Do I worry that my child is gay? Never!

An open letter to MP David TC Davies who yesterday said that ‘I think most parents would prefer their children not to be gay’.

Dear David Davies,

This week my beloved son lost his house keys for the third time in as many months, this time irretrievably lost: ‘probably fell out of my pocket running for the bus’. In the past year he has lost two oyster cards (London travel cards), a debit card, a wallet, a mobile phone and all without even being mugged. Last week I attended a parents’ evening at which I was told in no uncertain terms that my son is on the way to being kicked off his course for complete failure to turn in a single decent piece of work in a whole term. Between the keys and the parent’s evening he has committed various small domestic crimes, leaving the gas on after making some beans on toast, failing to wash the grill pan after making some bacon, not flushing the loo. Rolling in at 11 in the morning a little the worse for wear after notionally being ‘grounded’ the night before, I could go on…

Do I sometimes feel despair? Yes I do – most days. Do I worry about whether my son will forever underachieve? Yes I do – most days. Do I dread the prospect of him living at home with me until I’m 75? Yes I do – most days. Do I worry that he will fail to grow up; never taking responsibility for his actions? Yes – ceaselessly. Is my existence a dreary pendulum swing between between murderous rage and maternal, heartbreaking concern? Yes it is. Do I wonder how on earth he will ever make a go of an adult long term relationship – given that he has a) questionable personal hygiene b) a seeming inability to think more than two seconds ahead c) a nonchalant disinterest in the notion of budgeting d) a complete lack of commitment to anything that he deems to be hard work, his favourite catch phrase being ‘I can’t be arsed’? Yes I do  –  all the time.

Do I worry that my son will be a victim of violent crime, be injured in a road accident or be diagnosed with a horrible illness? Yes – probably more often than is healthy.

Do I lie awake at night worrying about whether he’s gay? No I do not. Honestly. Hand on heart. Never!

Gay, straight, bisexual, if he can find happiness, give happiness and hitch up with someone who he can love and who can love him, someone to cook for and who will cook for him, to give pleasure and comfort to and who will give pleasure and comfort to him, to build a life together, and make a home, or travel the seven seas and not make a home, have children or have none – AMAZING.  I don’t care what sex they are or what gender. They can wear a suit or a tutu, live in a bungalow or a tree house. Ideally they’d be kind, interesting and have a GSOH.

However, I would find it hard to stomach it if his life partner was a racist, a misogynist or God forbid, a raging, unapologetic homophobe.

Yours,

xxx

Mother of adolescent sons.

This letter was sent in anonymously to protect the privacy of the teenage boy involved

PFLAG is an organisation that can offer support, information and advice to parents, friends and family of LGBT people

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What are your kids learning about pregnancy options?

Education For Choice (EFC) is a project within the national young people’s sexual health charity Brook. We have worked for the past 20 years to ensure that all young people have access to evidence-based, impartial information and good quality education on pregnancy options.

EFC is currently working on an advocacy project relating to the education young people receive on the topic of pregnancy decision-making and abortion. Good education in this area helps young people to think about the importance of safer sex; increases motivation to use contraception properly and consistently; improves knowledge of all their pregnancy options and understanding of abortion; as well as giving young people a safe and sensitive environment in which to consider their own beliefs and opinions.

However, we have found that a number of schools are inviting in speakers who give young people inaccurate information and seek to stigmatise abortion as a pregnancy option. We speak to many young people who believe damaging myths about pregnancy and abortion and hear from professionals working with women that the myths they heard at school remain with them into adulthood.

We are currently gathering evidence and information which will raise awareness and understanding of this issue, and it would be really useful to hear from parents of school age children.
Do you know what your child(ren)’s school teaches about abortion? EFC would like to hear from parents on this issue – see our website for more information:

If you are willing to answer a few questions about this topic over email please get in touch with efc[at]brook.org.uk. If you have a teenager who would be happy to ask questions about what they learned at school please get them to fill in this survey.

Those who shout loudest are getting heard – a plea to parents who support school SRE

In my experience the vast vast majority of parents are supportive of schools delivering Sex and Relationship Education. They may have some concerns about the material or how to support their child with it, but by engaging with the school about the content of the curriculum then many of these fears can be alleviated. I have only ever had two students (out of the hundreds possibly thousands I have taught) who have been withdrawn from the lessons following discussions with the parents (and one of these students actually chose to withdraw himself although his parents didn’t mind as much! In the end I decided he deserved this right to withdraw himself on this occasion although technically legally he probably didn’t!). Other parents seeking to withdraw were reassured after meetings with me and viewing the materials etc. Parents and schools have to work together on sex and relationships education, to ensure it is the best possible learning for their child.
Something I have always been aware of is that those who shout the loudest are getting heard. The thing is in sex and relationships education those loud voices are often the very anti-sex education voices, these voices are in a minority but they sometimes have the power to sway the content and curriculum in their favour so that it no longer represents the majority view, and it’s the children and young people who miss out as a result (don’t forget young people often complain sex and relationships education is often “too little, too late, too biological“.)
So what I am asking is if you are a parent supportive of your child’s school delivering Sex and Relationships education- get involved. Champion it in your child’s school. Work with the school to develop it so it is the best it can possibly be for your child. Get your voice heard too- Please for the sake of the children!

A guest post from SexEDUKation

@SexEDUKation

also blogging at Sex positive parenting

It’s not all about you Dorries

‘Say no to Dorries’ is not just about Dorries. On January 20th Nadine Dorries MP’s Abstinence Education for Girls bill is scheduled to be read in Parliament. A demonstration has been organised, and will be supported by organisations including P4SRE and some more famous ones like the British Humanist Association and others. I have written here about what is wrong with Dorries’ bill.

It is possible that the bill will not be read due to practical scheduling issues. Many of us will breathe a sigh of relief if this ill-thought out bill does not make it. Dorries will no doubt feel a mixture of disappointment that her moment in the limelight is lost, and simultaneously relief that she doesn’t have to stand up and justify such an ill-thought out bill.

It is likely that if she were to propose a bill again she would not make the mistake of making it about girls only, as this has been the cause of condemnation, derision and downright bewilderment. How can anything to do with sex be an issue for just girls?

It is likely that she would rethink using the word abstinence, which carries with it so many negative connotations from the United States where vast investment in abstinence education has failed to make a dent in their teenage pregnancy or STI rates.

She would probably not justify the bill by erroneously claiming that 7 year olds are putting condoms on bananas in our classrooms.

She surely would not repeat her claim that teaching girls to say ‘no’ to sex would reduce abuse.

Maybe the bill will be read, and if so I hope it will fail, but either way we should not be complacent and nor should we direct all our campaigning zeal at Nadine Dorries, who after all seems to thrive on (even negative) publicity –  the phrase ‘infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy’  could have been invented for her. Much as people might like to characterise Dorries as a random loon, she is not aone. This really is likely to be just the beginning as an increasingly extreme, socially conservative homophobic, anti-contraception, anti-abortion anti sex education movement tries to dominate the discourse about what our children should be learning about in schools.

P4SRE was founded to provide an alternative voice to these groups, who often claim to speak for  parents, but are not representative at all. We are here to say that young people need evidence-based comprehensive sex education that will prepare them for real life. We are here to oppose those people who would limit our children’s access to information. That’s why P4SRE is opposing Dorries’ bill, but saying ‘it’s not all about you Dorries’

10 top tips for talking to your child about sex and relationships

Brilliant sex educator Alice Hoyle has written these handy 10 top tips for talking to your children about sex and relationships. I’m sure there are parents out there who have been putting off having these conversations with their children, asking themselves: is this the right time? are they the right age? how much information do I give? what do they need to know? how do I know I’m giving accurate info? and more…

Well maybe our new years resolutions for 2012 should include responding confidently to questions our children have about sex and relationships and not being scared to initiate conversations ourselves. If this sounds like something you’d like to commit to then Alice’s top tips are a brilliant starting point.

If you have older teenagers who are glued to a computer screen don’t give up trying to talk to them, but do recommend websites they can visit which will give them accurate sexual health information, and will also encourage them to develop their communication skills and value respectful, consensual relationships. Scarleteen is particularly good for untangling complex relationship questions and Bish addresses lots of potentially scary topics (like porn) with a light touch that will make you and your teenagers laugh as well as think and learn.

If you would like to join a group with other parents to find out more about how to discuss sex and relationships at home find out from the fpa if they are running any Speakeasy courses in your area.

If you have had fun/difficulty/or disasters talking to your children about sex and relationships  and want to share your top tips, dos, don’ts and dunnos we’re waiting to hear from you…

Demonstration against abstinence bill

Later this month the House of Commons will debate a new bill proposing that girls (yes just the girls!) get sexual abstinence education. As a group campaigning for all children (yep boys too!) to be taught a comprehensive evidence-based SRE curriculum, P4SRE opposes this bill. Here’s the information we’ve been sent about a demonstration against the bill. Do sign up and get involved….

On 20 January 2012, Nadine Dorries’ proposed amendment to sex education, Bill 185, which suggests GIRLS be taught abstinence, is due to get a second reading in parliament.

A demonstration opposing the bill  starts at 10:30am at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, outside Parliament. Details of the demo are here.
  • The bill is sexist as it positions girls as being solely responsible for decisions about sexual activity and boys as having no responsibility for ensuring that sex is mutually wanted, fully consenting and safe.
  • Dorries even said that teaching children to ‘say no’ could reduce child abuse. This victim blaming is dangerous, incorrect, and offensive to survivors of abuse.
  • Abstinence education on its own is ineffective in reducing teenage pregnancies and STI rates. Good quality comprehensive Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) should already explicitly address the option of abstinence as part of decision-making about sex, and safer sex.
  • SRE should be informative and fact based. Some of the most important bits of SRE, which really help young people to take responsibility for themselves and make healthy decisions (namely the relationships and communication aspects), are optional for schools and this bill will not change that. If this bill passes, some schools could end up only teaching the biology of reproduction and STIs (within the science curriculum) plus abstinence.

If Dorries really wanted to help young women to stay safe and healthy she would be advocating for statutory, comprehensive sex and relationships education for all young people, of all genders, and in all schools whether they are faith schools, academies, free schools or community schools. Her party in Government has already stated that they have no intention of making SRE statutory.

More information on the campaign can be found at Stop Dorries and the demonstration.

What parents are saying about P4SRE

Here are some of the brilliant comments parents have left on our petition: please sign it yourself  leave comments on the petition or below.

I have never come across any parent, who understands the real meaning of age appropriate SRE, withdrawing their child from this important aspect of their education. What we need is trained, skilled teachers of SRE to deliver in schools and for SRE to be a statutory aspect of the curriculum. Well done for starting this petition.

I firmly believe that SRE is integral to young people’s health education.

Where parents have already given their children good information and support, what harm can it do to give it again? Where parents haven’t done so, then schools must step in to keep children safe and to help them grow into healthy adult life.

I do not know of another parent who does not want their children to recieve, age appropriate SRE. The levels of VAWG, early sexual experimentation, unplanned teenage pregnancy, specific aspects of gender discrimination such as ‘honour’ based violence and FGM and availability of pornography make this primary aspect of human nature essential for the young people if they are going to achieve their full potential. The ‘controversy’ that circulates around this aspect of the taught curriculum reflects the unequal influence that religious organisations and social conservatives have with regards decision making in this country. Those who seek to deny our young people this education do so because it’s very existence challenges their positions of social, political and economic power. Inequalities and discrimination are perpetuated as a result ofthe lack of high quality SRE for all young people.

I completely agree. Good SRE complements and enhances what is taught in the home.

Soooo important given the pressures on young people right now and the schools agenda downplaying personal and social education.

I support this campaign as someone who has teenage children. Most parents haven’t got a clue what their kids are learning at school, watching on TV or talking about with their friends, so good SRE, that covers EVERYTHING and focuses on relationships and respect helps to balance this out, and goes hand in hand with what we try to do at home. Parents, teachers, youth workers etc should be talking openly and frankly with our children, the aim is to prepare them for their adult lives, able to make choices for themselves based on facts and reflection.

Being an SRE Practioner I am extremely passionate about this issue. From my experience parents are unaware of what their children are entitled to in terms of SRE provision. In schools in which I have been invited to deliver SRE sessions I have always arranged a parents meeting to explain the purpose of the sessions and the importance of SRE as a curriculum subject. The parents who attended these meetings went away giving their full support to the sessions going ahead.

It is important that children are aware of their bodies and how to keep themselves safe and that is wjy I am supporting this petition.

I completley agree that relationships and sex education should be taught in an age appropriate way to protect and inform our children and young people.

For year there was no or low quality SRE and we are dealing with the result of it. Keeping these subjects behind doors and not talking about them confuses young people, I think universal provision of good quality, safe, age-appropriate and comprehensive Sex and Relationships Education is needed and in no way taking any control from parents.

This is such an important issue – we cannot ignore the needs of our children and if we as parents and carers do not have the information or confidence to make sure they have have healthy relationships where will they turn? parents and carers should be proactive in talking to their kids about relationships and sex.

It is so important we discuss issues surrounding relationships and sexual health with our children – they are our future and we need to ensure that we empower them to make safe, healthy choices.

It’s time a voice was given to the majority view. Children need us to support them in having the best education they possibly can, and that includes good quality SRE.

If there had been such a provision when I was at primary school, I would have known that I was being abused. Schools can break the culture of unhappy family silence. Children need a place where they can feel safe and be believed.

Excellent education about relationships and sex is a right and a necessisty for all children and young people.

I’m really glad you’re doing this. We must show that WE are the mainstream on this issue or we’ll end up like the US.

As mother of an 8 year old girl I believe that providing honest, age-appropriate information about all aspects of life including sex and relationships is a positive part of helping my daughter to grow into a health, well balanced woman.

I want my children to enjoy happy and healthy relationships when they grow up, and to be confident and caring young men. Sharing relationships education between the home and school is one way of making this happen. I support teachers and healthcare providers offering quality sex education.

YES! THANKYOU THANKYOU THANKYOU!.

P4SRE’s first interview

Today I was interviewed for the first time about P4SRE. It won’t be appearing in the broadsheets any time now, because it is an assignment for a journalism student. I thought her questions were good though and may you have some thoughts on my answers.

Lisa

1) Do you think there’s a set age at which SRE should start to be taught in schools? (I understand that currently governors decide when SRE is taught, do you think it’s something that should be more set and less varied?)

Ideally sex and relationships education would be part of a statutory curriculum which would set out what information should have been covered within each key stage (primary school is broken up into two key stages and secondary into three). This would allow schools to be flexible about exactly when they taught specific topic areas in line with their knowledge of the pupils ability, understanding and need. To assess this schools should include the views of teachers, parents and also local health providers who have a good understanding of the information needs of the local population. There should be flexibility about exactly when to teach a topic, but not to the extent that schools can opt out of teaching something at all or teach it so late that it’s already irrelevant to the children or young people in the school. Young people often complain that the SRE they have had is too little too late. Young women often didn’t learn about puberty until after they had started their periods. In the later stages of secondary school many students have said that some of their peers are sexually active before they have had a chance to learn about contraception or STI prevention.

2) Do you think people of different religions in schools should be given the same SRE or should it be adapted, for example for Catholic schools?


The curriculum should be based on evidence-based information. All children and young people are entitled to accurate information about their bodies and things that can affect their health and lives. This is explicitly set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is vital that all young people have the knowledge they need to be able to protect their emotional and physical health so it is not fair on our children and young people that we have a two tier system in which some young people can freely access accurate health information and others can’t. There are already Catholic secondary schools which do a good job of talking about contraception and find that they can talk with confidence about what people do if they are trying to protect themselves from pregnancy, but are sexually active – while at the same time emphasising that this is not something which is considered acceptable within their faith. This is perfectly manageable for faith schools and can help their students to become well-informed, empathetic and helpful to others in their community who need this information, even if their faith means that this information doesn’t seem immediately relevant to them. Families are enormously influential when it comes to their children’s beliefs and values and I don’t believe families that have a conservative approach to sex and sexuality have anything to fear from good quality SRE. Children absorb many of their families values almost by osmosis and a few lessons at school are not a threat to that. Moreover, good quality SRE recognises that there are a range of views and values on all aspects of human sexual behaviour, and encourage young people to acknowledge these while also learning to understand that there is some key factual information that underlies all the moral debate.

3) Obviously SRE is something most parents feel strongly about and I’ve seen in the news a lot of parents who feel children should not be taught SRE at all alongside many people with your views. Have a lot of people shown support for your campaign so far?
My campaign is only a few days old. I started it as a counterpoint to all the misinformation that is flying around about parents’ concerns about SRE. Many parents I know are not concerned that their children are learning too much too young, as some would make us believe. Most I know are concerned about how patchy SRE is, how little their children are taught and how ill-equipped they are for adult life as a result. Most parents live in the real world and see the many challenges their children face growing up and want them to be armed with information, confidence and a positive attitude to sex and relationships.
Here are some quotes from parents and grandparents who have signed the P4SRE petition:

‘It’s time a voice was given to the majority view. Children need us to support them in having the best education they possibly can, and that includes good quality SRE.’

‘If there had been such a provision when I was at primary school, I would have known that I was being abused. Schools can break the culture of unhappy family silence. Children need a place where they can feel safe and be believed.’

‘Excellent work guys, so needed in today’s society’

‘Excellent education about relationships and sex is a right and a necessisty for all children and young people’

‘This should be something that parents can take for granted in their childrens’ education.’

‘As mother of an 8 year old girl I believe that providing honest, age-appropriate information about all aspects of life including sex and relationships is a positive part of helping my daughter to grow into a health, well balanced woman.’

Look at the petition page yourself to see more

3) Do you think a lot of teachers would feel uncomfortable teaching this subject to their pupils? I read on your campaign blog that you think teachers should be specially trained to teach SRE, do you mean hire new teachers who are specific SRE teachers or train existing teachers so that they’re better equipped to teach the subject?

Some teachers are completely out of their depths teaching SRE because it’s not something they feel qualified to do and may not have a sense of what vocabulary will be appropriate or comfortable. Plonking a nervous and embarrassed teacher in front of a class is a bad start to a lesson so I do not advocate all teachers having to do this as part of their tutor group work (as is often the case at the moment). Conversely, I have seen many teachers do a brilliant job of teaching SRE, but they are normally individuals who are really motivated and enthusiastic about the subject and have done lots of work themselves to ensure they have accurate information and stimulating and appropriate resources to enable them to engage their students. SRE should have a place in the initial teacher training curriculum if all teachers are going to be expected to teach it, but ideally teachers who are interested in teaching it should be able to self-select and specialise in teaching SRE as part of their teacher training or at least access training as part of their continuing professional development once they start work. Training is only one of the keys to improving provision. Schools need to give SRE more priority than it currently has because teachers will not opt to teach it if it isn’t given sufficient status and value. Teachers also need sufficient time to prepare lessons and enough time in the classroom to make sure SRE is taught well. I have often heard politicians and others say that ‘just making it compulsory will not ensure quality.’ That is true, but the opposite is probably true too. If you don’t make it compulsory there will be no incentive to ensure it’s taught really well.

Have you got any thoughts on these questions or my answers?

When and how to talk to your children about sex and relationships

This blog will be a place where we can share ideas about how to talk to our children about sex and relationships. If you have any good ideas on this; want to tell us about how you approached this subject, how you answered specific questions, or what books you think are useful in raising the topic…this is the place to let us know. Write a comment, or if you want to write something more substantial contact us with a guest blog.

Welcome to P4SRE the parent and carers campaign for good sex and relationships education

As parents, we believe that good SRE helps our children and young people make healthy choices and protects them from harm. We call for universal provision of good quality, safe, age-appropriate and comprehensive Sex and Relationships Education for our kids.

Universal provision – this means that all children and young people should have good SRE whether they attend academies, free schools, faith schools or community schools. The best way to make this happen is for SRE to be a topic that all schools have to teach (like Maths and English).

Good quality – this means providing accurate and honest information about sexual health and healthy relationships. We think this is best done by people who are trained and supported in the school to be specialist SRE teachers.

Safe – means helping children and young people distinguish between wanted and unwanted, dangerous or inappropriate physical contact, and to know who to talk to if they are scared, hurt or in danger. It also means helping children and young people to use the internet and social media safely.

Age-appropriate and comprehensive – SRE needs to be introduced at the start of a child’s school career, making sure we help young people to think about their relationships and what makes us happy about those. It should get children into the practice of talking about feelings and learning about their bodies. By the time young people need it and certainly by the time they leave secondary school, they should be equipped with detailed and accurate information about all the physical, emotional, legal and social aspects of human sexual behaviour and relationships.