Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 960-979)



  960. Or was everyone developing at different rates or coming from different backgrounds?

  What do you think?
  (Ms Stuart) Do you mean with the dolls? If everyone had had a doll? Yes. Obviously they are expensive—I think the dolls are £300—but we had to sign a contract to say that, if we broke it or anything, we would have to pay for it. We were there to do it properly and use it properly because we did not want to pay the money. You cannot turn it off and that does really, really help. It would have definitely changed me and I think it would have changed other people as well. When I was pregnant, my boyfriend helped me look after the doll because it goes off at 5.00 in the morning as well and it changed his view as well and he knew exactly what was going to happen when he was going to be a dad. It was not the same anymore. It was not that he did not know what was going to happen because he did. The doll gave him a sight of it.

John Austin

  961. How much do they cost?
  (Ms Stuart) I think £300.

Julia Drown

  962. Ms Eagle, did you have that doll as well?
  (Ms Eagle) When I went to the Young mums-to-be course, that was the only time I saw one. I had never seen one before, but I do reckon that it is good.

  963. Would you say that everybody in a class should have this practical experience of part of the reality of having a baby?
  (Ms Eagle) Yes, I do reckon that they should have them in schools, in like PSE or whatever, and let them take them home for a week or something. I reckon it will change people.
  (Ms Stuart) I had mine for a weekend and that was enough! By Monday morning, I was skipping to college to give it back!

  964. Can I just pick up the point that Andy Burnham was asking about your sex education. Was it similar in that you had that bit in primary school and then a gap and then just a tiny bit in secondary school as well?
  (Ms Eagle) Yes.

  965. Do you share the view that teachers may be not that good at teaching it and would you have preferred to hear from peers?
  (Ms Stuart) We did PSE and that was mainly about drugs. I can just remember doing drugs all the time; I cannot actually remember much about sex. When we went to the health clinic because I had to go and get condoms there, you are in a quiet room like this and there are people sitting around and they can hear what you are asking for, so you do not want to go in and you do not want to say, "Can I talk to someone" even if you think you have a disease or anything. You cannot even ask them because people are around and they say, "Pardon?"

  966. And you are having that in a waiting room effectively?
  (Ms Stuart) Yes. Say this is the desk and this is all the waiting room and there is a woman sat there who says, "Yes, can I help you?" and everyone can hear—it is like having a microphone.

  967. Later, do you get an appointment and go in to talk to somebody quietly or not?
  (Ms Stuart) No because, if you ask for an appointment to see somebody, they ask what for. "Why do you want to speak to someone?" because they want to make sure that you speak to the right person. So, if I wanted to speak to someone about my leg, they are going to put me through to someone who can help with my leg.

  968. So the issue there about confidentiality is important.
  (Ms Stuart) You have to speak up in front of people and, in the end, I walk away.

  969. In fact, that was not in a family planning clinic, that was a general health clinic?
  (Ms Stuart) Yes, a health clinic but you go into a room where it is all sexual health, it is that kind of clinic, but they are still saying it out loud as well.

  970. The other thing Andy Burnham said was that he felt that people should not learn about sex too early because that could create a pressure for people to have sex. Do you think it is right that having sex education can create a pressure to have sex?
  (Ms Stuart) I do not think from too young because I can remember that I did not pay attention because I was embarrassed and you sat there with your head down and they would say, "Any questions?" and you would say, "no" because you did not want to ask any questions. I cannot really remember what I was taught at school. I think that, if they are too young, they will forget. I do not think that they would think about peer pressure really.
  (Mr Williams) If you give the relevant and informative sexual education in a not very informative and a very relaxed way, then it would probably restrict people to go out and try it because some sex education is dead brief, really brief, which could—I am not saying that it does—promote people to say, "I want to know more" and go out and do it. You tell a baby not to stick their hand in the fire and what does he go and do? He tries to stick his hand in the fire. We like to know why. So, if you say, "Don't have sex because it is bad for you and because you will get pregnant and you do not want a baby", you will think why? I will go out and try it and see. If it is relevant and it is very informative instead of being brief, then I think that would be a better way of producing sex education.

Dr Naysmith

  971. I still want to get Jay's views on this. "One size fits all" in sex education seems to be the norm in schools. I just wonder whether you felt that it was helpful to you. I know it is much more difficult—
  (Mr Bailey) Was sex education helpful to me? Sex education was not helpful to me because of section 28. Whenever I went into school to get sex education I never wanted to go in because I was either embarrassed or I had different problems of homelessness; there was isolation and there were family problems. You did not want to go in because you would be embarrassed telling your teacher, "Oh, excuse me, teacher. I'm gay." You get picked on, you get bullied by the pupils. I never did a sex education lesson.

  972. How would you like to see it structured then? I know it is very difficult.
  (Mr Bailey) Abolish section 28.

  Dr Naysmith: We are working on that now. That will happen before the end of this session.


  973. Jay, one of the issues that we have talked to other witnesses about is the whole question of how you deal with questions from pupils about orientation and at what age that would be something that a person may wish to ask questions about. Clearly we have heard messages that the top end of primary school would be an appropriate time to start doing something. Scott talked about 13 and we might come back to that because I am not so sure that that is not too late. If the average age of first intercourse is now 16, 13 will mean that there are quite a number of people having sex already. I am concerned on orientation—at what stage would you have felt it appropriate to talk to somebody about your own concerns?
  (Mr Bailey) To begin in secondary school.

  974. So you are talking about 11-12 time?
  (Mr Bailey) Yes.

Dr Naysmith

  975. I do not know whether you would want to do it in a mixed class, a big class, or whether what you really want is more individual chatting about it and information.
  (Mr Bailey) I do not know. I would probably do it in a range of people. I would not want to do it on my own because I want other people to learn about it. If you do it on your own there are other pupils that may be thinking if they are gay, lesbian, bisexual and they may want to learn about it and if they learn about it then they can come out to people.

  976. You are prepared to say definitely at the moment that it is a total inhibition because of section 28?
  (Mr Bailey) Yes.

  977. Is the subject never discussed?
  (Mr Bailey) The subject is never discussed in school because teachers are scared—

  978. Could I just ask someone else because you told me you never went to a sex education lesson. I just want information.
  (Ms Minty) I think that first of all you need to break down the barrier between young gay, lesbian and bisexual people and straight people because at the moment the barrier is so high. You can see kids running round and saying, "Oh, your shoes are gay", without them actually knowing the meaning of the word "gay". If they were taught from an early age that some people choose to have two Dads or two Mums, then the barriers would gently fall and then perhaps sex education could be more open, you could explore the alternative ways of having sex.

  979. It is wider of course than sex education. It is about relationships and that sort of thing. I just wanted to establish whether it is in fact true that none of you has ever had a chance to discuss other kinds of relationships in school.
  (Ms Ward) No.
  (Mr Williams) I attended all my sexual lessons—PSE, they were called—because I had to and I have never heard anything about lesbians, gays or bisexuals. I think we chat so much about heterosexual relationships and all manner of "normal" relationships, why can we not, when we start off heterosexual education, start off lesbian, gay and bisexual education as well, because people are gay, lesbian, bisexual when they are young. They know; it has been proven. Jay himself knew. Obviously they need to learn. Before section 28 people were told and people knew about it but when section 28 was brought up people stopped, and that is when the barriers came up, because people do not know. Now I do not know properly about lesbian, gay and bisexuals and that causes friction between heterosexuals and lesbians/gays/bisexuals, because you do not know about them so you think it is not the norm. You think they are weird; they are the outcast. If we learned about it the same as heterosexual education lessons then I think the barriers would slowly drop because people would become accepting again of it.

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