As we re-launch this platform with updated content to help schools prepare for mandatory Relationships and Sex Education, we feel it is important to ensure young people’s voices and experiences are at the heart of this work. Therefore we asked some young women for their thoughts on why they feel RSE is important.
This first blog is from a Year 8 young woman from a South London School:
I feel it is important to have Relationship and Sex Education in school because it helps prevent young girls being in abusive, unhealthy relationships and prevent unwanted STDs and pregnancies. In the UK an estimated 2 million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2018, this means approximately 6 in 100 adults experience domestic abuse. To help this and the next generation from future suffering from issues such as domestic abuse, unwanted STDs , unwanted pregnancies and more, schools and teachers need to go more in depth with these topics and not slide over them, but make it part of the curriculum. This is why I believe it is important to learn about relationship and sex in school.
We also heard from a young woman in Sheffield:
In my experience of relationships and sex education in a Catholic High school, we had, over the course of 5 years, less than 5 days in which we covered sexual health. These covered the bare minimum, without a realistic approach to necessary sexual health education.
While it may be argued that children do not need more information than this in order to protect them, this view is naive and unrealistic. In the modern day, the Internet, video games, film and TV all feature sexual topics. Without careful education, misinformation or misconceptions can have a significant effect on a teenager’s understanding and approach to sexual health. This can put them into unwanted or even dangerous situations. On top of this, the claim that ‘children’ should not be learning about explicit topics is fear mongering. Teenagers in high school mature very quickly, and are far more aware of sexual issues than they are given credit for. Education allows them to learn so that they can look after themselves and others safely.
The content of my sexual health lessons was also poor. Keeping to vague discussions about what sex involves and brief mentions of contraceptives was all that we were given. First of all, this gives an unrealistic view of what sexual health involves. Emotions, hormones and impulses need to be explored, so that young people understand that they need to be aware of what could affect their decision making. Safety around sex also needs to be clearer, with explanations into the responsibilities of preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs. This also needs to involve an awareness of different types of sexual contact, in order to educate on how to keep yourself safe. It is estimated that at least 10% of young people identify as LGBTQIA+, and their sexual experiences are also valid and need to be respected as more than just a controversial topic for class debates. Sexual health education therefore needs to include the variety of risks associated with both heterosexual and LGBT sex, so that all young people are able to keep themselves safe.
On top of this need for inclusivity, sexual education also makes young people aware of the responsibilities around sex. For example, males do not have such obvious issues around unwanted pregnancies. They are able to walk away from a relationship, without having to potentially carry a child. Pregnancies are life-changing, and can cause young women to drop out of education and sometimes families, leaving them in an incredibly vulnerable position. Sexual education can hopefully allow these differences and risks to be understood, so that young people can make informed and safe decisions in relationships.
Sexual health education allows young people to understand the responsibilities and risks of sex, as well as to know how to keep themselves safe and healthy. Sheltering young people is not appropriate for the modern world, and ends up cultivating misconceptions that can be dangerous. A vast majority of these young people will enter into sexual relationships; therefore it is appropriate and necessary to help them do this in an informed and safe way.