Now, not all sex education is the same and not all sex education is equally effective - not least because some schools and education authorities choose to do the minimum to fulfil the letter of the law. As DK has pointed out, poorly taught or stupidly restrained sex education creates its own problems. However, here are the things that effective, comprehensive sex education has been shown to do:
- Delay the first time a person had sex, reduce the frequency of sex, the number of new partners and the incidence of unprotected sex.
- Increase the use of condoms and contraception amongst sexually active participants.
Crucially, "evaluations of comprehensive sex education and HIV/ STI prevention programs show that they do not increase rates of sexual initiation, do not lower the age at which youth initiate sex, and do not increase the frequency of sex or the number of sex partners among sexually active youth."
Please, as ever, visit the linked page for details of the individual studies.
It's worth noting that, in contrast, programmes which emphasise abstinence first, or abstinence only, tend to have a detrimental effect on sexual health. Again, via the pages linked above, studies of such programmes have found few short-term benefits and no lasting, positive impact. One study found that abstinence-only students were slightly more likely to feel strongly about postponing sex but less likely to feel that their goals should not include teen pregnancy.
Finally, and while we're on the subject of teen pregnancy, it's worth nothing the major factors noted in a study for the government's Social Exclusion Unit:
- Low Expectations. Teenage pregnancy is more common among young people who have been disadvantaged and have poor expectations of education or the job market. The UK has more young people who see no prospect of a job and foresee a future on benefits. As the report said 'put simply, they see no reason not to get pregnant.'
- Ignorance. Young people in the UK lack accurate knowledge about contraception and sexually transmitted infections, they are uncertain of what to expect from a relationship and have an unrealistic picture of parenthood. [...]
- Mixed messages. Young people are surrounded by sexual images and messages which imply that sexual activity is the norm. Yet some parents and many public institutions are at best embarrassed about dealing with young people's sexuality or try to ignore it completely. [Remind you of anyone in particular?] This leads to the situation, described by one teenager quoted by the Teenage Pregnancy Report, where it seems as if sex is compulsory but contraception is illegal.
Given that it's well recognised that teen pregnancy is a large problem in this country, realistic, comprehensive - and yes, sometimes necessarily explicit - sex education can be a meaningful step toward reducing and moderating these influences and addressing the issue.
Finally, finally, declaring that "there must be no behavioural conditioning in our schools" is a nonsense. Formal education to the age of 16 is a form of conditioning, as is refusing to talk about sex at all. If you've recognised that certain schools have an attractive "ethos" which might be embraced and reproduced, then you've already agreed that certain forms of cultural conditioning are quite attracitve.
The only real decision is between meaningful reform and wishful thinking: I'm afraid that UKIP's current policy rather represents the latter and does them no credit at all.
[edited for sentences that made bad grammar thing—BD]
[second edited for proper list formatting—DK]
EDIT by DK: Excellent, BD; precisely what I was looking for. This is, as I pointed out in my original assessment, patently the older and more reactionary wing of UKIP having some influence on policy here. It's an instinctive thing with a particular generation; however, as Wellington said, the concerns have been noted and "fed back to the source with some approval". Since the source is the UKIP leadership and policy department, we will hopefully see a more considered approach to this issue adopted in the future.