Illustration: Cathy Wilcox
High school students say they are not getting sex education soon enough and want topics such as puberty and pregnancy discussed in primary school, a Victorian study has found.
Yet a study by the same researchers found most teachers of year five and six students were uncomfortable talking about the reproductive system in sex education class. More than half year 7, 8 and 9 students think almost all aspects of sex education topics should be introduced in primary school, the survey of about 100 students in Ballarat found.
''Across the board they wanted information much, much earlier than they were getting it,'' researcher Bernadette Duffy said. "I think that they should be at least being taught about [puberty] in grade 3 and 4. Some of them wanted information so they knew what was being talked about when they got to high school.''
The study was one of three from the same researchers at the University of Ballarat on sex education presented at an education conference at the University of Sydney on Monday.
Another study of about 30 year 5 and 6 teachers from 14 schools in Ballarat found five out of six male teachers and a third of female teachers were not comfortable teaching about menstruation. Almost half the female teachers were not confident talking about wet dreams, while even more male teachers found the topic uncomfortable.
The researchers said the results were significant given the national curriculum expects all students to have a knowledge of these areas before high school.
"I was really surprised by the level of discomfort with the teachers," Ms Duffy said. "Some of these topics come up in everyday conversation, so it's not things that just come up when they're running a program."
In October Fairfax Media reported that the Australian curriculum authority would introduce sex education in grades 5 and 6, but not in grades 3 and 4, as earlier recommended.