Sexual Health

Sex education at school

Most people agree school is the right place to get sexual health information, but think that the teaching isn't always very good. One young man we talked to did voluntary work with young people and realised how important it was for all children to learn about sex at school when he started to do voluntary work.

Unfortunately sex education at school seems to be a bit of a 'lottery' in terms of how good it is. People we spoke to recalled teachers delivering toe-curlingly embarrassing talks, often separating boys and girls so they didn't learn about each other's sexual development. 

Some people we interviewed felt more focus needs to be placed on protecting yourself from STIs and not just on preventing pregnancy. 

Some of the people we talked to were quite angry about how their schools had handled sex education, or compared their sex education with friends who'd been at different schools.

Of those we interviewed some thought teachers who were at ease with the subject made things much better - but only for those who were in their class. In the same school sex education could be handled very differently in different classes, leaving the less fortunate pupils to rely on guesswork and what their friends were able to tell them.  

Even when the information is good it is not always delivered when it is needed. Schools need to provide access to advice and information to pupils as and when they need it, particularly since pupils may not raise issues within a classroom setting.

Some people we spoke to had been on a peer led sex education programme (A Pause) and said that it's better to have 16-18 year olds leading the sessions than teachers. They enjoyed the interactive activities such as games and being shown several different types of contraception, and being encouraged to practice putting a condom on a plastic model or a piece of fruit. 

Even those who were generally pleased with their school sex education still felt it could be improved. They felt that more information should be available about sexual identity (and gay and lesbian sex), contraception, how to avoid STIs, symptoms of STIs, how to handle relationships, and where to go for advice, contraception and testing.

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Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated August 2012.

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