I was recently lucky enough to have the chance to speak at Parliament in favour of all schools supplying their pupils with good quality sex and relationship education. Through my work with the Sex Education Forum, I have had the opportunity to be part of Parliamentary discussions and focus groups on the topic.
Once I started doing more research into the topic for my speech, I started to appreciate just how lucky my RSE experience in school has been. My school has a PSHE forum where the students meet and talk with teachers about the way these subjects are taught so that they can be informative, and accessible to everyone. We meet every week and it is run by our head of PSHE. Lots of people from all school year groups come, and we talk about how it's being taught and how we can improve it. It's a fairly new forum, but it's been a huge success.
My school’s forum has been really helpful, but across the country schools are not being taught RSE effectively enough. For example, the number of teenagers using the pull-out method as a form of contraception has doubled since 2002, and the harassment young girls receive online and in person continues to rise.
How can we change this? I think that:
- PSHE should be a regular, time tabled lesson across all school years, with information that is accurate, informative and inclusive of all young people.
- RSE should be taught by professionals who are trained regularly in the subject. As I’m sure we can all agree, RSE is a very sensitive subject to teach to children, especially if you’re teaching it to my year who all still giggle at the word kiss. My RSE lessons have been a mixed bag, including one lesson where we were learning about consent, and we took part in a role-play where we all had to yell back no, when asked a range of questions, including, ‘can I touch you?’
- Expert guests should be invited in to help expand our learning. We regularly have plays or talks about different aspects of PSHE, which help to further our knowledge on these subjects. I know a lot of people, including me, are more likely to listen and take on things if they’re not put on the same old PowerPoint week-after-week.
- There should be clear directions for where we can go to seek advice, contraceptives and support outside of school.
Good RSE within all schools is possible, so let’s make it a reality.