Teacher’s Guide: Modernising How Sex Education Should Be Taught in Schools
“Sex Education needs a complete transformation”, say researchers, who have shared their concerns and suggestions on how to improve it. From sexual health awareness to LGBTQ+ communities, it’s time to bring Sex Ed into the 21st century. So we’ve collated all the information to create a Teacher's Guide on how Sex Education should be taught in schools today. Grab a cuppa and take notes.
Differentiate lessons according to age groups
The first step in this teacher’s guide is to plan Sex Education lessons around age groups. Experts suggest that it’s important to consider each individual’s needs and what they need to gain from the lesson. For example, primary school students should be aware of puberty and menstruation; secondary school students should be taught about safe sex and pleasure.
In essence, the lessons should adapt to each individual’s requirements. Obviously this needs to be carefully considered and approved. Some believe that talking about sex this promotes underage pregnancies or sexual activity; but researchers are convinced that it has the opposite effect. It’s a basic principle of psychology known as reactance: when something is off-limits it arouses the motivation to do it. So if we never talk to young kids about sex and relationships, they’ll be more curious.
It’s also advised not to split boys and girls up, but be taught simultaneously. Whilst it might seem counterintuitive, it actually encourages conversation and awareness about both male and female bodies. This removes awkwardness and creates a more healthy, comfortable environment.
The pros and cons of contraception
The current Sex Education school curriculum focuses predominantly on how to avoid pregnancies. This is unhelpful for girls and boys alike. Whilst it’s important to teach teens about the birds and the bees, there are other reasons for contraception. For instance, preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the risk of cervical cancer. Think less fear-mongering and more confidence boosting.
To go a step further, we should educate teens about the downfalls of certain types of contraception. In particular, talk about the side effects of the contraceptive pill and other methods. Presently, there’s a focus on female contraceptives but not enough emphasis on male versions. This also requires an upgrade that fits the current model of gender equality.
Talk about consent
With respect to the MeToo movement, there needs to be more emphasis on consent. Whilst the age of sexual consent is 16, we can’t just leave it at that. Experts believe that schools should raise awareness about what consent actually is. The definition as it stands is:
“Agreeing by choice to sexual activity when you have the freedom and capacity to make that choice.” - Rape Crisis
Consent goes two ways. We live in a patriarchal society where the lines and boundaries of what consent is are blurred. Both men and women can be violated, especially if alcohol is involved. All parties need to have verbally communicated their choice when in a fit state of mind. Teaching this to kids is crucial to both preventing sexual violence and what feminism has taught us.
Interpreting the world of online relationships
Over the last decade or so, dating has moved online. There’s a lot that still remains obscure (especially when it comes to teen usage) like consent, pornography, sexting and catfishing.
Researchers suggest that Sex Education classes should be used to shed light on these issues, in order to prevent dating and relationship violence. In doing so, this should construct a safer environment for all persons.
Talk about Oncology
In light of Gynaecological Awareness Month, Sex Education classes are a good opportunity to talk about conditions like PCOS and cancer, particularly cancer of the prostate, breasts and cervix. Many of us were not taught about how to check for physical signs on the body. Knowing this information could actually save lives; but it all starts with education.
There are many organisations that raise awareness about these health issues, like CoppaFeel and the risk checker by Prostate Cancer. Using diagrams and sharing this information will empower adolescents, hopefully help more people catch cancer before it’s too late. The lack of active education in this area has failed many men and women over the years – so let’s start changing it up now.
Include LGBTQ+ Groups
Last, but certainly not least, in this Teacher’s Guide is to consider the sexual orientation of each individual. A lot of Sex Education focuses on heterosexual relationships, which limits freedom of expression. As RSE teacher, Jo Morgan, says, there’s still so much stigma around sexuality and taboos about sex in general.
Experts recommend that teachers and schools adapt the Sex Education curriculum to be more inclusive. The hint is in the name: education. We encourage you to think about the teaching methods you apply in the classroom and adapt them. Ask yourself: what do you wish you’d been taught at school? How would you do things differently? What is missing in Sex Education? These are the foundations to build your strategy on.
A few final thoughts
As educators, we have a responsibility to pass our knowledge onto younger generations. There’s a lot of gaps in how Sex Education is taught in schools; and there’s no simple solution. What we hope you take from this intuitive teacher’s guide is to empathise with how difficult growing up is and some possible ways to make that transition smoother. The aim is to facilitate young people’s ability to ensure they make healthy decisions, as well as feel competent and confident to act on these decisions.
If you were affected by anything discussed in this article, please contact the NHS or Rape Crisis Centre for support.
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