Outside experts should teach sex education

The HeadsUp online forum for 11-18 year-olds, which took place from 1-19 March, has published its report of young people’s views on sex education.

The young people taking part in the Sex education – do you get enough? Forum, felt that they did not want to be taught sex education by people they know, for example their teachers, but felt an outside specialist or expert in sex education would be preferable and less embarrassing.

“Who should teach us is definitely not teachers as it is embarrassing and awkward it should be somebody from outside the school so maybe somebody from Brooke or other sexual health organisations that exist out there. I would most certainly not want to learn from teachers and school, it would be embarrassing.”

Young people on the forum also suggested that the main way they learned about sexual relationships was through peer dialogue and the media, but there was recognition that this was an ineffective and potentially dangerous way of transmitting vital knowledge about such an important element of young people’s development.

The following themes were debated by young people with their peers and decision makers:

Is society too sexualised? – The availability of sexually explicit material was raised and the link was highlighted between constant exposure to this and to a skewing of sexual values amongst young people.

Teenage pregnancy – Teenage parenthood was not seen as being a conscious or positive choice, but something that there should be more information about and support for teenagers in this situation.

Who do you want to teach you about sex? – Forum users disagreed on the role of parents in sex education; most felt that schools had a part to play so facts could be learned without subjective judgements about sexual behaviour.

The age of consent – the principle of the age of consent was seen as positive, however what age young people were mature enough to make this decision was a point of disagreement.

HeadsUp is an online debating space, run by the Hansard Society, for 11-18 year-olds to discuss their views on political issues with their peers and influential decision makers. It aims to build young people’s levels of political awareness and participation so that they can play an effective role in the democratic processes affecting their lives. HeadsUp is also a space politicians can use to consult with young people and find out their ideas, experiences and opinions.

Beccy Allen, HeadsUp Project Manager said about the forum; “Sex education is a subject that many teenagers have well-formed opinions on. Who better to ask about the quality and effectiveness of this education than the young people receiving it? Young people’s knowledge of this subject is crucial both for them and wider society – and a reason why those in power should take careful note.”

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