Young people and teachers
The Sex Education Forum, in conjunction with the UK Youth Parliament, was commissioned to undertake an online survey to elicit views from young people on what should be covered in SRE at each key stage. This was followed by a two day in-depth consultation with 15 young people looking at how SRE can be improved and 'why young people need SRE'.
Similarly, the review group commissioned the Sex Education Forum, in conjunction with the PSHE Subject Association, to conduct an online survey to obtain the views of both primary and secondary school teachers on 'what inhibits better delivery of SRE'.
...but not parents
However, no similar survey was undertaken to seek the views of parents. Instead, the review group invited two of its members to give a presentation based on previous research and personal experience. Professor Roger Ingham from the Centre for Sexual Health Research at the University of Southampton was asked to undertake a review of existing studies of parents' attitudes to school SRE, and David Kesterson, the manager of the fpa's 'Speakeasy' programme, was asked to report on the key issues parents found it difficult to talk to children about.
Professor Ingham is well known for his opposition to any approach that encourages young people to save sex for marriage. He is fully supportive of initiatives that are 'non-judgmental and respectful of confidentiality', believing that young people should not be denied 'the opportunity to form relationships and express their feelings safely in ways they choose to'. [BMJ, Dec 16, 2000; 321(7275); 1520-1522]
Likewise, it is difficult to have confidence that David Kesterton would be in a position to represent the concerns of thousands of ordinary parents. given the fpa's view that it is 'paternalistic' to hold that parents are best placed to judge what is in the best interests of their children.
The data released under the Freedom of Information Act also revealed that the review group considered five 'options' papers covering the training of teachers, involving outside agencies, providing guidance and support materials, using wider government programmes to improve SRE, and ensuring the involvement of young people in the design of their school's SRE programme.
But apart from one brief reference in the paper on guidance and support materials, parents were again conspicuous by their absence. [FYC]