So-called ‘safeguarding tool’ gives green light to unlawful sex and exposes young people to increased risk of abuse and exploitation, says national family charity

Media release: 5 November 2014
For immediate release


It is astounding and deeply disturbing that a government-funded sexual health charity such as Brook is defending a safeguarding tool that considers unlawful sex between young teenagers worthy of positive reinforcement, says Family Education Trust.

According to Brook, its traffic light tool is intended to show professionals working with children and young people ‘which behaviours are a natural part of growing up and exploring sexuality, and which are problematic and may need intervention or support’. The stated aim is to provide ‘a standardised normative list’ to create ‘a unified approach to protecting children and young people’.

However, in the view of Family Education Trust, Brook’s traffic light tool provides ‘a unified approach’ to positively encouraging underage sex and exposing young people to risk of exploitation and abuse.

Safeguarding concerns
Recent safeguarding reports in Rochdale, Rotherham and Torbay have shown that the statutory authorities have all too often failed to protect vulnerable young people from sexual exploitation because they have regarded underage sex as a ‘lifestyle choice’ and a normal part of growing up.

Family Education Trust director, Norman Wells, observed:

It is precisely the casual and relaxed attitude towards underage sex reflected in Brook’s traffic light tool which has exposed young people to the most horrendous abuse.
Organisations such as Brook have helped to create a climate of opinion among teachers, social workers, health professionals and police across the country in which underage sex is viewed as normal and healthy. Sexual predators have seized upon this and are exploiting it to their own evil ends.

Traffic Light Tool
The tool lists a variety of sexual behaviours and categorises them as ‘green’, ’amber’ or ‘red’ by age category, depending on whether the behaviour is to be encouraged, regarded as a matter of potential concern, or treated as unsafe and unhealthy.

According to the tool, sex involving 13-17 year-olds should be viewed in a favourable light, provided it is consensual and ‘between children or young people of similar age or developmental ability’. The green light is accordingly given to:

consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability.

This is deemed ‘reflective of natural curiosity, experimentation, consensual activities and positive choices’. Brook adds: ‘Green behaviours provide opportunities to give positive feedback and additional information.’

Norman Wells, commented:

The whole reason for having an age of consent is to protect young people from abuse, exploitation and other damaging consequences of early sexual activity. For quite some time, it has been bad enough that young people have been robbed of that protection by policies that condone underage sex and turn a blind eye to it. But Brook’s traffic light tool goes further and exposes children to even greater danger when it encourages teachers to give ‘positive feedback’to young teenagers who are sexually active.

In a written statement issued today, Brook denies that its tool condones or encourages particular behaviours. However, Norman Wells responded:

If giving positive feedback to sexually active children aged 13, 14 and 15 isn’t condoning and encouraging underage sex, then I don’t know what is!

Brook say that professionals must use the tool within the context of their own legal frameworks. However, professionals are not free to create their own law on the age of consent. The law is clear: sex under the age of 16 is unlawful. To give it the green light and to reward it with positive feedback is patently treating the law with contempt and encouraging lawbreaking.

Supplementary advice on sex and relationships education

In response to Brook’s insistence that its traffic light tool was developed by ‘experts’, Mr Wells added:

Most people would question the expertise of anyone who normalises underage sex and gives positive feedback to 13, 14 or 15 year-olds engaging in unlawful sexual activity.
It is equally alarming that education ministers and the Department for Education (DfE) have such confidence in Brook that they are promoting its supplementary advice on sex and relationships education in schools. The supplementary advice refers schools to the traffic light tool as a ‘useful resource’.
We would urge the DfE and its ministers to think again, to distance themselves from Brook’s supplementary advice and to make sure that underage sex is treated with the seriousness it deserves.


Notes for editors
1. For further details of Brook’s Traffic Light Tool, see

2. For details of Brook’s advice in relation to sexual activity involving young people aged 13-17, see

3. Concerns about the Brook Traffic Light Tool were expressed by Sarah Carter, who represented Family Education Trust before the House of Commons Education Committee at an evidence session on Tuesday 4 November 2014.
(the discussion surrounding the Brook Traffic Light Tool commences around 36 mins 40 secs)

4. For Brook’s statement in response to concerns expressed at the Education Committee evidence session and in subsequent media coverage, see


Family Education Trust is an educational charity committed to promoting stable family life and the welfare of children and young people.