Breaking the macho mould : meeting boys' needs in sex and relationships education
The work examines the needs of boys as regards sex education in school. The literature search depicted a situation where boys' needs were being neglected despite the calls from such bodies as the British Medical Association. Literature supports the idea that there is an overemphasis on biology rather than relationships and this, coupled with peer and teacher expectations of masculine behaviour, neither helps boys to cope with relationships nor aids them in their understanding of the needs of others or coping with their own fears and anxieties. The growing problem of early teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) had led to comparisons with other countries, which show that England has a severe problem with underage pregnancy and the transmission of STIs. Research was undertaken to investigate the characteristics of sex and relationships education for boys with the object of determining their needs and what types of education would best meet these needs. Investigations took place in eight diverse secondary schools in the south east of England. Questionnaires were issued to boys and girls in the sixth form regarding their experiences of school sex education. In addition students in their first term at university were also asked to complete questionnaires to give a wider scope to the research. Eight co-ordinators of Personal Social and Health Education were interviewed to discover their opinions of sex education in secondary schools at present and whether this was meeting the needs of pupils, especially boys. Research was then conducted to examine alternative methods of delivering sex and relationships education to determine if these strategies could better satisfy boys' needs in this area. These included a student tutor scheme in Prague a teacher training establishment in The Netherlands, an 'agony uncle' who ran a computer help line for boys, a theatre group, two male sex education workers who deliver sex education to boys, a peer education scheme and a Teenage Health Project. Three focus group interviews were carried out with young men of sixteen and seventeen to determine their feelings about their sex education and how it could be improved. In order to assess these diverse schemes a set of criteria was established against which to judge sex education delivery. These criteria were devised from the search of literature, the focus group and questionnaire responses and suggestions from the alternative method respondents and the co-ordinators. The schools' sex education provision and the altemative methodologies were then evaluated against these criteria. Results showed that none of the methods totally met the needs of boys. The analysis was used to determine a new strategy to meet the needs of boys with regard to their sex and relationships education. At the heart of the strategy is a curriculum with a stronger emphasis on relationships, how to cope with and express emotions. The content, methods of delivery, amount of sessions, size of groups and the types of teachers required are also defined.