What is Sexual Health?
What is Sexual Health?
Sexual health is a broad topic and encompasses healthy relationships, emotional resilience, consent, prevention of child sexual exploitation, understanding the body, and knowing about the different methods of contraception as well as information on sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) including HIV and how to prevent them.
There is overwhelming evidence that good quality relationships and sex education (RSE) has a protective function, and young people who have had good RSE are more likely to delay having sex for the first time.
Relationships and sex education (RSE) has the potential to allow young people to develop and practise judgement and critical thinking skills as preparation for handling controversial issues in real life. Discussing people’s decisions and reactions to situations that include themes such as consent, sexuality and unplanned pregnancy can encourage reflective thinking and decision-making.
We want to protect our young people and to empower them to know how to keep safe and healthy.
Children who can talk to their parents about sex and relationships, are more ready for puberty, understand more about relationships, and are less likely to do things just because their friends are.
Evidence from the ‘Heads or Tails?’ 2016 report by the Sex Education Forum shows that young people were more likely to have learnt about the difference between safe and unwanted touch from discussions at home (45%) than in school (40%), but home cannot be relied upon as 38% of respondents said they had not learnt about the difference between types of touch from discussions at home.
A study by the British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (or NATSAL) found that 70% of young people said they felt they ‘ought to have known more’ when they first felt ready for some sexual experience. Importantly, the findings indicate a gap between the types of information young people wanted, and what they currently received. They specifically said they wanted more information about ‘sexual feelings, emotions and relationships’, as well as Sexually Transmitted Infections, and for women, contraception. For information on NATSAL click here.
Dr Clare Tanton, Senior Research Associate at UC, author of the study, stated: .
“The fact that many young people told us they wanted to get more information from a parent shows that parents also have an important role to play. There needs to be a combined approach which also supports parents to help them take an active role in teaching their children about sex and wider relationship issues
Help and Advice for Parents
There is lots of good help and advice for parents and carers regarding sexual health and relationships on the internet.
- A Parents Guide to Sex Education in Schools
- The Family Planning Association (FPA) have a variety of advice sheets for parents, covering different age groups and topics – see here.
- Internet Matters is a national website for parents with one purpose: to keep children and young people safe in the digital world. This website has information and practical advice on a range of issues, including sexting, and online pornography.
- The Sex Education Forum and the National Childrens Bureau (NCB) have produced an important report called “Heads or Tails? What young people are telling us about Sexual and Relationships Education”. Read this here.
- The British National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (or NATSAL) is often cited as the most comprehensive study of sexual health and relationships behaviour in Britain. You can view some interesting infographics and find out more here.
- Healthy, Happy, Safe? An investigation into how PSHE and SRE are inspected in English schools, 2017
This report demonstrates the inadequacy of Ofsted’s scrutiny of sex and relationships education in schools, and the need to train and direct its staff to identify both good and poor practice. It also demonstrates that school inspection cannot be the sole mechanism by which we can ensure that all young people get the sex and relationships education they need to stay and be healthy. Only by making RSE a statutory subject in all schools can the government begin to meet this need.
This page was last updated on February 12, 2019