Friday, 28 February 2014

Proud to launch Supplementary Advice to the DfEE statutory Sex and Relationship Education Guidance (0116/2000)

Today I am proud that Brook in partnership with PSHE Association and Sex Education Forum has launched Supplementary Advice to update Government's Statutory Sex and Relationship Education Guidance published in 2000. All of us committed to ensuring children and young people's entitlement to good education about sex and relationships as part of PSHE whatever school they are in, wherever they are in the country.

The link to the SRE Supplementary Advice is here 

The Times Educational Supplement has published an article about the Supplementary Advice which is here.

Much of what is in the statutory 2000 guidance remains good, yet there have been advances in technology which brings the potential for real excitement and easy access to knowledge and information, as well as new challenges - the easy spread of images and easy access to pornography.  We also now know more about issues like Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and the importance of young people developing a positive and active understanding of consent and pleasure, and the development of key skills to navigate and develop positive healthy relationships whatever their gender and sexual identities.

The three organisations have taken advice and input from teachers and other experts to help shape this Supplementary Advice. We have worked hard to incorporate the range of different perspectives and I am immensely proud there is now Supplementary Advice for schools that has such senior support from a wide range of colleagues including Lord Nash, Schools Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, Teaching Unions, NSPCC, Faculty Sexual and Reproductive Health, British Association of Sexual Health and HIV, Girlguiding UK, ParentZone, Stonewall, CEOP and Public Health England (you can see the support at the back of their Advice).

David Cameron himself has also said he welcomes the work of expert organisations supporting schools in this area in response to particular public health concerns about violence and his personal interest in online pornography. But let's be clear this does not replace the ongoing need for statutory Personal, Social and Health Education or strong national and local leadership. It should, in my view, move on from the protracted and intransigent debate that was developing about Government's failure to update their statutory guidance and the implicit and explicit finger pointing that it was because of the out of date guidance that SRE is 'still not good enough' to use Ofsted's words.

Whatever your view about whether government should update their guidance or not, they have chosen not to and it is important we provide schools with the support they need NOW whilst continuing to campaign for more leadership and support for positive, empowering sex and relationships education. Government repeatedly confirm PSHE is an important part of the curriculum for young people that schools must ensure children receive their entitlement to and I am pleased Joe Hayman, CEO of PSHE Association and collaborator on this Advice is going to chair a government advisory group on PSHE.

Of course, it is true much more needs to be done to accelerate progress in PSHE. This Supplementary Advice is one piece of the jigsaw. David Cameron and Lord Nash have both welcomed this Supplementary Advice and we have got to the starting line. All of our jobs now as expert agencies, teachers, Unions and schools is to make sure we don't mistake the task of producing the Supplementary Advice for the real task - improving SRE in schools.  All of us at Brook and our colleagues at the PSHE Association and Sex Education Forum look forward to working with you to develop SRE for the 21st Century.

Thanks to everyone - too numerous to name here - for support, insight, challenge and perspectives and to Sarah Townsend (@STEcopywriting) and Ashley Goldstein (@weaseldance) for their important contributions.  I would personally welcome any feedback about the Supplementary Advice at so we can know whether it has hit the spot and what else we can do to support teachers to get on with the real job  - delivering excellent SRE for young people.

Happy weekend - follow us on twitter @simonablake @besexpositive @brookcharity and please do use the hashtag SREAdvice

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Sex Appeal 3 - Melange a Trois - some thank yous

Saturday 15th February saw a stunning line up of comedians take part in Sex Appeal 3. For the third year running, Brook Ambassador, Zoe Margolis organised a brilliant comedy fundraiser in aid of Brook with a line up to match any 'best of the fest' show I have ever been to. The inimitable and unbeatable Al Murray hosted the show as his alter ego The Pub Landlord.

The trouble with thank you's is that you will inevitably miss someone off the list, but here goes. Thank you Zoe Margolis for organising Sex Appeal 3 and her complete commitment to improving sex and relationships education for young people. 

Thank you to Ava Vidal who gave comedic insight into the relationship between mother and son; to Bec Hill who wooed us with her modern pulling techniques; to Chris Coltrane who challenged the audience to think differently on bisexuality - after all you don't question someone so intently if they go out with someone with different coloured eyes, why different genitals; to David Mills who has ensured that everytime someone says gravity in our house it gets repeated in an American accent until the other screams for cover; to Kate Smurthwaite for being an all year round pro choice pro sex education campaigner and for ensuring our drive to and from the Brighton marathon the next day was filled with discussion about menstruation and pain; to Robin Ince who reminded the audience you must always have a different nose picking finger from your bum picking one; to Shappi Khorsandi for making most people squirm with talk of labour wards and cunnilingus; to Shazia Mirza for introducing a new word into my life - 'ramadanification' and to Vikki Stone for sharing her Brian Cox tune. Probably fair to say I guess you had to be there so if you weren't make a mental note not to miss out next year. 

Every single person left with a big smile on their faces exactly as intended and I have had excellent feedback from so many people who were there, so thank you to all the comedians of them for making us laugh and for supporting our goal of ensuring young people get the sex and relationships education they want and deserve.  Thank you very much to Love Honey for sponsoring Sex Appeal and to the Love Honey team who braved it in the mini bus from Bath and provided all the contributors with a box of goodies. Thank you CM Print for continued support for Brook and Sex Appeal; to Joy, Ginny and all the Brook and Be Sex Positive team Richard, Leah, Sally, Josina, Holly and Brogan who volunteered on the night; to the stage crew Kirsty and James, and the Bloomsbury Theatre tech team.

And finally of course thank you to Al Murray - the Pub Landlord - for hosting Sex Appeal 1, 2 and 3 and being simply brilliant each time.  This year, a special thank you to Al for giving me the added personal pleasure of watching first my partner then one of my good friends squirm at different points in the evening with a little bit of audience participation. I watched from a distance with a satisfied smile and thought sometimes things have to be left to chance - I couldn't have briefed it better had I tried!

We asked all of the comedians to tell us why they are involved and want to support our work including our work to improve sex and relationships education.  Here is what they said;

Al Murray - sex ed is incredibly important - you can't exactly make informed choices if you're not informed can you? Also two of my favourite things are sex and education

Ava Vidal - i was a teen mum and am pleased to perform at Sex Appeal to help raise Brook's profile so they can continue doing the excellent work they do

Bec Hill - it's important that every person grows up learning as much about sex as possible, so they are equipped with the knowledge to make the right decisions for themselves and those they share it with

Chris Coltrane - sex is brilliant. But enough of my boasting: Brook do such amazing work, giving young people the resources that everyone deserves to make sure they're sexual healthy. I'm proud to be supporting them

David Mills - regarding sex education - I'm all for it. And not just for young people, I'm for Continuing Sex Education'. If you still rely on the same moves you learned as a teenager it's time to go back to school.  I'm all for skills sharing

Kate Smurthwaite - there is only one subject taught in schools where significant numbers of parents, teachers and politicians regularly insist that keeping children in ignorance is good for them. But ignorant children quickly grow up to become ignorant adults. The human body has an amazing capacity to experience physical pleasure. Every young person should be taught about sex in a calm and mature way that emphasises consent and safe sex and celebrates sexual diversity

Robin Ince -  as a teen of the 80s I remember the terror, moral panic and misunderstanding surrounding the discovery of AIDS. For young people (indeed all people) it is important to be properly informed and advised, which is why I support Brook by saying some jokes

Shappi Khorsandi - as a big fan of sex and a supporter of young people, I think Brook does an incredibly important job and so I am glad to be part of Sex Appeal and support Brook's work

Shazia Mirza - I am doing Sex Appeal, because I might get a few tips for myself and I also used to be a science teachers so used to teach sex education all the time.  All my ex-pupils will be disappointed if I don't do this gig

Vikki Stone - Teaching young people to make informed choices about the emotional and physiological minefield that is 'sex' is as important as teaching them maths or science

If you were at Sex Appeal 3 and enjoyed it and want to get involved with Brook, or missed this and want to find out more or get involved with Brook visit - we are always keen to welcome more people into the Brook family to come alongside us and campaign for young people's sexual rights including the right to good sex and relationships education. We have activities for everyone - join me and a team of Brookies walking a 100k in September or sign up and become a member from your arm chair - its just £10 per year and we would love you to join us in our 50th year. 

Thanks again to everybody for making this happen. 

I very much look forward to Sex Appeal 4. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Remember what it feels like to be young

This week I was disproportionately cross when I saw a friend diss young people on twitter for being loud on the bus. I get even more cross with twitter spats so I text him privately to express my dismay that he was being such a stereotypical idiot about young people. 

He doesn't work in the youth sector, has no professional interest and is quite direct. I was told in no uncertain terms to take my liberal views elsewhere, he had had enough. Both laughing at his juvenile insult and exasperated at his lack of self awareness, I decided to tap into the dad in him -  'imagine you heard somebody say that about your boys'. They are great lads, but they, like most of us are sometimes loud . 

And so we had a sensible conversation, he conceded and deleted his 'all young people are awful' tweet. If only culture change was that easy. I have the privilege of being in an organisation that trusts young people, believes in them and wants to support them on their journey through adolescence and into adulthood.  One of my new years resolutions was to spend more time seeing Brook's work in action this year, and i have got off to a good start.  

Over the last few weeks I have been shadowing some of our teams across the country. The young people I have been in consultations with are actively taking responsibility for their choices and their health, they are moral agents working things out for themselves, sometimes they (like adults) get it wrong and sometimes they get hurt by others. Every single one of them deserves the trust and support of adults.  It is a privilege to be on reception, in a classroom or in the consultation room watching a young person get the help they need and be put at ease by staff who respect and treasure them. 

Our comments book generally tell the story of a funny attitude towards young people in wider society. They praise the service because;  'they were nice to me', 'i didn't feel judged', 'they listened', 'they answered my questions', 'they made me feel comfortable'. Brook staff are technically brilliant at what they do - with different expertise in spades across the different professions. 

But the thing that unites them all is they trust young people and value their developing sexuality. Lots of youth organisations Brook works closely with share that trust and belief in young people. Our job as a sector is to create a societal culture that values young people, so they can flourish. All of us across generations will get the  benefit of their energy, their humour and their ambition to change the world. It's a win win.

I asked my friend, lets call him Paul (not his real name, he consented to me telling the story as long as I didn't name him), to take a couple of minutes to remember what it felt like to be young. Try it, smile to yourself and then commit or recommit to encourage others to believe in and  trust young people so we can truly help them fly. 

Follow us on twitter @simonablake @brookcharity @besexpositive