London: Sex education should be taught to children from the age of five to give them the skills and confidence to delay sexual intimacy until they are ready, a British health watchdog said yesterday.

Inadequate sex education at a young age is widely seen as contributing to Britain's steep rate of teenage conception, one of the highest in Europe despite a 13 per cent fall in the past decade.

The latest guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence was in draft form and would not be compulsory, but the agency said it expected local authorities and others to follow it.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said school governors should ensure education about sex and relationships and alcohol started in primary school, which British children attend from the age of five.

"Topics should be introduced and covered in a way that is appropriate to the maturity of pupils and is based on an understanding of their needs and is sensitive to diverse cultural, faith and family perspectives," it said.

The youngest children would learn about the value of friendships and respecting others.

"All children and young people are entitled to high-quality education about sex, relationships and alcohol to help them make responsible decisions and acquire the skills and confidence to delay sex until they are ready," the organisation said.

It cited research from the UK Youth Parliament showing 40 per cent of young people rated their sex and relationships education as poor or very poor.

The previous Labour government had drafted legislation to make sex education compulsory in primary and secondary schools, but abandoned the provisions.

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How young is too young when it comes to sexual education? Will teaching sexual education to children curb teen pregnancies? Is the current education provided by schools proficient? Or do they need to look at making changes?