The Telegraph has recently speculated about how a renewed focus on sex ed in schools has or is applying subtle pressures to teens to engage in sexual activity. Could it be the case that teachers themselves are, by the very nature of their status, unknowingly giving 'seals of approval' and a level of acceptability to casual sexual behaviour? Are we looking at a peer pressure equivalent?
It's a difficult line to draw in the sand...when daily twitter campaigns from youth groups campaign for yet more openness and more in depth education about sex. As well as this, there are also almost weekly media reports of experts professing the dangers of young people accessing porn and the lifelong affects it can have on them that seem to strengthen the need for more and better quality, maybe even compulsory SRE teaching.
Should we find a happy medium or thunder along the 'more is better' line of thinking regardless of the few casualties along the way, after all it is correct to assume that at some point in their lives students will become sexually active... its lifelong learning we are dealing with here, children probably don't actually 'need' to know half the stuff they are taught in the here and now, but it is still valuable learning and important for their future. Perhaps what's in question should be, 'when' rather than 'if' is the right time to teach certain SRE topics.
So what evidence is there to suggest that the advances in sex ed teaching is applying pressure to teens. We could start by analysing recent teen pregnancy statistics and STI data which could give an indication of increased sexual activity. In fact, currently, we are experiencing the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in this country since 1969. You'd be forgiven for thinking a major contributing factor could be down to the more open and student led style of SRE teaching that is happening in some schools, however the STI stats blow this theory out of the water by reporting a considerable rise in cases in 2012 and even more perplexing is the fact that again it is the under 25's that have the highest infection rates. We could glean from this that actually it is the methods and readiness of certain types of contraception that influence the prevention of unwanted pregnancies opposed to the continuing unhealthy sexual habits (as reported by Gov.uk) of young men.
The only other way of measuring the affects of increased SRE is to ask students directly. In my opinion The Telegraph's speculation is incorrect and the young people I work with do not feel this way. As part of my teaching we look at, in detail, the abstinences movement and study this from a Christian and Non-Christian viewpoint - which students find surprising as it is supported by some celebrities that they wouldn't have associated with this approach to sexual relations. I believe that this gives a balanced approach to the subject and shows students alternative thinking to relationships. Incorrectly it’s sometimes assumed that if you talk about something more, it will happen more. Professionally I don't believe this to be the case. So in answer to my own question about 'when' rather than 'if', I can honestly say that the FPA offers a very sensible and workable framework for teachers that can be used in planning to great effect. They have guidelines that clearly set out key stage benchmarks and learning milestones that students and teachers of SRE should work around. This, along with needs analysis and student consultation will insure positive SRE lessons for all our students going forwards.
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