Children as young as ten should be taught the warning signs of abuse

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion

CHILDREN as young as ten should be taught about relationships in an attempt to tackle child sexual exploitation in Britain, charity Barnardos has said.

This comes after Rotherham MP Sarah Champion told the Yorkshire Post in a report on Saturday how lessons discussing consent and respect, as well as 'pleasurable sex, as opposed to coercion' should be part of the national curriculum for secondary school pupils.

The Labour MP and shadow minister for preventing abuse launched new website Dare2Care this morning which brings together resources for parents to understand more about how they can protect their children.

Sue Cuffe, national implementation manage for child sexual exploitation for Barnardo's said: "There should be relationship education in primary schools to help protect children. A lot of work that we do is with children who don't understand consent.

"With our campaign Real Love Rocks, we start to talk about these issues, that it's okay to say no, and resist peer pressure, to have value and strength. We might teach this through something as simple as a scenario where someone takes a mobile phone off another person without permission.

"This should be statutory in primary schools for children in year five and six. We could start a lot earlier talking about relationships."

She said the proliferation of sexualised images of women online and on the television has created a significant cultural shift in Britain within just a single generation.

"When I was growing up it was very much about female empowerment, and what happened very quickly was the shift to images of young women performing pornographic poses in music videos and their values were about looking good, and not what they could achieve. The case for women has taken a huge retrograde step," Ms Cuffe added.

Currently the national curriculum stipulates that sexual organs and the reproductive system should be covered in a biology lesson in secondary schools. There is no provision for primary school age children.

Secondary schools are encouraged to teach more around relationships through personal, social and health education lessons, however parents have the right to remove their children from those classes.

Sarah Champion said would like to see the Government introduce statutory lessons for teenagers on relationships in secondary schools after a horrifying case in Rotherham where a young girl had been stabbed in the stomach by her boyfriend in a case of violent teenage domestic abuse.

Another local case involved a concerned mum who had found graphic videos of her 12-year-old daughter on a social media chat application.

She said: "She had gone onto that app, and a paedophile realised she was a young child and he persuaded her to put up pictures."

"We need to look at what sort of sex education there is in schools. It's compulsory that they teach the biology of sex. Guidance came out in the 2000s as what you ought to be doing as a holistic approach, but there's nothing compulsory.

"Young people get a biology lesson but they are not getting anything to counter what they see online.

"We need to start proper education on consent, respect, boundaries – pleasurable sex as opposed to coercive sex.”

Ms Champion cites the proliferation of pornography as a key reason for the increasing danger to youngsters, and digital technology which has increased image and video sharing online.

Any child with a device with a camera, or a chat message function, is at risk of being groomed, the Labour MP has claimed.

And a worrying new phenomena of ‘bating websites’ has seen a rise in youngsters sharing pictures of themselves, and the component of video games which allows players to chat is another way paedophiles are attempting to groom young people, she said.

Website Dare 2 Care launched this morning and is the first time resources for parents, victims of abuse and professionals has been pooled together on one single site.