Children as young as four are set to be given compulsory relationship education under new government proposals.
Policy recommendations by the Department of Education say all primary-age students should be taught about social interaction and relationships as soon as they start school.
This comes as part of a raft of planned policy alterations concerning sex and relationship teaching which are under debate in Parliament today.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said the changes were necessary to combat the new challenges the younger generation will face, with social media changing the landscape in terms of the way people form relationships.
“So many things about the way people interact have changed, and this new world, seamless between online and offline, can be difficult to navigate,” he said.
“It will help children learn how to look after themselves physically and mentally.”
Other proposals include increased emphasis on physical and mental health education, educating children on same-sex and transgender issues and provision of age-appropriate online safety information from younger ages.
However, Richard Daniel Curtis, an author on child behaviour and mental health who is also known as the Kid Calmer, says while the changes have been well thought-out by the government, questions still remain over how their practical application will affect schools.
“The risk is that unless a decision like this comes with additional funding, schools are really going to struggle to be able to put it in place with decent enough quality that actually makes an impact on young people’s lives,” he said.
“Schools are under financial constraints at the moment anyway and the reality is that if you’re going to introduce another statutory subject, you’re going to have to take away from something else.”
These plans have also been met with some moral opposition, with a petition for parents to be given the right to opt their children out of these lessons currently bearing over 106,000 signatures.
A number of Sheffield-based schools were contacted for comment about the changes but were not prepared to give an official response at this time.