Controversy over Wigan sexual health guide for Year Nines which includes toe-sucking and buying nice underwear

The controversial pamphlet
The controversial pamphlet

Wigan's sexual health provider has come under fire for publishing a guide for pupils as young as 13 which suggests buying nice underwear and toe-sucking instead of having sex.

But Spectrum has defended the leaflet distributed to local high schools - which also contains many more innocent pleasures such as watching the sun rise and cooking each other meals - saying it helped youngsters make "safer choices."

There has been a media frenzy since the Daily Mirror published an interview with Carl Lawrence from Tyldesley saying he was "bewildered and shocked" when 14-year-old daughter Emma came home from Shevington High School with the sexual health guide called 101 Ways To Show Someone You Love Them Without Having Sex.

Since then the article and debate has been taken up by many other tabloids with commentators split on whether this was the right way to go in trying to reduce teenaged pregnancies.

One reader said: "It is ridiculous and disgusting. How on earth can it be right to encourage 13 and 14-year-olds to be taking part in what is tantamount to foreplay?

"What on earth happened to innocence in upbringing? There is nothing wrong with getting youngsters to cook each other meals and going to the cinema, but buying underwear for each other and toe-sucking are likely only to lead to one thing.

"This is just putting ideas in under-aged people's heads."

But another said: "I think this booklet takes a realistic approach to life. Some youngsters of this age are going to be having sex, whether we like it or not, and this campaign accepts that and tries to steer youngsters away from an act that they might regret for life.

"Many of the entries on this list are heart-warming and innocently romantic. I suspect that the racier ones are more likely to bring giggles in the classroom than actively encourage behaviour that leads to the under-age pregnancies that Spectrum is trying to avoid."

Wigan MP and Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy was quizzed on the subject by Good Morning Britain presenters Kate Garraway and Adil Ray on Thursday and she was unaware of the matter.

She said: “Never heard of that."

But then she added: “It sounds quite strange? The thing I would say about Shevington High School though is that it is one of the best schools in Greater Manchester.

“The reason that it is they deal with the reality that young people are facing.

“And 13 and 14-year-olds today are under a lot of pressure.”

Shevington High School has referred inquiries about the guide to Wigan Council which commissions Spectrum's work in the borough. But the council itself has referred inquiries to Spectrum.

And a spokesperson for Spectrum Community Health CIC said: "Spectrum's Relationships and Sex Education Programme provides information and support to young people throughout their high school journey, helping them to make safer choices.

"From Year Nine onwards we also introduce our RSE magazine, which is adapted every year in response to feedback from young people, parents and schools.

"The 101 Ways were created by teenagers and are referenced by Spectrum in the context of the classroom lessons they support."

On its website, Spectrum says it delivers "comprehensive sexual health support in several areas across the borough, providing:

Advice on contraception and safe sex

STI testing, treatment and support

Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)

Chlamydia screening

Free condoms for young people aged 16-24 through the C-Card Scheme

Outreach in local communities

It adds: "Spectrum delivers adult and young people’s sexual health services across Wigan borough and will be in the heart of our communities through nurse-led clinics in seven areas."