Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 940-959)



  940. Do you feel that it has been very helpful to you?
  (Ms Eagle) Yes. I did benefit from it a lot.

  941. Do you think that there are things that could have been done differently or better that might have benefited you even more?
  (Ms Eagle) No. You have your own confidence and everything and, if you need anyone to talk to, there are people there. People come in from the hospitals and talk about pregnancy and it is OK.

  942. Ms Stuart, can I ask you more generally about whether you feel that the school in your area and the health service and GPs might have done things differently or better for somebody in your situation.
  (Ms Stuart) Do you mean when I was pregnant, what did they do different for young mums to be?

  943. Yes and what could have been done differently or better perhaps.
  (Ms Stuart) I know from my friends who became pregnant at school that they went to talk to them and told them that they had to leave the school. So, the schools do not give any support at all. I am not too sure, really.

  944. You picked up some of the questions that we were asking the first group and one of the key ones was about sex education. You are young mums and you obviously have an opportunity to put to us your thoughts on the issue of sex education. Do you think that you received good education or any sex education? If not, what should have happened that did not happen in your circumstances?
  (Ms Stuart) I did a child care course at college and, when I was on the young-mums-to-be course, we had an electronic baby. You knew what to do with the baby and the baby went off and you did everything with this doll that you would do with a baby. I actually received the doll when I was pregnant and I reckon that, if I had received it before, it would have made me see things differently. When I was getting in the shower, I had to do it quick before the baby started crying to be fed and I had to feed it for 45 minutes. I had to go to town and I had to do it in the time that the baby was not going to cry. That works a lot more than some video that people were laughing and giggling at. You do not really get to learn much sex education at school because people are immature and you are too frightened to ask questions.

  945. So, your message to the Committee is that that is a very important area that we have to look at as the previous witnesses said?
  (Ms Stuart) Yes.

  946. Can I come on to our witnesses from Wigan. I do not know who wants to answer this question but can you tell us a little about the programmes that you have been involved in and how they work.
  (Ms Ward) I will take about my peer education project. It is called Sex Talkers and we are a young peer education group. We go through a 12 week training course. At the moment, we have seven young people: five young people who have already been through the training course who are peer education workers, which is like myself, and then we have two young workers who we are training up and we do the course with them. It is six weeks' confidence building, which is like going through workshops, contraception, HIV and AIDS, pregnancy and choices, sex and alcohol, sex and condom use, sexual relationships and then we do the six weeks' workshops. We go out and do workshops to other young people and we train them up to go through the workshops in order that they are not being chucked in at the deep end and they know what they have to go out and do. What we are doing seems to be successful.

  947. The message you are giving and that others have given us is about the peer issue. It is very important that people are receptive to talking to people from their own age group. That is a very important message. What other benefits have arisen from the work you have done? Mr Williams, we picked up in the first session the position of young men. How do you feel that this is related to the concerns of young men?
  (Mr Williams) In relation to sex education relevant to schools, it is not up to scratch really form the male point of view. Males can be sat in mixed group classes. I have discovered from a questionnaire that young men would rather chat to a male teacher on their own or, as has been discussed, a peer from Sex Talkers, but it would have to be a male because you are able to talk to a male more easily and, if they know what they are talking about—like the previous group said, if it is a geography teacher, you do not really want that—and they are well educated in what they are talking about, you listen to them more and listen to what they are saying. Whereas, if you do not really understand what they are talking about and they are not really qualified, you are not really going to listen. The males found that the videos were women orientated—how the pregnancy was and how the woman should do such things. There was a minor bit about how to put a condom on appropriately—"There it is, it is gone, there you go. Have you learned?" "What?" That was it. Obviously the teacher who taught you geography was quite embarrassed about what he was telling a group of young students and obviously the males are a very immature breed when we are young—

  948. And when we are old!
  (Mr Williams) We do giggle and laugh at stupid little things.

Andy Burnham

  949. I would like to ask all of you a little more about how good schools are in all this. I went to a local Catholic school and, to be honest, it was biology and a little bit in the old fourth year and there was not a great deal more than that. How good was your sex education in schools? When did it start, for instance? For us it was 14.
  (Ms Ward) When I was in primary school, it was more like puberty sex education where you got shown how to use a Tampax. So it started there and then we had nothing and it started again at 14-15.

  950. In your view, is that way, way too late?
  (Ms Ward) Yes, it was because we already knew it all anyway. It was the in thing to know and, if you did not know it, like the other group was saying . . .

  951. From your experience of being involved in the project, how much kind of misinformation is out there? How many young people have the wrong understanding? We heard about some of the ideas people had about what the pill can do. Do you think there is a lot of mis-information out there?
  (Ms Ward) Yes.

  952. Because it starts too late?
  (Ms Minty) There are a lot of myths around in sex. No one has actually sat down and told young people and straightened all these myths out. A few weeks ago, one of my friends told me that her little sister became involved in foreplay and, after that, she came running into her room crying her eyes out thinking that she was pregnant. To say that she was a 14-15 year old girl, it is pretty ridiculous that she did not know the basic facts around sex, foreplay and things like that. At primary school, you get given all these strange objects: tampons and sanitary towels. Then there is a huge gap before you get to high school and then, when you are at high school, you are expected to know and no one has the confidence to speak out and say, "Actually, I do not know what sex is and I do not know this and I do not know that."

  953. What age would you give? I feel that it should not start too early because, going back to the earlier conversation, you should not be putting pressure on people to feel that they should be sexually active when they do not feel that they want to be. If you could pinpoint a kind of age, when would you say it would be?
  (Ms Minty) I think the basics of sex should be taught in the last year of primary school, but that it should go into more detail around about the age of 13.

  954. Just as you are making the transition?
  (Ms Minty) Yes.

  955. Once you have found your feet in secondary school, around that age?
  (Mr Williams) It has been shown that young girls have become pregnant. There was a girl from Essex who was pregnant at the age of 12. Obviously they must have found out about sex because they did it, but where was the education before that? At the age of 12, I feel she is still a very young age and she should not be pregnant at such a young age. If I were the father, I would break the boy's legs, to be honest! The education should start to inform them because, if she is having sex, obviously she knows about it, so why should she not be taught the right way to go about it?

Dr Naysmith

  956. This raises an interesting question and you probably heard me asking something similar to the previous group. You have all this diversity that exists in classrooms in British schools, different religions and so on and different stages of awareness and different stages of readiness and Ms Stuart told us that she received some advice when it was too late. Maybe you need to tailor it to people much more because you do not want to make individuals—and maybe Mr Bailey might want to say a word or two about this—feel left out of the group. So, it is not just a simple statement of saying, "At age five, you get this; at age seven, you get that; at age nine, you get that; and at age 14 you get something else." We need something a little more individual. Would you agree?
  (Mr Williams) Maybe the peer advice is more one-on-one. Is that what you are talking about?

  957. That would be very expensive.
  (Mr Williams) We have a service in Wigan called Connexions, the Connexions Service, and they have personal advisers. It is a one-on-one basis and it is very, very confidential. It is for young people. We have been involved in organising Connexions in Wigan as part of the Youth Council and we have interviewed certain PAs, as we call them, personal advisers, to ensure that they are the right sort of people that we want because you need young people and friendly people. No offence but you do not want to be chatting to an old person whose moral issues are very different to yours. It is like chatting to councillors and MPs now, you feel a little intimidated as such. I do not, but some people do feel intimidated. We need that one-on-one and we think that our PAs should be able to give us condoms and relevant and informative but friendly advice. You do not like lectures, do you? You do not like sitting there. It is like the Youth Service now. If you ask them for condoms, they have to talk to you and they have to give you the information and a lot of young people want the condoms to have the sex. They do not want the jargon. They sit there and they do not listen to you because you are older then them. They do not give two hoots. I think the peer issue is a lot better because, if I were to tell a young person that what they are doing can seriously damage their health when they are older with all sorts of cancers and infections, then I think it would scare them but with an older person, like our youth workers, telling them, they do not give two hoots.

Julia Drown

  958. Can I just be clear that you are saying that it is waste of time to have a teacher talking to a whole group of people, but it would be OK for a peer?
  (Mr Williams) A peer or someone like a nurse or someone who is person friendly because not all teachers care about young people. They are just there to do their job and you just think, well, you do not give two hoots, so why should I?

Dr Naysmith

  959. Ms Stuart was saying that she received information after it was too late. If that had come earlier, would that have been the right thing for everyone else in your class?
  (Ms Stuart) Yes, it would have.

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