This is a response, by an individual Guild member, to a document published by the Cabinet Office, Social Exclusion Unit on 7th October 1998, inviting responses by 13th November 1998

To: Zena Peatfield & Harry Burgess
Cabinet Office
Social Exclusion Unit, R0om 131c/2
Horse Guards Rd.
London SW1P 3AL


Letter dated: 10th Nov 1998


Thank you this document received mid-October.

I am a medical doctor, a former GP now specializing in the health and educational issues surrounding fertility and family planning.

Due to the short timescale given for responses to this document I cannot go into the detail necessary, but can only cover a few points, which are nonetheless crucial. The document says it wishes to build on work already done in this area. If it means by this more giving of detailed sexual information to minors in schools and other group settings, then it is doomed to failure.

As well as answering some of the questions in the document, I would like to draw your attention to basic errors in some of the statements made in it. These will, if taken at face value, influence the way the questions are answered. This would therefore affect the value and outcome of the entire consultation process.


Under this heading it is stated that the rate of under 20 pregnancies in England and Wales is seven times the rate in the Netherlands. This statement is based on an un-verifiable assumption. It is not possible to ascertain the true conception rate in the Netherlands because of the way terminations of pregnancy are recorded. Abortions performed up to 7 weeks of pregnancy are called menstrual extractions' or 'over-time treatments', and are not obliged to be reported to the Government Inspectorate. The true figure for the teenage pregnancy rate in the Netherlands could therefore be considerably higher than the quoted statistics. Add to this the fact that for later terminations the law forbids identification of the women concerned when the termination is registered. This means that the Inspectorate is unable to check the figures which are reported monthly by the institutions licensed to perform terminations.


Question 4 - Why have previous attempts to tackle this issue not succeeded?

The giving of information on human sexual functioning and behaviour in a group or public setting does not promote respect for the privacy and reserve which should surround such an intimate topic. It is also a source of sexual arousal, either physically or in the imagination, leading all to often to experimentation. Because of its intimate nature such information should be imparted on an individual and private basis. This cannot be accomplished in a school classroom. It should also be done gradually, in a way, and at a pace, to suit each individual child. Parents, not the school, are the best judges of this.


Question 5 - What approaches do you think would be most successful?

It must be accepted as a basic premise that parents, not the state, are the first and foremost educators of their children. When they choose to delegate part of this responsibility to a school of their choice, they do so in the belief that their children will be taught the traditional academic subjects. They also expect that the values and beliefs which they wish to hand on to their children will be respected.

It follows from this that when any programme is introduced into the school which is not part of the traditional academic curriculum, and which is financed by the state, the parents must be given the opportunity to see the entire programme. They must also be given time to decide whether they wish their child to be exposed to the programme, and if they do, to give their written consent.


Question 7 - If, for example, you work with some of these groups, can you give us unpublished data or other information that would through more light on the extent and nature of some of these connections? (Even information that may, seem small scale to you might help us: there are many data gaps at national level).

The study by Dr. Louise Eickhoff, Consultant Child Psychiatrist, SEX EDUCATION and SEX PRACTICE, published in Child and Family, Vol.13. No.1

This study of juvenile girl offenders aged 12-17 in a remand home in England, took place over an eighteen year period, 1952 - 1970. It was published together with a review of the National Statistics for gonorrhoea and illegitimacy for 1939 -1973.

The study disclosed a connection between sex education and sex practice in the immature. It found that innocence was invariably linked with juvenile behaviour patterns and absence of active sexual participation. Sex education was associated with readiness for, and the seeking of, sex activity.

Heightened sexual temptation in the community apparently did not affect the innocent; but it did affect the knowledgeable. Invariably, sex activity in the cases studied, had followed sex instruction, and preceded the ability to live in the independent state like normal adults. It was concluded that the imposition of sexual knowledge on the immature interferes with the natural maturational processes. These are complex and not yet fully understood, and the changes brought about by this interference are irreversible.

The National Statistics revealed a coincidence between the onset of the continuing increase in female promiscuity and the introduction of school sex education. This was demonstrated by graphs showing the rise in illegitimacy rates and of gonorrhoea in girls under 16 between 1940 and 1970.



The statement 'Research in the UK and across Europe shows clearly that good sex and relationships education leads to lowered rates of teenage conceptions' begs many questions. How is 'good sex and relationship education' defined? Who carries it out? When is it given? How was it proved that it led to 'lowered rates of teenage conceptions'?

The questions in this section assume that the giving of detailed sexual and contraceptive education to pupils in schools should continue. This policy will not only have adverse effects on the emotional and physical health of our young people, and their ability to found stable families, it will also be economically unviable in the long-term.

The recent government Green Paper on the family and parenting stresses support for parents. Practical forms this support could take would be to help them to prevent their children being exposed to explicit sexual imagery and information. This could be either within the home (TV and videos) or outside it (pornographic material and sex education programmes). Childhood innocence has an important part to play in a complex maturational process which is not yet fully understood. We interfere with such a process at our peril.



Dr Helen M. Davies
Oakfield Farm
Wineham Lane
West Sussex
RH17 5SD
Tel/Fax 01444 881744


Supporting references submitted:

  1. 'Sex Education & Sex Practice' by Dr. Louise Eikhoff.
  2. Examples of material currently used with reference to 'Human Reproduction' for mixed classes of 15-16 yr. olds at a comprehensive school in Northern England. Similar material has also been used with younger age groups in other schools.