Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 980-999)



  980. I just want to ask if Jay has got anything else to say because I cut him off rather sharply when I wanted to get the others' views.
  (Mr Bailey) Eighty-five per cent of young people in our study stated, "We were affected at school as a result of our sexuality", whilst the other 15% who stated that they were not affected indicated that this was because they chose to keep their difference secret. Seventy-seven per cent of those surveyed stated that there was no support structure in place to deal with the issue of homophobia in the schools for sex education, and one young person stated, "Teachers at school know about my problems and are aware of it but sit back and they do nothing".

Andy Burnham

  981. Before we go off the area of education, because I think it is important that we cover it in full, as I said, I went to the local Catholic school in the same area as you are, and I still would suspect that something very different is going on there than elsewhere in the borough that schools are doing. How important do you think it is that what is delivered to young people is absolutely regardless of where they go to school, that there is no lottery involved and we know that every young person is getting a basic sex education?
  (Ms Minty) I think it is absolutely vital that we all receive the same sex education, no matter who we are. At the end of day at one point in our lives we are going to go through the same emotional conflict between ourselves and we are all going to have sex and perhaps start a family.

  982. Would you be arguing that that should be part of the curriculum?
  (Ms Minty) Yes.
  (Ms Ward) It is just like a jobs lesson.

  983. Schools might have some flexibility as to how they go through it but it should not be a matter of discretion, something they could do or they could opt out of? Would you say that is right?
  (Ms Minty) Yes.

  984. Did you all go to different schools?
  (Ms Minty) Yes, every one of us.

  985. If you were to mark them out of 10 on how they did in sex education, what would you give them?
  (Ms Minty) Three.
  (Mr Williams) I would give them a five because Lowton High was a good school.

  986. They made an effort and they tried?
  (Mr Williams) Yes, they did try. Because they do not chat about homosexuality because of section 28 then I would have to give them a five, because they did the relevant information. It was very quick and very brief and that is why I would give them five.

  987. What do you say, Rachel?
  (Ms Ward) Maybe one. I do not know. Like Scott said, they did try, but they need to improve a lot.

  988. The issue is that they need more support from, let us say, the centre, from government, as to what they should be doing and what options they have got?
  (Ms Ward) What they can and cannot say because if they feel they are saying something they might be saying it wrong because they have not had the training or they do not have the knowledge to say about it. They are just saying what they think they can say.

  989. So you are saying they are making a bit of progress but they need a lot more support?
  (Ms Ward) Yes.

  990. And presumably, Jay, you would give them a very low mark, would you?
  (Mr Bailey) A minus.

Mr Burns

  991. Listening to your suggestion or your belief that everyone should have sex education, just looking at you, it could be argued that you are not necessarily representative of the school population in this country in that you are all white. I do not know if any of you are Catholics. What would you say, if you had them, to pupils in your school who happened to come from a very strong Catholic family or happened to come from a Muslim family, or possibly other ethnic minority families who would not share your view that everyone should have sex education at school but that they and/or their parents should have a right to withdraw from it?
  (Mr Williams) Like you said, it is an option.
  (Ms Ward) It should be optional?
  (Mr Williams) Did you say it could be taken as optional? Was that the point you made?

  Andy Burnham: When I was at school it was part of the biology option. You did it in what was the old fourth year.

Mr Burns

  992. The answer Gemma gave, unless I misheard her, was that she believed that there should be sex education for all at school. My question is, what would you say to someone in your class at school who happened to be a staunch Catholic or happened to be from an ethnic minority that might have a very different view in the whole area of sex education and would not, or their parents would not, or both they and their parents would not want them to have that sort of education in a school but would want it from either their own family at home or from a religious support group within their religion?
  (Ms Minty) Perhaps religion should be brought into sex education. Perhaps it should be taught from the Muslim point of view and the Catholic point of view as well. Me personally, I would not laugh at someone that did not have sex education at school. I would feel sorry for them in a way because they did not have it.

  Mr Burns: But do you not think that is a slightly intolerant and intellectually arrogant view because it does not take into account the views of other—
  (Mr Williams) In schools you have a lesson, RE or RS. It is Religious Studies and you are taught in those lessons about the different religions and their views. Therefore they are taken into account in certain lessons. Maybe you could set up minority groups in a school situation whereas someone from their community would teach their certain group about sex. But, I do think you should say that because everybody has sex and if you are giving a basic education about sex, whether it is the view of Muslims or whatever it is, you should give a basic education without any views of any religion, just a basic education—"This is how you should use a condom",—

  993. I was not suggesting that because of their religious views this should be the case. What I was suggesting was that because some people from religions different from the Anglican Church of England have very strong views on where and who should teach them or their children sex education. It is nothing to do with the differing religious interpretations of the meaning of sex, to put it simplistically. Some people just do not believe that sex education should be provided at school, but that it should be provided in the home or from others. I am not saying that is right or wrong. I am just saying that some people have a very strong view that it should not be at school from teachers; it should be elsewhere provided. I am just asking what is your view if one of your friends in your class came from that sort of viewpoint and they felt that sex education should not be across the board for every pupil at school.
  (Mr Williams) Then that would be a personal opinion and I could not fault them for their personal opinion, could I? If they wanted to learn their sexual education in a way that they have to re the religion, then if I was a head teacher I would invite their religion into the school and give a PSE lesson on their religion, their views on sexual education. Therefore, you are teaching everybody about every other person. You could have mixed sex; a white man with an ethnic minority person could have sex and therefore they would like to know the views of their religions, would they not? That is what I would do as a head teacher of a school. I would invite their ethnic minority groups in either via church or via the families to come and give a talk from their religion point of view in a PSE lesson. That is how I would do it.

Dr Taylor

  994. We heard from the last group that the education that you did have was mainly about contraception and protection from STDs was rather neglected. Has that been so with the little bit of education you have had, talking to Anna and Natalie first?
  (Ms Stuart) I had this book that was passed on from my friends. It was called Love Stings and it is about someone who went to a party and he had sex with a girl and then he ended up getting something and he had to go and have a test, and that always stuck with me. That is where I got all mine from. That was always drilled into my head then about catching anything. I did not actually know; no-one else told me about that. I only got it from that book.

  995. So was it a scare tactic?
  (Ms Stuart) Yes.

  996. We are told scare tactics do not usually work.
  (Ms Stuart) Yes, it did, I suppose, because it made me think, because when I go to a party I do drink. There was a film as well called Kids. I do not know if anyone has seen that. That made me think as well because it was about some teenagers that go out and drink every weekend and one of them had HIV and he was sleeping with all these girls and they were catching it. That was drilled into my head and that would scare me because it is so easy. You would not think, would you?

  997. No.
  (Ms Stuart) Other than that I would not really say I had got much.

  998. Does information about STIs come across with the limited education you get?
  (Ms Ward) Yes. It is like the other group were saying, that pregnancy is more of a big thing rather than STIs, where STIs should have priority more than pregnancy. I am not saying it is not but in a way it can stick with you for ever. I know a baby can but it is more dangerous to your health. It is more important in a way and it is like they are getting more education on pregnancy and stuff like that rather than STIs. That is why some of our workshops are on STIs as well as pregnancy and it is trying to get it across to the people. No-one even knows what it is. People still think it is STDs and it is like, "No, we have moved on. It is infections now". They think that STDs is if you have got a disease, you can cure it.

  999. So you think the word "infection" is more powerful to you?
  (Mr Williams) More suited.
  (Ms Ward) Yes.

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