Fact check: Is the Welsh Government really 'teaching sex education to three-year-olds'?

The Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has claimed that in Wales schools are "teaching sex education to three-year-olds".

Mr Davies has quite a history of making misleading statements having recently made demonstrably untrue claims about both the 20mph limit and child asylum seekers. The second of these claims led to him being investigated by the standards commissioner in the Senedd.

His latest claim came after Rishi Sunak announced that schools in England will be banned from teaching sex education to children under nine, in new government guidance (though head teachers have said there is no widespread evidence of this happening anyway). Sign up for the Will Hayward newsletter for the latest on Welsh politics and public life.

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On social media Mr Davies posted a link to the article saying: "The right decision. Meanwhile, in Labour Wales, they teach sex education to 3 year-olds. This is what Starmer calls his 'blueprint' for the UK."

But is this true? WalesOnline took at look at the claims.

What is Mr Davies referring to?

Mr Davies is referring to the new Welsh curriculum being taught in schools. In it there is a section called the "Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) Code" which lays out the mandatory curriculum that schools in Wales need to follow.

Does the Welsh Government's new curriculum teach 3-year-old children about sex?

Short answer - no.

The RSE curriculum (which you can view here ) is broken down in to three parts.

  • Relationships and identity

  • Empowerment, safety and respect

  • Sexual health and well-being

All three parts have a section called "phase one" that applies to children from three to six. But when you look at the context of this, to describe any of it as "sex education" is ridiculous.

Let's look at what it actually says in the different parts:

Relationships and identity

There is nothing in this section that is even close to teaching children about sex. It includes:

  • Ability to act with kindness, empathy and compassion in interactions with others immediate to them including family, friendship and peer relationships.

  • An awareness of how to communicate wants and needs in relationships, and begin to respect those of others.

  • Awareness of the diversity of families and relationships, including friendship and peer relationships, and why these are important

  • Developing a sense of themselves, in the context of families, friends and communities.

  • Experiencing inclusive behaviours, language and role modelling that show respect for others, whatever their gender.

Empowerment, safety and respect

Again, there is nothing here that remotely looks like children are being taught about sex:

  • Recognising harmful behaviour including behaviours which are discriminatory and the right to be free from discrimination.

  • Ability to interact with others in a way that is fair.

  • Recognising the right to be free from harmful, abusive and bullying behaviour.

  • An awareness of how to recognise positive and harmful behaviours, including bullying.

  • Ability to share with a trusted adult when faced with harmful behaviours

  • Beginning to recognise that other people have thoughts, feelings and opinions that are different.

  • An awareness of the need to seek agreement in order to share, for example toys.

  • An awareness of everyone’s right to privacy, personal boundaries and which parts of the body are private.

  • Ability to communicate if someone is touching them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.

  • Awareness of how to keep safe when using digital media, including sharing with a trusted adult when they feel uncomfortable or scared

  • An awareness that everyone has the right to be safe and no one is allowed to harm anyone else.

  • Ability to speak up for each other.

Sexual health and well-being

This final section comes closest to talking about sex. If you were being extremely generous to Mr Davies you could argue that the line that children will get "an awareness of the human life cycle and that reproduction is a part of life" is learning about sex but when you look what this actually means you realise this is not the case.

When WalesOnline looked at how this translates into the classroom it essentially means that schools will teach an awareness of the human life cycle could arise through learning about the different stages of life: birth, growing up, adulthood, death. Learning about reproduction in this context is awareness that humans (or animals) give birth to their young.

It is worth bearing in mind that the rules state that "all RSE learning is legally required to be delivered in a developmentally appropriate way".

Here are the other areas covered in this part of the curriculum:

  • The use of accurate terminology for all body parts.

  • Awareness of how human bodies change as they grow.

  • An awareness of the importance of personal self-care and hygiene.

  • A recognition that everyone’s body is unique and special to them.

  • Awareness of the different feelings one can have, recognising other people’s feelings and how these may differ to your own.

  • Recognising trusted adults who can help them and whom they can talk to and ask questions of, especially when they feel unhappy or unsafe.

In conclusion...

Given the above evidence it is incorrect to say that in Wales "they teach sex education to 3 year-olds". They talk about safety, rights, feelings and what to do if they feel unsafe. Realistically, this curriculum is more geared to help children identify when they are being exposed to inappropriate things rather than teaching them something that is inappropriate.

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