Nine in ten young people think Relationships and Sex Education should be provided in school. Photo: Relate
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Young people are being let down by sex education in schools

The current provision of relationship and sex education in schools isn’t adequate for many young people.

Today, the Institute for Public Policy Research publishes important findings from a study supported by Relate the relationship charity on young people’s relationships in the “digital age”.

IPPR together with Opinium surveyed 500 18-year-olds about their perceptions and norms around relationships and sex. The results show young people clearly want support in forming and sustaining healthy, positive relationships – but they are currently let down by relationships and sex education in schools which has not kept pace with the reality of young people’s lives.

The context young people are growing up in today is less “moderated” than for previous generations, with blurred lines between offline and online social activity. While the internet and social media brings opportunities for socialising and accessing information, it can also make explicit or extreme content more accessible, as well as magnifying bullying, breakups or social pressure. Norms have evolved too: pornography is seen as normal, particularly amongst young men, 81 per cent of those surveyed agreed that “most young men look at pornography”.

There’s an obvious gap between young people’s experiences and perceptions of the new context and their perceptions of adults’ understanding of this context. 61 per cent of young people said that adults were out of touch when it comes to young people’s relationships and friendships. 56 per cent felt that the adults in their lives (parents, teachers, guardians) find it hard to understand or help with online issues – although more (65 per cent) thought that adults worried too much about what happens online.

Those who have the responsibility for educating and supporting young people in their relationships have not grown up in the same world young people are negotiating their way through today. The influence of pornography is pervasive – almost half said that “sending sexual or naked photos or videos is part of everyday life”. But young people are also conscious of the potential damage – 72 per cent said “pornography leads to unrealistic attitudes to sex”, and 70 per cent said “pornography can have a damaging impact on young people’s views of sex or relationships”.

This is why Relate believes Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) at school is so important. In the survey, the top sources of information on sex and relationships were friends (45 per cent), then school (35 per cent), followed by boyfriends/girlfriends and the internet. This is why RSE at school is so important. It is also what young people want – almost nine in ten young people think that RSE should be provided in school, and 68% want RSE to be taught by a trained expert. 40 per cent explicitly said they want RSE taught by someone external – such as Relate practitioners. Only 19 per cent want it to be taught by a teacher from the school – and many commented that they wanted RSE to be “less embarrassing”, “less awkward”, and “more accessible”.

The comments also highlight that RSE needs to address relationships more generally rather than just the mechanics of sex: “I would have liked more information on the actual relationship side of things rather than just the science of sex… what a healthy relationship is, in contrast to an unhealthy one… 

Relate believes that all children and young people should be entitled to high-quality RSE. Unfortunately, the results of this study show that the current provision just isn’t adequate for many young people. RSE should be a compulsory part of the national curriculum, delivered by experts. Good quality RSE is vital to prepare young people to be able to develop and sustain safe, stable and nurturing relationships across the whole course of their lives.

Chris Sherwood is director of Policy and External Affairs at Relate

Screengrab from Telegraph video
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The Telegraph’s bizarre list of 100 reasons to be happy about Brexit

“Old-fashioned light bulbs”, “crooked cucumbers”, and “new vocabulary”.

As the economy teeters on the verge of oblivion, and the Prime Minister grapples with steering the UK around a black hole of political turmoil, the Telegraph is making the best of a bad situation.

The paper has posted a video labelled “100 reasons to embrace Brexit”. Obviously the precise number is “zero”, but that didn’t stop it filling the blanks with some rather bizarre reasons, floating before the viewer to an inevitable Jerusalem soundtrack:

Cheap tennis balls

At last. Tennis balls are no longer reserved for the gilded eurocrat elite.

Keep paper licences

I can’t trust it unless I can get it wet so it disintegrates, or I can throw it in the bin by mistake, or lose it when I’m clearing out my filing cabinet. It’s only authentic that way.

New hangover cures

What?

Stronger vacuums

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to hoover up dust by inhaling close to the carpet.

Old-fashioned light bulbs

I like my electricals filled with mercury and coated in lead paint, ideally.

No more EU elections

Because the democratic aspect of the European Union was something we never obsessed over in the run-up to the referendum.

End working time directive

At last, I don’t even have to go to the trouble of opting out of over-working! I will automatically be exploited!

Drop green targets

Most people don’t have time to worry about the future of our planet. Some don’t even know where their next tennis ball will come from.

No more wind farms

Renewable energy sources, infrastructure and investment – what a bore.

Blue passports

I like my personal identification how I like my rinse.

UK passport lane

Oh good, an unadulterated queue of British tourists. Just mind the vomit, beer spillage and flakes of sunburnt skin while you wait.

No fridge red tape

Free the fridge!

Pounds and ounces

Units of measurement are definitely top of voters’ priorities. Way above the economy, health service, and even a smidgen higher than equality of tennis ball access.

Straight bananas

Wait, what kind of bananas do Brexiteers want? Didn’t they want to protect bendy ones? Either way, this is as persistent a myth as the slapstick banana skin trope.

Crooked cucumbers

I don’t understand.

Small kiwi fruits

Fair enough. They were getting a bit above their station, weren’t they.

No EU flags in UK

They are a disgusting colour and design. An eyesore everywhere you look…in the uh zero places that fly them here.

Kent champagne

To celebrate Ukip cleaning up the east coast, right?

No olive oil bans

Finally, we can put our reliable, Mediterranean weather and multiple olive groves to proper use.

No clinical trials red tape

What is there to regulate?

No Turkey EU worries

True, we don’t have to worry. Because there is NO WAY AND NEVER WAS.

No kettle restrictions

Free the kettle! All kitchen appliances’ lives matter!

Less EU X-factor

What is this?

Ditto with BGT

I really don’t get this.

New vocabulary

Mainly racist slurs, right?

Keep our UN seat

Until that in/out UN referendum, of course.

No EU human rights laws

Yeah, got a bit fed up with my human rights tbh.

Herbal remedy boost

At last, a chance to be treated with medicine that doesn’t work.

Others will follow [picture of dominos]

Hooray! The economic collapse of countries surrounding us upon whose trade and labour we rely, one by one!

Better English team

Ah, because we can replace them with more qualified players under an Australian-style points-based system, you mean?

High-powered hairdryers

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to dry my hair by yawning on it.

She would’ve wanted it [picture of Margaret Thatcher]

Well, I’m convinced.

I'm a mole, innit.