in schools and said: “It’s crucial to teach boys about respect and consent in Year 7 [equivalent to 6th Grade in the US], before it’s too late for them to change toxic attitudes towards girls and women.”

Teaching respect from early age

The book offers a comprehensive look at how relational cultures of boys are formed and how they play out. He provides guidance for teaching professionals to help them teach boys about respect and consent.

The book proposes key theories, including the theory that boys are at the end of the ‘age of innocence’ around 11 years old, and will adopt either a gentle or sour form of masculinity at this stage.

His belief is that some boys in school are abusive towards girls and women, not because of the way they have come to relate to girls and women, but because of the way they relate to each other.

He also says that boys fear humiliation and that fear drives them to behave in all sorts of ways that defy any other explanation.

Hampton says: “I believe that a revolution is needed in which we acknowledge that the way we structure schools, the curriculum, teaching styles, accountability and assessment are not fit for purpose and are damaging young people.

“That damage manifests itself in sexual abuse, hyper-anxiety, self-harm and delinquency. It is time to stop what we’re doing as teachers, realise it is not working, and try something radically different. That is what the book proposes.”

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Greater teacher training required

The aim of the book is to encourage teaching professionals to adopt a pedagogical style which is essentially non-judgemental and non-didactic.

Hampton notes that one of the biggest problems for RSE is that it is delivered by non-specialists and by teachers who have usually been given the subject because their timetable is light.

He states: “It’s common that RSE is delivered by teachers who have received very little, if any, training and – perhaps even more importantly – do not want to deliver it and have no real interest in it. And who can blame them? This is an extremely tricky topic to teach.”


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