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Title: The development of school-based sex education in The Netherlands and England and Wales : culture, politics and practice
Author: Silver, Christina
ISNI:       0000 0001 3411 7061
Awarding Body: University of Surrey
Current Institution: University of Surrey
Date of Award: 2002
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This thesis presents a comparative exploration of the historical development and provision of school-based sex education within England and Wales and the Netherlands - countries which have experienced significantly differing rates of unintended pregnancy to women aged under 20 over several decades. In conducting a case-study comparison of one school in each country, it highlights substantive differences in school-based sex education and in attitudes towards sexuality between the two countries and provides an interpretation of the influences upon and implications arising from them. As such, it demonstrates some of the reasons why school-based sex education is inadequate in England and Wales in comparison to the Netherlands and discusses the extent to which the experiences of the Netherlands can be utilised to inform policy in England and Wales. The thesis approaches the issues from a different perspective than has previously been the case when considering school-based sex education; paying particular attention to the wider socio-political context in which policies have been developed and implemented and school-based sex education has been provided rather than evaluating the relative merits of provision in the two countries. As such, the research process was inherently explorative and a comparison of the provision of school-based sex education at one school in each country has been used as a case-study to illustrate cultural and contextual differences between the two countries. Sources of data used to inform the thesis include focus-groups conducted with young people with experience of living in both countries concerning their perceptions of the similarities and differences between the two countries; in-depth interviews with young people living in each country concerning their experience and evaluation of school-based sex education; interviews with Teachers involved in providing sex education at the two schools; and various forms of documentary evidence, including government legislation and guidance relating to the provision of school-based sex education and materials used within the classroom. These different sources of data combine to illustrate the historical development of a strikingly different socio-political climate which has framed the debate on a national level and influenced the provision of school-based sex education on a local level. Whereas political debate around the issue of school-based sex education has been largely absent in the Netherlands, it remains highly controversial and contested in England and Wales, with a plethora of sometimes confusing and misleading guidance documents being published. The nature and extent of differences in debate around the issues is understood in terms of the role of the respective governments and the perception of young people and their sexuality. The comparison of the provision and experience of school-based sex education at one school in each country demonstrates the extent to which these wider contexts and debates may filter down to the school level and affect provision in practice. In particular are the concerns expressed by a number of English schools approached to take part in the research which clearly reflect the politicised and emotive nature of wider debates. Additionally, interview respondents living in England were more dissatisfied with the school-based sex education they had received than their Dutch counterparts. This dissatisfaction is seen particularly in terms of the content of school-based sex education and the way it is taught. The most significant ‘lesson’ from the Dutch approach and experience is therefore generic rather than specific - rather than ‘borrowing’ particular policies from the Netherlands to implement in this country, the thesis argued for a more fundamental cultural shift in socio-political attitudes towards young people and their sexuality; whereby interventions are informed directly by the contemporary sexual health needs of young people themselves, rather than a contested politicised process.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education & training