Spectrum welcomes call to make sex education statutory in schools

Spectrum Community Health has welcomed the call by the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee to make relationship and sex education statutory in primary and secondary schools.

The call comes after the committee published a report in September on ‘Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools’. The report outlines some deeply concerning evidences such as 59% of girls and young women aged 13-21 said that they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college in 2014. This clearly indicates the dire need for high quality, age-appropriate relationships and sex education delivered by well-trained individuals.

Spectrum’s multi-disciplinary team of specialist practitioners, working with the secondary schools in Wakefield and Barnsley, already deliver high-quality Relationship and Sex Education (RSE). The team’s core objective is to develop young people’s social and emotional skills, enabling them to make positive choices and navigate risk by promoting emotional health, self-esteem and resilience.

Speaking about the programme, Spectrum’s RSE lead Andi Cope said:

“It is important for the groundwork to start in early childhood and then continue age appropriately throughout the child’s life. If children have high quality RSE throughout the stages then they should have a well-rounded ability to make healthy decisions and positive choices. They will develop an understanding of pressure and coercion, prejudice and discrimination and know how to respond, and have the resilience skills to deal with risk and set-backs at an earlier point in life.”

During 2015/16, 772 students who completed their RSE lessons had tremendous improvement in knowledge. At the beginning of the lesson only 8% could name all 6 contraception methods, after the lessons 94% could name all 6 contraception methods. Before the lesson only 3% could name a viral / bacterial sexually transmitted disease. After the lesson 93% could name a disease.

Themes that are covered in Spectrum’s RSE session include helping pupils understand the importance of friendship and to consider love and sexual relationships in this context, to consider different levels of intimacy and their consequences, to acknowledge the right not to have intimate relationships until ready and to acknowledge that being pressurised, manipulated or coerced to agree to something is not ‘consent’.

Pupils are also encouraged to learn about the law in relation to consent (including the legal age of consent for sexual activity, the legal definition of consent and the responsibility in law for the seeker of consent to ensure that consent has been given).

Spectrum’s RSE programme also covers the role of sex in the media and its impact on sexuality (including pornography and related sexual ethics such as negotiation, boundaries, respect, gender norms, sexual ‘norms’, trust, communication, pleasure, rights, empowerment, sexism and feminism).

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