Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Teenage conception rates go down, lets keep the good work up

Teen pregnancies at 40-year low
This is obviously great news and it is great to have the BBC publish a quote directly crediting this decline to the work of relationship and sex educators.

The article does end with a note of caution. Our rates of teenage conception are still higher then the rest of Western Europe. We still have a significant teenage pregnancy problem that needs consistant funding. Maybe i am too pesermistic but I worry that good news like this will lead to people cutting funding to the area "because we have solved that problem now". It is not solved thousands of young people are still getting pregnant when they didnt want to.

I hope this good news is seen as a validation of the value of good sex and relationship education. Lets hope those government officials involved in the on going PSHE review will hear and preserve the importance of SRE, it needs to be added as a compulsart element of education. The role of outside expert educators should not be forgotten.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

SexEd in School Assemblies

Trying to interest and educate over 100 young people about key issues in just 10 minutes.


I kind of hate assemblies, I hated them when I was at school and now working in schools I still kind of hate assemblies, especially Sexual Health assemblies. However, the reasons have changed.


When I was a student I hated assemblies because I found them tedious, irrelevant and usually very boring. As I became a 6th formers I sometimes found myself feeling sorry for the poor teacher standing in front of 100 bored students plowing through some moral example or thought for the day.

Now i dislike these assemblies for a completly differant reason. I struggle with the assembly format because the format does not make discussion, feedback or questions easy. These are the most qde important parts of a good sex and relationship education session. Yes im sure young people can recieve information just from watching & listening to someone delivering a assembly. Maybe one of the key points will hit home. But for most young people information only is not enough.

I believe sex and relationship education is most effective when it impacts attitudes, affects behaviour and teachs skills. For this to happen we need more then just information. I think discussion is key to make impacts with attitudes the process of bouncing ideas off each other and getting into the detail can bring about real change. Assemblies don't allow time for this normally. That is why I don't like then.

So why have I been doing SRE assemblies this week? I've been doing them to introduce myself and introduce topics. Before doing a series of lessons. This allows us to quicker get into the topics in the session because the already have meet me and might have starting thinking about the issue. For me this is one of the only good reasons to do SRE assemblies. I may not like them but sometimes they serve a purpose.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Review of Gok's the naked truth on channel 4

Helping teens see how perceptions of beauty are twisted by the media


Fact from the show
1/2 of all anorexics are girls aged 16-19



Good to see that Gok is doing a programme not just highlighting the issue with young people but looking at how to help some individuals. In particular Jake is clearly a guy who needed some help. 6ft 9 and over 20 stone he had been so badly bullied he would not leave his house with out his mum. Bullying can be viscously powerful. When young people get to this stage they need to get personal one to one support. Size and strength is no protection from emotional damage. I am very impressed they show that Jake is getting professional support/help. Too often in TV it seems like the famous presenter solves all their emotional problems but not on Gok's show. Very refreshing to see a more honest approach. Love Gok taking him to the ring


Great to see that he is talking to teachers. From my work in schools I know that the opportunities within the school. I've been looking through Gok's lesson plan during the break and I think their is some quality material in them. I'll be using some of these materials in my lessons in Chester schools. Self esteem is such a key aspect in how young people view themselves and then the decisions they make in later life. 


They talk about a great website/service called http://www.bodygossip.org it seems like a fantastic idea. I have always thought that telling your stories is a very powerful activity. If you have seen or read freedom writers you know what I mean. I want to see if there is a way I can include this idea in my work. Maybe an anonymous submission of stories read out by local volunteers? Just the seed of an idea but hopefully it will grow. 


"No point trying to 
look like something 
that isn't real, 
it's just fantasy" 
Gok Wan


When Gok went to the photo shoot it was great to see them showing how much and how quickly the images are manipulated. To me it is interesting how Gok calls manipulated fashion photography "a fantasy art form" which is a kind of positive statement. But the lesson on the website includes the discussion starting question "How do they feel about this manipulated illusion of beauty? Angry? Cheated? Surprised" which clearly is a less positive. Maybe the message is a bit mixed as Gok is balancing his working world of fashion with his passion for helping young people identify the truth. 


Overall I think that this is a great show created by channel 4. Not just pointing out the depths of the problem but starting to suggest and explain ways to move forward. I hope the rest of the episodes are as good as this one. I hope it helps some young people. 


Find out more about Gok's message on this Gok's teens website

Friday, 3 February 2012

Young people don't understand HIV and AIDS

Could you explain how HIV impacts the body?


I ask this question at the start and end of every HIV lesson I teach. Its a way of trying to monitor if my lesson is making a difference. Asking if they could explain a topic to someone else is a reasonable test to see if people understand the topic themselves. 


Today I asked this question at the start of a lesson and none of the 32 young people (13-14) could say yes. Now I am used to most young people not knowing that much about HIV but usually 1 or 2 say yes. It reminded me just how low the level of HIV awareness is in the general population. Now I know that HIV rates are low in the UK but they are on the rise. If we are not careful it is very possible that we could have a significant problem with HIV if we fail to educate people about the risks. The role of ARVs may help make people live significantly longer so that HIV can be seen as a chronic condition and not a death sentence, yet the cost is high and it is not a easy or desirable condition. 


So here are some of the common miss-conceptions about HIV I regularly encounter. 


  • HIV can be cured (yes this is the most common myth I encounter) 
  • HIV can be caught by sharing a house with someone who is HIV+
  • It is impossible to catch HIV from oral sex
  • But you can catch HIV from a normal toilet
  • Condoms protect you a 100% of the time
  • You could tell if someone had the HIV virus, they would look ill

These commons myths keep cropping up and whilst some are less serious (toilets!) some could lead people into significant problems. We need more education about HIV. If they practise safer sex in relation to HIV they will also be protected from a lot of other more common STIs, so its an effective way of promoting general safer sex practice. So lets push the issue in schools.





(I'm going to use this video on loop for my next presentation about HIV+)