Exploring the power of Object Based Learning for Relationships and Sex Education


On Friday I had the honour of being invited to speak at University of Exeter about my experiences as a practitioner working on the Sex & History Project. (N.B. I co-wrote the FREE RSE lesson pack here and and lessons exploring gender and sexual diversity here for LGBT history month and beyond!)  Unfortunately due to the snow I had to Skype in and not be there in person to run a workshop, so I also wanted to summarise my thoughts in a blog post.

The topic I chose to talk about was The Power of ‘Object-Based Learning’ for Relationships and Sex Education.  For those of you who don’t know Object Based Learning is using an object (historical object/ 3D printed model or any physical solid 3D thing!) to spark a conversation and learn something new. (Or a more academic description: “Object-Based Learning (OBL) is a student-centred learning approach that uses objects to facilitate deep learning. Objects may take many forms, small or large, but the method typically involves students handling or working at close quarters with and interrogating physical artefacts.”. I first heard of it as a concept in a meeting with Melany Rose Education Manager at the British Museum. Then seeing the Ain Sakhri lovers on display there really bought it home to me the difference in learning between seeing the actual physical object is compared to learning from photo of the object (both have value but for some objects seeing them for yourselves gives a extra layer of understanding)

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3D Printed Uterus model

In Sex & History, we often have to use photographs of the objects rather than actual handling materials because these are rare museum pieces that are valuable and can’t be handled by a class of teenagers in case they are damaged! However, last year I was lucky enough to lead a teacher training workshop at Brighton and Hove Museum where they had a 3D printed Venus of Willendorf to handle alongside looking at actual objects from the museum’s collection. It was fascinating to watch the teachers engage with the piece in new and unexpected ways when physically able to handle the object rather than just look at it behind glass or in a photograph or image on a screen.  At Sex and History we are gathering a small collection of handling objects (such as examples similar to these erotic fruits)  and actively exploring 3D printing of replica objects in order to further utilise the opportunities and benefits of OBL.

For my workshop with practitioners and academics from UK and Germany I had been planning to provide a huge range of objects covered with a sheet and ask individuals to choose an object they were most interested in learning more about asking the questions: “what is it?” “how could it be used for relationships and sex education?” (whilst also making it very clear that any object chosen did not reflect anything personal about the participant choosing it!). Experiencing the value of object based learning for yourself is a powerful lesson in its value for sex education.

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Venus of Willendorf

Although this concept may seem foreign to many teachers of RSE I think that many RSE teachers are doing OBL all the time anyway without realising. Condoms demonstrations and passing around different methods of contraception to have a much closer look at all count as OBL! Being able to see, touch, feel, handle, move and rotate an object relating to relationships and sex education can create discussions and questions that you would never get without the physical object being present.

The benefits of object based learning (as well as possible objects to use) can be set out as follows:

  • Icebreakers– can help defuse tensions and create safer spaces by using certain objects like knitted uteruses/vulvas/penises/or cuddly STI toys.  Crocheted body parts have been used with particular success in Brighton and Hove with an RSE project for young unaccompanied asylum seekers in single sex groups (that I have been supporting in the background), as a way of kick starting safe fun conversations about their bodies.  These young people may come from cultures where such knowledge about their own bodies is sometimes seen as taboo and often not talked about, and cultural understandings of consent can be very different.  The benign fun nature of knitted or crocheted objects provide such a safe space to start having conversations which can then over time lead into trickier conversations such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). 

     

  • Starters- Start the conversation off by passing round an object “what is this” “what might it be used for” “how is it used?” “why does it exist” can create fascinating conversations. You could use things like wedding rings, engagement rings (non-valuable ones!!) to start conversations about marriage and relationships, gender, power and control (who wears the engagement ring- why?) and extend the conversation to explore the use of rings used for chastity (silver ring thing) or fidelity pledges or use of neck rings in marriage or sign of beauty. Something so simple as a small silver or gold band can start a conversation that could go on for a whole lesson if you plan it right and are skilled in your questioning and how you manage discussions.
  • Investigators and Interrogators  Supplying a range of objects can be used to explore and interrogate patterns and assumptions in society. For example , menstrual products, intimate washes, soaps, razors, make up. hair straighteners, Protein shakes, Pilates balls, gendered clothing or shoes. What objects make us feel good about ourselves, what make us feel bad, which are designed for men/women? what are essential? which are cultural? etc.                                                                          Or you could do the fab The Sensual Star activity (from Jo Adams who developed the RU Ready? Program) where you supply a wide range of objects that can be used to stimulate the five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. eg. perfumes/scented candles/sound bowl/musical instruments for sound; chocolate/fruits/ massagers or objects with rough or smooth textures eg. silk scarves and have a conversation about sensuality and what are our favorite objects against each of the five senses. This can be drawn and decorated on a “Sensual Star” (a 5 pointed star with each sense allocated to a point).
  • Confidence building Adolescence can be a tricky time with lots of new things to master that people often don’t talk in detail to you about. For example you can also use a range of disposable and reusable menstrual products or range of antiperspirants and deodorants to kick start conversations about puberty, hygiene and menstruation. Familiarity with some of the products they may need to use in their lives can build confidence about talking about, purchasing and using them.
  • Reassurance about whats ‘normal’– exploring the range of variation in bodies by passing around objects of different sizes analogous to human bodies (E.g. as well as using knitted objects with some inner labia longer than outer labia etc, I also have a range of different sized condom demonstrators (and TheyFit is a great site to share). It also encourages young people to feel more comfortable talking about their bodies when I get out Lady Penelope it is fascinating (and really sad) to realise how many girls do not have any real understanding of how their own bodies work. 

  • Visualising how things work Until you have seen an actual IUD/IUS in the flesh and seen on a diagram or model of female reproductive tract how it works, then it can be quite hard to conceptualise. Likewise seeing the actual size of an implant (a matchstick can work here or small matchstick sized piece of ultra fine tubing), the contraceptive ring (the inner ring of an internal condom (femidom) works) then it can be hard to understanding or visualise how such methods work.  Also Object based learning is also vital for visually impaired students if you can’t see then being able to handle and be talked through anatomy or using methods of contraception is very important.
  • New directions for discussions Talking about STI testing can be a little dry sometimes but passing round a chlamydia testing kit and allowing a look at a urine testing pot, a swab kit, or passing round a speculum can help make the conversation more interesting. I’m also very interested in exploring how every day objects like a wire coat hanger could open up discussions on abortion, or egg white or flour paste or cottage cheese in petri dishes could open up conversations about normal vaginal discharge! A small Venus of Willendorf (I now have one of my own) could open up conversations about body image, breasts, weight, sexiness, fertility!
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Speculum, swab and urine testing kits.

  • Exploring new frontiers (knowledge, learning and technology!)- the 3D printed clitoris is my FAVE object for getting a conversation going about sexual pleasure and anatomy (and I still think it is outrageous that this wasn’t mapped until 1998). I now have a 3D printed uterus and I am hoping to get a vulva too. 3D printing for sex ed could be incredible!

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    Range of 3D printed clitorises

  • Consolidating learning. In youth group settings we sometimes use a “talking stick” or other object as a tool to signify who can talk and who needs to listen. We also sometimes pass an object round to close a session with each person holding the object says one thing they have learned about the session before passing it on to the next person. While I can see their might be potential for silliness if certain objects were used (!) I can also see there is potential in having a particular object close a session quite powerfully.  I am thinking something like a small squishy heart stress toy to pass round and feedback on notions of romantic love and why the heart is seen as a symbol for love and how that can make people feel. The level of SQUEEZE could indicate how much the session was enjoyed or not!

 

How would you use object based learning in your setting and what do you think are the benefits? Please comment below!

 

This post is bought to you with thanks to Sex & History Project for funding me to do this work. Rhian Drinkwater for her expert knitting skills (the uteri were knitted by a sexual health campaign up north and to my horror I can’t remember who to thank them- if it was you please shout!), Lovehoney for supplying me with loads of kit.  Ben O’Steen for 3D printing  this file designed by Odile Filod for me and putting me in touch with Valeria Vitale from  Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House who has also indulged my 3D printing whims and needs using the Odile Filod file and the Vulvacademy files (with thanks to @Gareth Cheeseman for sharing the link to Vulvacademy files)!

 

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BREAKING NEWS: Guidance does NOT say sex at 13 is okay.


The Education Select Committee met yesterday and appeared to get a little bit fixated on the Brook Sexual Behaviours traffic light tool. As a result subsequent reporting in the Telegraph the BBC, The Daily Mail, Metro and the Mirror are all now completely miscontruing the excellent Brook Sexual Behaviours Traffic lights tool as a form of teaching guidance for SRE (it’s not guidance for teaching sex ed, it’s a safeguarding tool).

A collation of the miseleading headlines is as follows:

Teachers told: sex at 13 ‘is normal part of growing up’

Sex ‘normal at 13’ suggestion raises concerns

Sex between 13-year-olds is NORMAL, says controversial ‘traffic light tool’ sent to schools to teach about relationships (N.B this one is complete rubbish- the tool has never been sent into schools to teach about relationhships)

School kids having sex at 13 is ‘normal’ says controversial advice given by charity

Campaigners claim schools are teaching pupils that 13 is a normal age for sex

I am really cross and disappointed about this. Some of the (totally rubbish and written in a hurry churnalism) articles imply that the Traffic Light tool is the same as the non-statutory supplementary guidance for SRE (produced because the current statutory guidance from DfE was produced in 2000 and is now out dated). Brook have written an excellent response statement to the article here which clarifies things further and Ally Fogg at the Guardian has written an excellent piece on this issue here.  I also wanted to add a post from my perspective of a practitioner of Sex Education, because when I’m teaching SRE in schools, I also automatically have an additional responsibility for child protection.

TO CLARIFY (if I was an Education Editor of a widely read national newspaper my refuting headline would be!) :

SEX EDUCATION TEACHERS ARE NOT BEING TOLD (BY ANY GUIDANCE DOCUMENT OR ANYONE ELSE) TO SAY SEX AT 13 IS OKAY! 

The traffic light tool actually a safeguarding tool for practitioners (not necessarily SRE teachers but maybe youth workers, teachers, pastoral leads, child protection officers etc.) to assist in identifying whether a sexual behaviour is ‘normal’ for an age group or a ’cause for concern’. The age ranges are 0-5, 5-9, 9-13 and 13-17 deliberately because there are overlaps.  It has not been reported (because that destroys the anti-sex ed narrative) that in the 9-13 age range a red behaviour (ie. one that is a serious safeguarding concern) is:

And in the 13-17 age range one of the green behaviours (ie. one that is not usually a cause for concern unless there are other factors going on) is:

Obviously the tool is an aid to professional judgement but does not replace it.  We know there maybe 13 year olds having their ‘first snogs or fumbles’, and usually this is in line with normal development. However a disclosure of a sexually active 13 year old (ie. having penetrative sex) would, in most settings, trigger a referral to the child protection lead and probably further support/intervention being put into place to support the young person. We have mandatory reporting for under 13’s because under 13’s are not able to legally consent to sex but for 13-15year olds the law is not intended to prosecute mutually agreed teenage sexual activity between two young people of a similar age, unless it involves abuse or exploitation.  Therefore the tool is entirely reasonable (and not “illegal” at all as suggested by Sarah Carter from the Family Education Trust).

Yes, we all know that sex under the age of 16 is illegal, but we also know that almost 1/3 of our young people are having sex under the age of 16 (remember that most of these will be ~15, and most people have lost their virginity by 19. So erm it’s a no brainer that the teen years are vital for high quality accurate age appropriate sex education! D’uh!)Talking about this statistic doesn’t mean any practitioner of sex ed is encouraging or condoning underage sex (I regularly use it as a social norming approach- when I ask my classes what percetage of teens have sex under the age of 16 they all respond with “90-100%” and are suprised to find out it is far lower!). Teachers of sex education are not on some kind of crusade to encourage underage sex (urgh at the thought!) but we recognise our duty is to support young people and meet their needs, where they are at, and signpost where to get further help and support.

Yes, the Brook Traffic Light Tool does also mention in the 13-17 age range:

  • consenting oral and/or penetrative sex with others of the same or opposite gender who are of similar age and developmental ability

which the media has seized upon.  But as a professional interpreting this in practice, I would be looking very closely at the 9-13 behaviours and the 13-17 behaviours and in my experience if a sexually active 13 year old presented to me, then often they are not in consensual situations, or have chaotic home lives, and therefore more support and intervention is needed to support that young person. (Particularly if there needs to be a (potentially criminal) investigation into the often older partner).

(As an aside, I have actually never had consensual penetrative sexual activity disclosed to me in 13 year olds, but once had to refer on two horrific cases of 13 year olds who had been gang raped, one of whom thought it was some kind of ‘rite of passage’ and and minimised it as ‘normal thing’ to happen in her peers which absolutely broke my heart. This is also why I am so angry about this misreporting- the Brook Traffic LightsTool is invaluable in suppporting professionals to protect young people so how dare they twist it like this, to score political points!?)

Like most practitioners I would use the SRE guidance documents (both statutory and non-statutory) and my school policy to ensure my teaching was in line with all of these.  If I had a disclosure or something happened that concerned me in a lesson (likely discussion of an amber or red behaviour) –  then I would refer it to my child protection lead in the school who would also be hopefully using the traffic light tool to determine the level of intervention needed.  I am clear on this, many teachers of PSHE are clear on this, but some aren’t, and they won’t be helped by misguided and innacurate reporting on it from the press.

It’s such a shame that such inaccurate reporting about sex education works to damage the reputation of this really important subject and may make some teachers reluctant or fearful about teaching it.  I just hope the Education Select Committee who are currently hearing evidence about PSHE will be able to see through this poor sensationalist reporting (and selective presentation of evidence and innacurate statements about “legality” from the Family Education Trust to the committee) to understand that the difference between guidance documents supporting the teaching of SRE, and guidance documents supporting the safeguarding of children and young people. Ultimately the the safety and healthy sexual development of young people depends on us getting this right. So maybe just maybe the reporters could try and get this right too?

 

 

 

 

DfE “statement” about teaching about sexual orientation (and gender identity?)


Today I have been looking if there was a specific recent DfE published statement about teaching about sexual orientation (and Gender Identity) that I wasn’t aware of. There isn’t one as far as I can see given that the Safe to Learn Guidance (on Homophobic Bullying and Sexist, Sexual and Transphobic Bullying) were pulled by this government. Sexual Orientation is included in the SRE guidance (but Gender Identity is not) and I have already blogged about the issues with that document, but at least it tries to be inclusive in places (apart from the “it is not about promotion of sexual orientation- that would be inappropriate teaching” caveat) But as far as I can tell there is no further official document since the 2000 document in place. However MP Stephen Williams wrote to DfE back in June on this issue he received this response which he tweeted today.

and given current government comment in this article and this article. I think we know where the government responses will be in coming days and weeks. They will claim they were clear all along (they were/are NOT) and that the individual schools are to blame for these policies when actually it is their systematic failure to include sexual and gender diversity within policies and the curriculum that has left schools in this mess and it is unfair to now pass the buck to the individual schools.

However I am very hopeful this will create the clear motivation and political will to change this for the better and properly include guidance for teachers and schools on how to properly and appropriately support and include students whatever their identity, and overall improve SRE guidance to include issues such as talking about consent and pornography which are current issues for young people completely omitted from this 13 year old document. Of course there is also the possibility things could end up worse, in terms of existing legislation and guidance and we must do everything in our power to stop that from happening.

 

 

 

“Promotion of Homosexuality” vs. “Promotion of Sexual Orientation” – Section 28 actually never went away


People keep on saying “reintroduction of Section 28” about the policies within this post however what they don’t realise is that it actually sort of never went away.

Teachers and schools (including academies) STILL have to pay due regard to the SRE (2000) guidance. This was announced in March 2013 that we would be getting no new SRE guidance. 

THIS DOCUMENT STATES THREE TIMES THAT “There should be no promotion of sexual orientation this is inappropriate teaching” 

So don’t necessarily blame the individual schools for developing homophobic policies when the document we have to build our school policies from is possibly homophobic, inappropriate and completely out of date and out of touch. (and possibly contravenes the Equalities Act?).  Further investigation has revealed some of the policies now being in process of being updated (in response to backlash?) however further googling found another 5 schools and counting with problematic policies and although it seems it is partly as a result of sharing some very out of date academies documentation, some policies will have been adopted unquestioningly because of the SRE Guidance and maybe Section 28 of the model funding agreement for Academies and free schools?

Schools that have policies that state about the non-promotion of homosexuality should be challenged- but where do we stand on schools that state “promotion of sexual orientation”? After all they are only following the SRE 2000 Guidance.

To me promotion of  “sexual orientation” could be interpreted as not promoting one sexual orientation above the other. So schools might have meant they were considering the issue of heterosexual hegemony right?

Using the “proper words” for body parts- a gendered issue?


A year ago I wrote this for the New Statesman and on Tuesday the Sex Education Forum published this blog.

retweeting them yesterday @itsmotherswork asked in response

Which prompted this post as I needed to write a longer response than twitter allows for.

Personally I wouldn’t ever say any word to describe a body part is improper as it is just not a word I use (sounds a bit Victorian!), but obviously there are correct or scientific terms for body parts (penis) then colloquial accepted terms (willy) then slang or offensive terms (cock). That doesn’t mean the latter two are incorrect (if used about the right body part) but depends on context used in.

I have absolutely no objection to “bottom” being used instead of “anus” or “gluteus maximus” or “tummy” being used instead of “abdomen” as words to describe parts of the body for young children, children can build on the scientific terms for body parts as they grow up and tummy and bottom are widely accepted and pretty much universally known in English speaking countries.

I have HUGE OBJECTIONS to the fact that while “Willy” is a perfectly acceptable universal term to use for young children for the penis there absolutely no universal acceptable term for the vulva for children (terms range from the cutesy Fairy, NooNoo, Minnie, Twinkle*  to the rather cool Yoni (sanskrit for Vagina) frankly ick Front Bottom or Split).  This is about erasure of female sexuality, female identity- we are taught from a young age that our body parts are not even deserving of a proper name, they are either to be cutesey or shameful and mustn’t be discussed.  Have to be honest even I as a sex educator initially I was really not keen on the word vulva for a long time but in the absence of a better alternative**  it is what I use with my children***

Nowadays I am totally comfortable with the word vulva but I am 100% sure that the reason the DfE are completely refusing to specify Penis and Vulva and Vagina in the Science National Curriculum is because of a fear of the word vulva. Penis is not the problem. Vulva (and possibly vagina) is. But in the absence of a universal accepted colloquialism for vulva then vulva is what we must use- to do otherwise is a potential route to confusion, worry, stigma and shame.  It is a safeguarding issue not to have a common language of a body part that might be touched inappropriately****. It is also a health issue to be able to talk about where itches or is causing problems and it a sexuality issue about learning to communicate about your own body so that as a sexually active adult you know your body is not a source of sniggering or shame.

So vulva is a proper word- embrace it, say it with me. vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva, vulva

*Twinkle  always makes me think of the phrase “twinkle in your father’s eye”- Shudder.

** I decided against vagina as not anatomically correct as refers to the internal genitals.

***Whilst being respectful of any made up slang words they choose to adopt for their own body parts – but must admit I did gently steer away from “front bottom” which was picked up at nursery!

**** I read somewhere about a dad investigated at length by social services after a child was crying about “Daddy hurting my NooNoo”- NooNoo being her toy rabbit he had put in the washing machine- maybe an urban legend but makes a point.

Puberty is mentioned in the latest draft of Science National Curriculum


So I do believe we are now on Draft 3 of this 224 page National curriculum document.  There is yet ANOTHER consultation on it which ends in August.

The big news is Puberty is now mentioned in Year 5 which is absolutely when it should be at least (not left until last days of Summer term of Y6 which is far too late given many will have started puberty by then) – so I’m really pleased about that.

The other changes we need to see to support young people have not been made. Here are my previous blogs on the issue-

A letter from Liz Truss

A Political Hot Potato

Naming of the Teeth Versus Naming of the Genitals

I also note there is nothing really on microbes, disease and vaccinations in the doc. (Not just for teaching about HIV and other STI’s, and about the HPV vaccine (which most girls have at secondary school now) but also for general health and hygiene- things like Swine Flu and other pandemics are not going to stop happening- we need to teach kids about them.)

So erm this is the document to catch us up with the worlds best, but misses so much crucial scientific info out it is not even funny (I’m speaking with my Science Teacher hat on here). Plus academies don’t even have to follow this document and they now that they make up 45% of secondary schools and since Gove seems to want all schools to become academies, then I’m not entirely sure what the point to a “national” curriculum is any more.

Le Sigh.

There are lots of other issues with the doc which I will link to as the orgs I work for publish their responses. Watch this space.

The PSHE Review. Respondents and Homophobic Bullying in the report


In March 2013 the DfE published the outcomes of the latest PSHE review (DfE 2013). The publication of this review took over 16 months to complete from the close of the consultation process in November 2011. Unfortunately the review was problematic in the way that it did not weight responses correctly so the review made it seem like parents were the biggest respondents (168) when other organisations who responded included the Sex Education Forum (who represent over 70 organisations working in the sector who were consulted on the response), as well as the PSHE Association (who surveyed their 2000+ membership before submitting their response) but in the final report their responses only counted as 1 response each. Thus a single parent voice was given equal weight to huge organisations consisting of hundreds of professional voices when compiling the review.

I discovered the published report on the consultation does not include mention of homophobia, sexual orientation, sexuality AT ALL (but racism and gender equality are included) but given I like to track these things I compiled the table below that outlines the responses possibly could be relevant to challenging homophobia contained within the PSHE report.

“Many respondents thought that PSHE outcomes could be evidenced in the positive behaviour of pupils, and observable attitudes and relationships across the school and the local community. They believed PSHE outcomes must move away from quantitative outcomes to things such as school ethos, attitudes to bullying, promotion of equality, and improved social behaviour.
68 (12%) felt that being able to recognise bullying should be a core outcome of PSHE. Respondents identified two separate issues. Some felt that the main outcome should be to offer support to pupils who were being bullied and help them to deal with the consequences of negative relationships. Others felt that the reason for including the topic was to promote equality and enable pupils to be able to identify and tackle bullying amongst their peers. 
137 (24%) believed pupils must be given the knowledge to respect others and to appreciate different beliefs. It was mentioned that it was important that they had an understanding of the differences between people and cultures, about gender equality and had the ability to challenge racism, discrimination and stereotyping.

Then I went back to some of the organisations who submitted responses just to see what they had said about homophobia, homophobic bullying, sexual orientation, & sexuality.

I copy and paste the most relevant below (I have not C&P’d every mention but have hyperlinked to the reports where available online so you can check them)

PSHE Association, – Under Qu 7 request for case studies-

“Teacher training in the area of homophobic bullying has also helped in the way we deal with homophobic bullying (as we are in a primary school this would often be the derogatory use of the word ‘Gay’ and hopefully will impact on the incidents of homophobic bullying that we have). Ofsted PSHE inspection 2009 ‘outstanding’.”

SEF response

“Be positively inclusive in terms of gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, culture,
age, religion or belief or other life-experience particularly HIV status and pregnancy;”

FPA & Brook Response:

“We believe that it is vital for any updated guidance on relationships and sex education to address the needs of all children and young people, including young people with special educational needs (SEN) or learning disabilities, disabled children and young people, children and young people in care and lesbian, gay or bisexual children and young people. It is vital that all relationships and sex education is inclusive and non-discriminatory. Ways this can be done includes not making assumptions about faith-based or cultural practices, challenging any homophobia, racism or sexism, and ensuring that resources and discussions reflect the diversity of the pupils.”

ATL:

“We believe that the relationships element of
PSHE education must take proper account of the imbalance of power in many relationships which can manifest itself in bullying, violent, abusive and/or discriminatory behaviour based amongst others on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion or belief and
social class. We also recommend that the relationships element of PSHE education is more explicitly joined up with wider initiatives aimed at eliminating all forms of bullying, discrimination, violence and hate crime, including culturally-specific violence against women and girls.”

NASUWT,

“Despite this, cyberbullying is clearly an issue affecting teachers in other countries outside the UK, with cyber-abuse related to gender and sexual orientation being most frequent.ETUCE 2010”

Stonewall (their response is not available online but I requested a copy and funnily enough there is considerable focus on homophobia and homophobic bullying throughout the document including:

PSHE provides children and young people with the opportunity to discuss topics like homophobic bullying, different families including same-sex families and lesbian, gay and bisexual issues. Discussing these issues in an appropriate and structured way helps break down stereotypes, for example, about what boys and girls ‘should and shouldn’t do’. It also provides all pupils, including those who are, or will grow up to be, lesbian, gay and bisexual, with relevant information enabling them to make safe choices. However, at present the PSHE framework does not give clear enough guidance to schools about what issues to address and how to address them. Developing a more inclusive PSHE framework and programme of study which specifically includes age-appropriate information about different families and homophobic bullying and information on how schools can work effectively with parents and carers around these issues, will help the Government’s aim in tackling this form of bullying as outlined in the Schools White Paper 2010; will help schools comply with the Equality Act 2010 and public sector Equality Duty; and will help schools to meet the requirements of the new proposed Ofsted inspection framework.”

NICE,

“Ninety per cent of secondary school teachers and 44% of primary school teachers say that children and young people experience homophobic bullying, name calling or harassment at school, yet most incidents go unreported (Guasp 2007). Pupils who experience homophobic bullying are more likely to miss school and less likely to stay in full-time education (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2009b). Further, most teachers and non-teaching staff in primary and secondary schools have not received training in how to tackle this form of bullying, and most would not feel confident in providing pupils with information, advice and guidance on lesbian and gay issues (Department for Children, Schools and Families 2007).”

British Humanist Association:

“Homophobic Bullying is a major issue in all schools, but is a particular issue in ‘faith’ schools. Stonewall’s 2007 ‘The School Report’ showed that two thirds of young gay people at secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying, but in ‘faith’ schools that figure rises to three in four. The report also showed that lesbian and gay pupils who attend ‘faith’ schools are 23% less likely to report bullying than those at other schools.’1 Many ‘faith’ schools also have issues with teaching about relationships other than heterosexual relationships, and it is important that different sexual orientations are treated equally including in issues to do with marriage and civil partnership.”

National Secular Society

Reduce homophobic bullying by improving education and normalising all sexualities. A YouGov polling demonstrates that nine in ten secondary school teachers and more than
two in five primary school teachers have witnessed children being subjected to homophobic bullying in their schools. Teachers say the vast majority of homophobic incidents go unreported by pupils. Three quarters of young LGBT people who attend faith schools have experienced homophobic bullying4.

National AIDS Trust

“This can also link with work on bullying. However, more broadly the PSHE curriculum needs to focus more explicitly on attitudes and values, in order to properly address issues such as HIV-related stigma, homophobia and racism.”

Accord Coalition

We are very concerned how schools may deal with issues of sexual difference and diversity. Homophobia is a major issue in schools, but is a particular issue in the faith school sector. Stonewall’s 2007 ‘The School Report’ showed that two thirds of young gay people at secondary schools have experienced homophobic bullying, but in schools with a religious character the figure rises to three in four. The report also showed that lesbian and gay pupils who attend these schools are 23% less likely to report bullying than those at schools without a faith designation[1].

We believe stronger guidance should be given to help schools cover issues of sexual difference and diversity so that they are able to balances setting out religious and cultural perspectives with schools vitally important requirement to promote equality and encourages acceptance of diversity. PSHE could and should play an important role in schools tackling bullying based on sexual difference.

Other organisations I suspect will have mentioned homophobic bullying but I have not been able to see a copy of their responses are Anti-Bullying alliance, Beat Bullying, NAH, Banardos, Astell Project, NAH and ASCL. The DfE has supplied me with a list of respondents to the PSHE review and I have gone through them and know many people personally in the list who would also have flagged it as an issue. So this suggests to me that this was raised in a reasonable proportion of responses, although obviously without checking all 699 reponses I can’t know for sure.

Interesting then how the words Homophobia, Homophobic Bullying, Sexuality and Sexual Orientation are then COMPLETELY ABSENT FROM THE PSHE REPORT. Silenced Sexualities in 2013. How very disappointing. Not only are we having to stick with the SRE Guidance that is possibly in breach of the equalities act. But we also have an education department who can’t even bring themselves to mention the words Homophobia, Homophobic Bullying, Sexuality or Sexual Orientation- in a report about Personal Social Health and Economic Education (PSHE). The exact place these things would and should be covered.

It makes me so cross.

 

 

Does the DfEE SRE Guidance 2000 meet the Equality Duty 2011?


Thirteen years ago the 2000 the government published the Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) guidance (DfEE 2000).  In 2013 the government restated that this SRE guidance document was still in force when it published the outcomes of the PSHE review (Truss, 2013). The table below outlines the key areas where sexuality is referred to within that document, a brief analysis of key words for the document the underpinning legal framework to SRE.    This document preceded the repeal of Section 28 and hence several times throughout the document “It is not about promotion of sexual orientation- this would be inappropriate teaching” is mentioned (Highlighted in Red in the table below).

What does “promotion of sexual orientation” even mean? Not about promoting one identity over another? The inference that many teachers would take from this is you shouldn’t talk about different sexual identities, but perhaps you could interpret it as you should not promote heterosexuality as superior to other sexual identities? Is this really appropriate for a guidance document that teachers and schools are expected to pay due regard too in 2013? I think not!

Since 2011 Public Bodies including DfE are required to comply with the new equality duty which places an obligation on public authorities to positively promote equality, not merely to avoid discrimination on protected characteristics including sexual orientation.  Does the statement “it is not about promotion of sexual orientation- that would be inappropriate teaching” repeated throughout the document mean they are clearly not meeting their legal duties in 2013 by expecting teachers and schools to follow this guidance? I’m not a lawyer- what do you think?

 The DfEE (2000) Sex and Relationships Guidance Document. Key aspects relating to Sexuality and challenging homophobia.
Key aspects of the text  Page 5 of SRE Guidance“What is sex and relationship education? It is lifelong learning about physical, moral and emotional development. It is about the understanding of the importance of marriage for family life, stable and loving relationships, respect, love and care. It is also about the teaching of sex, sexuality, and sexual health. It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching.”        
Page 11 of SRE GuidanceRelationships “Within the context of talking about relationships, children should be taught about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children. The Government recognises that there are strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage. Therefore, children should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society. Teaching in this area needs to be sensitive so as not to stigmatise children on the basis of their home circumstances.”
Page 12 & 13 of SRE Guidance“Sexual identity and sexual orientation It is up to schools to make sure that the needs of all pupils are met in their programmes. Young people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationship education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment is clear that teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support. There should be no direct promotion of sexual orientation.

 

Sexual orientation and what is taught in schools is an area of concern for some parents. Schools that liaise closely with parents when developing their sex and relationship education policy and programme should be able to reassure parents of the content of the programme and the context in which it will be presented.

 

Schools need to be able to deal with homophobic bullying. Guidance issued by the Department (Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Circular 10/99) dealt with the unacceptability of and emotional distress and harm caused by bullying in whatever form – be it racial, as a result of a pupil’s appearance, related to sexual orientation or for any other reason.”

(N.B this has now been superceded by Education and Inspections Act 2006 and Equalities act 2010)

Page 19 of SRE GuidanceSRE within PSHE in Primary Schools Expects pupils to

“developing good relationships and respecting differences between people.”

 

Page 20 of SRE GuidanceSRE within PSHE In Secondary Schools Expects pupils to:

“be aware of their sexuality and understand human sexuality”

Page 25 of SRE Guidance

Parents need support in:

  • “answering questions about growing up, having babies, feeling attraction, sexuality, sex, contraception, relationships and sexual health.”
Page 27 of SRE Guidance

Youth Workers:

 “It is inappropriate for youth workers, as with any professional, to promote sexual orientation. They will be expected to respect this guidance when dealing with school age children. Individual views should not affect the independent advice given to the young person concerned.”

Page 27 of SRE Guidance

Peer Education:

“Particular life experiences of the educators can help young people understand how sex and relationships can affect people positively and negatively. Examples

include:

  • young teenage mothers talking about their experiences of having a child and offering advice and support to their peers;
  • young Asian women talking about their experience of learning about sex and relationships at home and from the wider community including school;
  • young people talking about their experience of living with HIV; and
  • young people who are physically disabled talking to other young people with a disability.”

Note the complete omission of people who are LGBT as possible educators.

Page 31 of SRE Guidance

Confidentiality:

The section on confidentiality at the end of the document  does not clarify that a young persons developing sexual orientation is NOT a child protection issue. I know of cases of LGB students engaged in consensual sexual relationships both over the age of consent have been referred to child protection leads which should not have been.

Analysis of the use of key terms Overview of key terms used

Homophobia appears 0 times in the document.

Sexuality appears 9 times in the document

Sexual Orientation 7 times in the document

Heterosexual, Homosexual, Straight, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, transgender do not appear at all as terms in the document.

Prejudice appears twice in the document

Equality or Discrimination do not appear as terms in the document.

Bullying appears three times in the document, one of those mentions being “homophobic bullying”

Underpinning Legislation to this document(adapted from FPA,2011 and SEF, 2011) Legal framework for SRE

Legislation relating to sex and relationships education (SRE) are contained within the Education Act (1996) and the Learning and Skills Act (2000).

The Education Act 1996 consolidated all previous legislation, and key points related to SRE are:

  • It is compulsory for all maintained schools to teach some parts of sex education i.e. the

biological aspects of puberty, reproduction and the spread of viruses. These topics are

statutory parts of the National Curriculum Science which must be taught to all pupils of

primary and secondary age.

  • Secondary schools are required to provide an SRE programme which includes (as a minimum) information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.
  • Other elements of personal, social and health education (PSHE), including SRE, are non-statutory.
  • All schools must provide, and make available for inspection, an up-to-date policy describing the content and organisation of SRE outside of national curriculum science. This is the school governors’ responsibility.
  • Primary schools should have a policy statement that describes the SRE provided or gives a statement of the decision not to provide SRE.

The Learning and Skills Act 2000 requires that:

  • young people learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children.
  • young people are protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate, having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.
  • school governing bodies have regard for the SRE guidance.
  • parents have the right to withdraw their child from all or part of SRE provided outside national curriculum science.

* N.B. Schools are also legally required to comply with the new Equality Duty. The Act also makes it unlawful for the responsible body of a school to discriminate against, harass or victimise a pupil or potential pupil in relation to admissions, the way it provides education for pupils, provision of pupil access to any benefit, facility or service, or by excluding a pupil or subjecting them to any other detriment. In England and Wales the Act applies to all maintained and independent schools, including Academies and Free Schools, and maintained and non-maintained special schools. (SEF, 2011)

 The Equality Act 2010 covers the way the curriculum is delivered, as schools and other education providers must ensure that issues are taught in a way that does not subject pupils to discrimination. It is also a legal requirement for schools to teach a balanced view of any political issue. Schools must ensure equal opportunities in the education they provide, so it would not be lawful for schools to provide SRE only for girls or only for boys. An example of good practice given in guidance for education providers on the Equality Act (EHRC,2010)  is that PSHE education should cover  equality and diversity based subjects including gender equality and non-violent, respectful relationships between women and men.

As the SRE Guidance does stateYoung people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationship education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs…. teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support.” & “Schools need to be able to deal with homophobic bullying”.  The legal duty for teachers/schools to combat all forms of bullying is now enshrined in the Education Act 2006 and the Equality Act 2010 

Therefore regardless of what the SRE Guidance says about “promotion of sexual orientation” (whatever that even means!?)- schools and teachers can and should talk about sexual and gender identity and challenge all forms of bullying and discrimination.

Sex and Relationships Education- A political hot potato game of piggy in the middle.


The government on the one hand says “we have full confidence in our teachers to teach their students what will be best for their education” but on the other hand says “the guidance note on reproduction is included to make sure pupils are not introduced to age inappropriate material”, and thus it lobs the hot potato of SRE into the hands of the teachers.

The teachers whom without statutory status of PSHE, without proper guidance, training and support are just not able to teach SRE to the standard it needs to currently needs to be so they either quietly drop the potato and hope no-one notices or they lob it back to the government demanding change from on high.

Meanwhile the children and young people continue to miss out on their entitlement to high quality age appropriate SRE. Another generation of poor piggys in the middle. IT IS STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

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How to make your own “artificial semen” or “UV sensitive fluid” for condom demonstrations.


When doing a condom demonstration I like to use an ejaculating condom demonstrator with UV sensitive fluid (artificial semen) and a blacklight to show that semen can still be present on the penis (and hands) even if they look clean post “ejaculation”. This highlights the need to be careful post coitally and not to get intimate again without clean hands/another condom etc, otherwise you maybe at risk of sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy.

I recently ran out of my Health Edco UV sensitive Fluid and although it is £6.95 they have a minimum order charge of £20 plus its about £10 P&P so in order to try and save money I thought I would have a bash (no pun intended) at making my own.  I do also have this non UV sensitive artificial semen but its very grittty (eh?! and Urgh!) and tends to go off after a year plus the lack of UV sensitivity ruins part of my demo, so I tend not to use it if I can.

A discussion on twitter on how to get UV sensitivity suggested laundry brightener and then just a white liquid soap or shampoo for the “semen”.

UPDATE 10th March 2014. Have found a much better way. Scroll to end!

So you will need the following:

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A clean jar (I just washed out my old jar of UV sensitive fluid). Some laundry brightener (about £3) and some white liquid soap (about 90p).

I filled the jar three quarters full of soap and stirred in half a sachet of laundry brightener.

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Something very odd happened. The previously powdered laundry brightener clumped into hard solid lumps…..

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and so far I have not been totally able to get rid of them. However the UV sensitivity is excellent!

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I ended up adding the rest of the sachet of brightener and topped up the jar to full with the liquid soap.

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The solution has oddly gone runnier than it was when the two things weren’t mixed- I thought it would go a bit thicker with a powder being added to a thick liquid, so I am pondering adding some cornflour to thicken it up! It also doesn’t have the slightly translucent quality that my previous jar of UV sensitive fluid (and real semen) does and to be honest it looks a smidge radioactive in the jar (tinge of fluorescent yellow/green)! Overall, I am reasonably pleased with the result even if its appearance isn’t as good as the Health Edco stuff, the UV sensitivity in my homemade stuff is far superior making this demo much more obvious when working with larger groups and since it is so much cheaper to make then I’m happy!

By the way real semen would probably glow under a black light but not to the vivid extent that my homemade artificial stuff does! My homemade artificial stuff also smells very strongly of soap and laundry unlike the real deal which many say smells like Bleach but heck its in the same genre of “cleaning fluid smells”. 😉 Ha!

I have enough liquid soap and sachets of brightener left to make up about 3 or 4 more batches (so £1 a batch instead of £20!) but as I only use 3-5ml at a time (the average ejaculation size) per demonstration, then I think this lot will last me a while so long as it doesn’t react/go off in the coming weeks. I will keep an eye and keep you posted.

Hope this post helps any cheapskate sex educators out there :D.  If you would like a copy of my 25 page indepth guide to doing a condom demonstration with young people (or anyone over 13 really) then you can email me on sexedukation@gmail.com it costs £3.50 or is provided free on condom demonstration training courses I deliver, just contact me for more details.

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UPDATE 10/4/14

Turns out white hand soap on its own is UV sensitive (feel a bit silly for not trying that first and faffing with the laundry brightener! So basically you can ignore the entire post above but leaving it for posterity of the daft things I do for my job). I bought an 80p one from the supermarket and I will easily have enough for thousands of demonstrations.  The added bonus is it will not clog your demonstrator, usually when training I pack away hurriedly and sometimes forget to flush the tubes of the demonstrator. One time I was doing a training and the tiny plug of artificial semen that rose majestically from the end of the demonstrator caused a hysteria that was hard to come back from so to speak.  But I have discovered that hand soap doesn’t seem to solidify in the same way as have just flushed the tubes with water as I am training this arvo and it was all clear and soapy fresh.   😀

Happy Educating