Blog

Teaching children about same-sex relationships - the importance of LGBT-inclusive sex education

I've been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about the outcry that has ensued over some aspects of the new Relationships and Sex Education guidance that has just been approved by the UK parliament.  From September 2020 all primary schools will have to teach children about different families, including LGBT families, as part of mandatory Relationships Education.  And all secondary schools will have to teach children about sexual orientation and gender identity, as part of Relationships and Sex Education. This has caused outrage among some parents, with protests outside Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, where some of the parents are furious that the No Outsiders programme has been delivered there.  This programme teaches children about the equalities act, and includes picture books that depict same sex families, and some parents have been concerned that 'exposing' children to LGBT issues with 'sexualise them'.  Ofsted, meanwhile, have no such concerns, and after a recent visit they praised its record on promoting “tolerance, acceptance and mutual respect” and confirmed the school's Ofsted rating of “outstanding". 

I do have concerns though, about the increasing amount of homophobia and lack of tolerance that I have seen in the media in the last few months.  Just last week the BBC show Question Time aired a question from an audience member which asked whether it is "morally right for 5 year old children to learn about LGBT issues in school?"  I absolutely know that if you replaced "LGBT issues" with "religion" or "mixed-race relationships" in that question that it would not have been given air-time.  And rightly so.  Because of course children should learn about religion, and mixed-race relationships, and disability, and all the other aspects of the world that they live in.  And likewise, they should learn about LGBT issues, because LGBT people exist, and live in this world, and have parents and children and relatives, and a right to live their lives with tolerance and respect from those around them. 

I am in a unique position to comment on this - as not only am I a sexual health doctor and a sex education consultant, but I am also a parent in a same-sex relationship, with children currently aged 11, 9 and 6 who have a right to understand how their family is made up and how they were conceived. From my clinical experience, I know first-hand how important it is that children and young people can be free to be themselves as they go through puberty and develop sexual feelings.

I will never forget one particular patient that I saw in clinic when I was training to be a Sexual Health and HIV consultant. He was 82 years old, and had been attending the clinic for about 6 years, turning up for STI screens a few weeks after episodes of unprotected sex with casual male partners.  On that particular occasion he had managed to contract genital herpes.   He was shocked by the diagnosis, and we had a long chat both about that, and about his own inability to come to terms with his sexuality. He felt disgusted by his own attraction to men and saddened that he wasn't ever able to have a 'normal family life'. He did get married to a woman and they had children but he hadn't felt able to stay with her as he couldn't bring himself to have sex with her. For the most part he ignored his 'urges' (his term), but every so often he felt the need to go and find a casual partner, then felt overwhelming guilt and shame. No one else knew about this aspect of himself - the only place he had ever been honest and open about his sexuality was in the sexual health clinic. He had no friends he could confide in. He rejected my offer of referral for counselling as he had 'tried that before' and they weren't able to 'make me normal' so he didn't see the point.  He cried quite a lot during the encounter and I just felt terribly sad for him that he was going through this self-hatred on his own. Sadly I don't know if he was ever able to come to terms with his sexuality, but that consultation stayed with me for a long time, and I reflected that I had never been more grateful to have grown up in a time where Section 28 had been repealed, and that I was living in a society where my right to express my sexuality was enshrined in law, and where I could be openly out at work and to my friends and family.  

I consider myself to be very lucky.  My children are at a fabulous primary school which celebrates diversity and teaches the children about all kinds of relationships.  My family have always accepted who I am and have been unfailingly supportive of me.  I am out at work, and to my friends, and I have the very great privilege in my career to be able to use the knowledge and skills that I have gained from being a Sexual Health doctor to train other professionals to teach children about relationships and sex. If, in my professional life, I can help even one teacher to teach about LGBT issues in a more tolerant and inclusive way then I will feel that all my work has been worth doing.  And if, in turn, even one young person learns that they will be accepted for who they are, then my work really will be done. 

And yet, seeing seemingly liberal people saying that teaching young children about same-sex relationships will result in them becoming sexualised, is very discomfiting.  And clearly not the case. If young children can be 'sexualised' by learning about a same-sex relationship then surely they can also be 'sexualised' by learning about straight relationships? And don't get me started on what might happen to children who learn about the way that Henry VIII treated his six wives. And what about the children who read the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, in which the prince finds a 16-year-old child in a coma, kisses her on the lips (which brings her back to life), and then immediately marries her.  If one of my children ever has the misfortune to be that unwell, I sincerely hope that they are not then kissed on the lips by a stranger and expected to marry them. Books about a man marrying a man, or a woman falling in love with a woman, will not cause small children to have sex with each other.  All it will do is let them see the real world represented in the stories they are reading. 

I don't want my children to grow up in a world where all the characters in the books they read are straight, white and able-bodied.  I want them to be aware of the diversity that is out there in the world, and for that to be the case they need to be taught about those things, both at home and at school. My children have grown up knowing that they have two mums, and it has never been confusing to them.  I realise that some of the commentators out there would rather I  had not had my children in what they believe to be an 'unnatural relationship', but given that I did, what would they have me do now?  Should I have lied to them about their parentage? Should myself and their other mum have pretended that one of us was the live-in nanny?  When they asked me about how they were conceived should I have pretended that the stork brought them? 

Of course, I did none of those things.  Instead, I did what I always advise other parents to do when asked questions by their children - I answered them, honestly, and in an age-appropriate way. And so my children have understood what a sperm and an egg is from about the age of 5, and they know how babies are made.  They ask me fascinating questions about relationships, and sex, and how conception works.  And I answer them. And I sincerely hope that they grow up knowing that they will be accepted by society no matter who they end up falling in love with when they are older. 

If, after reading this blog, you would like to get some LGBT-inclusive books for your home or school, I have put together a list of children's picture books that could be helpful. 

 

 

*any link with an asterisk denotes an affiliate link - if you buy anything after clicking on those links then you are helping to support this blog, at no cost to yourself.

Sex Education at Boarding School

Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) takes on a different quality at a boarding school. Students spend weeks at a time away from their parents, and without families to act as a sounding board when lessons are over. They spend the evening hours with their friends, as well as all of their daytime hours, and the combination of raging hormones and close proximity to other adolescents can lead to a lot of opportunity for experimenting with your sexuality. This makes it even more important to ensure that students have planned opportunities for RSE in a safe and inclusive space.

I myself went to Bedales, which is by all accounts a very liberal boarding school – we called the teachers by their first names, and there was no uniform.  There were, however, very strict rules about sex and drugs, as detailed in this article in the Independent from 1993.  And indeed, while I was at the school at least one student was expelled for having sex on the premises and one was expelled for smoking marijuana.  We did have RSE lessons, and they were mainly taught in small groups.  With the passage of time I can’t remember all of what I was taught, but a few key incidents have stayed with me: 

  • The time the teacher asked us all to write down our biggest fear about sex and relationships on a piece of paper and put them into a box, to be answered later.  True to her word, she then answered all of our questions, and I can still remember what a relief it was to get the answer to a difficult question without having to ask it in front of my fellow students.
  • The time that a boy put his hand up and asked how you could make sure that the condom didn’t fall off during sex. I don’t remember how the teacher answered, but I do remember everyone laughing at him and his look of embarrassment as they did so.
  • The time that someone thought it would be really funny to stick a sanitary towel on the back of another boy’s jumper - and then laugh at him until he realised what had happened and took it off.

Thinking about my education as a whole, I can see that some of my knowledge about RSE also came from other lessons.  My Spanish teacher was keen on us learning to discuss relevant social and political issues in Spanish, and so encouraged us to watch Spanish news every day.  One of the topics she chose for us to learn to discuss was abortion.  This meant that for a time in my late teens I was more aware of the intricacies of abortion law in Spain than I was of that in the UK. I also wonder if talking about such a complex subject in another language could be seen as acting as a kind of distancing technique – as by concentrating on finding the right words to explain your thoughts on a subject it can make it less personal. 

My Latin teacher was a big fan of the poetry of Catullus, and she would often read us an excerpt from one of his poems as part of a lesson.  When discussing his poetry we would talk about such topics as same-sex relationships, love and betrayal,which some might say are more the subjects of a traditional ‘RSE’ lesson than a Latin lesson. For those unfamiliar with his work, he wrote a series of poems to his lover, who he called Lesbia in the verses. She was said to have been modelled on the poet Sappho, who lived on Lesbos, from where the word Lesbian originates.  An example of his work is this beautiful poem, known as Catullus 5:

Latin
English
Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus,
rumoresque senum severiorum
omnes unius aestimemus assis.
soles occidere et redire possunt:
nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux,
nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum,
dein, cum milia multa fecerimus,
conturbabimus illa, ne sciamus,
aut ne quis malus invidere possit,
cum tantum sciat esse basiorum.
Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love,
and let us judge all the rumors of the old men
to be worth just one penny!
The suns are able to fall and rise:
When that brief light has fallen for us,
we must sleep a never ending night.
Give me a thousand kisses, then another hundred,
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand more, then another hundred.
Then, when we have made many thousands,
we will mix them all up so that we don't know,
and so that no one can be jealous of us when he finds out
how many kisses we have shared.

--> English Translation by Rudy Negenborn, reproduced with permission from http://rudy.negenborn.net/catullus/text2/e5.htm

At the time I didn’t think anything about these lessons, but when I look back, I do wonder if the teachers in question deliberately chose to discuss such things to try and improve our RSE.  This is especially possible in the case of my Latin teacher, who had an additional role as a live-in housemistress in the girls’ boarding house.  At a boarding school the teachers are not only acting in loco parentis during the day, but also during evening and weekend hours as well. This means they have a very significant part to play in educating the children in their care, and the RSE curriculum will be one of several tools that might be needed.  

In my current role as a Sex Education Trainer I am always interested to see examples of cross-curricular RSE teaching, and I take the opportunity to highlight them to teachers that I train whenever I can.  One very good example is the Sex and History project, which uses ancient artefacts to introduce and discuss modern themes such as pornography, body image and gender identity.  The project is directed by two professors from Exeter University, one of whom, Rebecca Langlands, also went to Bedales.

I count myself as fortunate to have attended a school that really did try to provide comprehensive RSE (within the confines of Section 28, which was active at the time). Many of my peers were not so fortunate. The Children and Social Work Act 2017 ushers in statutory Relationships Education in all primary schools in England and RSE for all secondary schools - independent schools included. September 2020 is the start-date for mandatory provision. With this date getting ever closer I’m looking forwards to working with colleagues to support independent schools to be ready for this exciting change – helping to ensure that all children are taught high quality, comprehensive RSE - in any language!

[I wrote this blog post for the Sex Education Forum, and a version of it appeared first on their website on 14th February 2019, with the title Relationships and Sex Education at Boarding School]

*any link with an asterisk denotes an affiliate link - if you buy anything after clicking on those links then you are helping to support this blog, at no cost to yourself.

Vulva or Vagina; or why correct genital terminology is important

I have recently watched the series Sex Education, on Netflix, and I absolutely loved it. The show covered some really complex and difficult topics in a sensitive and engaging way, while at the same time managing to stay funny. Over the course of the first season the characters discussed masturbation (or inability to do so), abortion, losing their virginity, ending relationships, the agony of a high school prom, and struggling with their sexuality.  

I did have a couple of things that bothered me though, and one of them was in the episode about sexting. A girl had sent a picture of their vulva to her boyfriend, he shared it with a friend, and it was then shared throughout the school. It was a great storyline, and really demonstrated the ease with which such things can get out of hand,  but there was one rather large flaw. All the characters in the show referred to it as a vagina throughout. The episode culminated in a great  “I am Spartacus” scene where girls (and boys) stand up and say “It’s my Vagina”. And although I thought the concept was brilliant, I found myself shouting at the TV: “But it’s a vulva!”

Because one of the things that I am completely passionate about is teaching children the correct words for their own anatomy. It seems self evident to me that it is important for children to know what parts of their body are called. And yet not all body parts are treated the same. We would not accept a boy calling his penis a scrotum, or any child calling their mouth a throat. And yet in schools across the country children are still taught that their external genitalia are called "penis" or "vagina", despite the fact that the latter is very much internal.  

For those of you that don’t know the difference:  The vulva refers to the parts of the female genitalia that can be seen from the outside, incorporating the labia majora and minora, the vestibule and the vaginal opening.  The vagina, on the other hand, is the internal part of the female genitalia, that leads to the cervix and uterus.  If you would like a handy way to remember this then I can recommend Dr Jen Gunter’s blog with a vulva/vagina Venn Diagram

There is a more prosaic reason that children need to know the correct words for their own body parts though, and that is for health reasons, or even for safeguarding reasons. If children do not know what their body parts are called then they can find it difficult to make themselves understood when trying to talk to a professional about any problem they might be having.  While working in sexual health clinics I sometimes  did not know exactly which bit of the body a patient was describing until I actually examined them.  And on one occasion a patient ended up disclosing a historical sexual assault to me during a consultation, but her case was ultimately thrown out of court because she did not have the right language to describe accurately what had happened to her. Knowing the right language would not have stopped her from being  assaulted of course, but it might have  meant that her assailant was brought to justice. 

A few days ago the Guardian published an article called 'Me and my Vulva', which details the artist Laura Dodsworth's project to take photos of 100 vulvas, and I was very pleased to see the word vulva used correctly in a national newspaper.  I was then very disappointed when a man on the internet* decided that this was wrong, and tweeted that they should have used the word vagina. He was duly corrected by Dr Gunter, but instead of gracefully accepting her explanation he spent the best part of two days insisting that he was right and everyone else was wrong.  If only he had received the correct Sex Education at school, this never would have happened. 

*I don't wish to give him extra publicity by naming him here, but if you should wish to see his tweets then follow this link.

*any link with an asterisk denotes an affiliate link - if you buy anything after clicking on those links then you are helping to support this blog, at no cost to yourself.

Why should we teach children about cervical cancer prevention?

We teach children about prevention all the time. We teach them to clean their teeth, to prevent tooth decay, and to wear a coat in winter, to prevent them feeling cold. We also teach them to use condoms, to prevent STIs, and to use contraception, to prevent unplanned pregnancies. So it stands to reason therefore that we should also teach them how to prevent cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is caused by the Human Papilloma virus (HPV), which is a sexually transmitted infection. You might think, therefore, that you could prevent it just by using a condom, but it’s not as simple as that, because it is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, and because there are no visible signs of initial infection. We do, however, have two main other ways in which cervical cancer can be prevented – the national cervical screening programme, and HPV vaccination. The best way to ensure that uptake of both these programmes is as high as possible is to teach children about them and how important they are before they need to take part.

The government agrees with this stance, and in the new Draft Guidance for Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education  it states:

“Pupils should know… the benefits of regular self-examination (including screening and immunisation)”

The cervical screening programme was introduced in the UK in the 1980s, and since then the number of cervical cancer cases has gone down by 7% each year (source: NHS). The screening programme looks for the early signs of change in the cervix that happen after someone has been infected with HPV. These changes can then be treated, to prevent cancer developing. HPV vaccination was introduced into the NHS vaccination schedule in 2008, for girls aged 12-13, and it will soon be extended to include boys as well.

We are fortunate to now have vaccinations against two types of cancer – hepatocellular carcinoma (which is caused by Hepatitis B) and cervical cancer (which is caused by HPV). According to the World Health Organisation, vaccination against HPV and Hepatitis B could prevent 1 million cancer cases each year. This is a target that we should be supporting, by ensuring that we encourage as many people as possible to take part in the nationwide prevention programmes.

Yet, despite the fact that cervical cancer is eminently preventable, smear test rates are the lowest they have been in two decades, with 1 in 3 women aged 25-64 not having a smear within the right time frame for their age. Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust recently surveyed 2000 women about their experience and found that 915 of them had either delayed a test or never had screening. The number one reason for this was embarrassment, with fear of vulnerability coming a close second.

This really resonates with me, as I remember the friend I helped a few years ago. She confessed to me that she had never had a smear test, although she had met the criteria for screening for several years, because she was too embarrassed to go. After some discussion we came up with a plan – I went with her to the clinic and waited outside the room while she went in. We also spent some time beforehand talking about exactly what the procedure involved. Of course, most people will not have a doctor that they can take with them for their smear test, but they will all have a friend. And any clinician should be happy to do a smear test for a patient who has a friend with them for moral support.

Young people need to be empowered to look after their own health, including their own sexual health, and with a comprehensive programme of relationships, sex and health education at school we can give them the information they need to do so. Condom demonstrations and the like may seem embarrassing and difficult for teachers to teach their students – but they could be genuinely life-saving.

[I was asked to write this blog post for The Eve Appeal, and it first appeared on their website for Cervical Cancer Prevention Week 2019]

*any link with an asterisk denotes an affiliate link - if you buy anything after clicking on those links then you are helping to support this blog, at no cost to yourself.

HPV Vaccination for boys - finally!

This week something that I have been campaigning for for more than a decade has finally happened - on 24th July the Public Health Minister Steve Brine announced that the HPV vaccine is to be given to boys in England. This subject has been close to my heart ever since I started my training in genitourinary medicine (sexual health and HIV), and I feel it deserves an explanatory blog.  

Soon after I had started my specialty training the vaccine for HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) was licensed for use in the UK. Initially there were two vaccines licensed: Cervarix, which protects against HPV-related cancers (cervical, anal, penile, vulval and throat cancer) and Gardasil, which protects against cancer, but also against genital warts.  This was groundbreaking, and heralded a new era for sexual health clinics, one where our waiting rooms would no longer be filled with patients waiting for us to freeze off their warts, and maybe even a future time when women would no longer have to undergo the indignity of 3-yearly smear tests. 

But when HPV was added to the NHS vaccinations schedule in 2008 the government chose to use Cervarix, to only vaccinate girls, and to market the new HPV vaccine as the "Cervical Cancer Vaccine".  This was felt to be a missed opportunity, and was so derided by the sexual health world, that one of the exam questions for the Diploma of Genitourinary Medicine later that year was: "Name two problems with the government's current policy on HPV vaccination", with the correct answers being the choice of Cervarix and the choice to only vaccinate girls.

You see, the government was relying on herd immunity to protect unvaccinated boys, the argument being that if you vaccinate more than 80% of girls, then the boys are protected indirectly.  Which only works if you assume that all men are heterosexual, and that they only have sex with women who have been vaccinated.  That is a lot of assumptions to make, and puts a lot of men at risk including MSM (men who have sex with men), men who have sex with women from countries where there is no HPV vaccination programme, and men who have sex with older women who were not covered by the vaccination programme.

Australia, on the other hand, did things differently, and used Gardasil from 2007 onwards, although still only gave it to girls. The Melbourne Sexual Health Clinic collected data on the effects of the vaccine, and produced some fascinating research which demonstrated it reduced the incidence of genital warts in vaccinated women to almost zero. The research also showed a reduction in genital warts among unvaccinated heterosexual men, but no corresponding decline among MSM.  In 2013 the Australian National Immunisation Programme's policy on HPV was extended to include boys.

Although the UK changed from using Cervarix in the vaccination programme to using Gardasil in 2012, it was still only given to girls.  My son was only a few months old when HPV was first added to the NHS vaccination schedule, and I vividly remember sitting in a cafe with a group of other new mums and telling them that I planned to pay for him to be vaccinated for HPV privately if the government's policy did not change before he turned 12. At the time I was quietly confident that I wouldn't need to do that, because the policy would surely change in that time. 

By 2014 my confidence that the government would reconsider was starting to decline, but then there was some movement.  The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) released an interim position statement recommending vaccinating MSM through sexual health clinics.  However, given that the average age of MSM attending sexual health clinics is 32, and that the vast majority of people attending sexual health clinics have already have sex before they attend the clinic, this was felt to be too little, too late. I wrote a blog about it for the British Medical Association:  HPV vaccine: don't forget the boys.

On the back of the JCVI position statement being released I ran an online survey of sexual health clinicians with some colleagues from BASHH (British Association of Sexual Health and HIV).  We had 131 responses, of which 95% thought there should be universal HPV vaccination.  In addition, 97% said they would vaccinate a daughter and 90% would vaccinate a son.  Of those who had a teenage son already, 42% had arranged to have their son vaccinated privately.

The JCVI's proposal went ahead, with a pilot to vaccinate MSM through sexual health clinics being started in 2016.  This was welcomed by BASHH and others, but with the caveat that universal vaccination regardless of gender would be preferable. A campaign group called HPV action continued to lobby for universal vaccination, coordinating the work of several other organisations. 

And now, this week, we have the announcement that I have been waiting for for more than 11 years: that all children will be vaccinated for HPV at the age of 12 or 13.  And I could not be more delighted.  I'm aware that I have only been a very small cog in a huge machine of people working together to change government policy, but I could not be prouder of my efforts.  And most importantly, all of my children will be protected from HPV infection, regardless of their gender. 

*any link with an asterisk denotes an affiliate link - if you buy anything after clicking on those links then you are helping to support this blog, at no cost to yourself.

Can you remember your own sex education?

One of the things that inspired my career change to sex education was a hope that I could ensure that the young children of today would have a better experience of sex education than I did.

While I was at school we had some sketchy lessons about sex and periods, but absolutely nothing about anything other than heterosexual sex. I only have a few memories of the actual lessons, which include

  • A boy putting his hand up and asking how you could make sure that the condom didn’t fall off during sex. I don’t remember how the teacher answered, but I do remember everyone laughing at him and his look of embarrassment as they laughed.
  • Someone thinking it would be really funny to stick a sanitary towel on the back of another boy’s jumper - and then laughing at him until he realised why they were laughing and took it off.
  • Watching a video about sex which was shot so ambiguously that I was none the wiser afterwards about what actually happened during intercourse. 

One of the activities I often ask participants to do at the beginning of a Sex Education training session is to get into pairs and discuss their own experiences of sex education. This almost always results in a very wide-ranging discussion, with an equally wide range of different experiences. And, like me, much of the time participants express the wish that they would want young people today to have a better experience than they did. 

I also asked some of my friends to tell me their own recollections, and these are just some of the responses that I had: 

  • “When I was about 11/12 my teacher was telling us about periods and was demonstrating a tampon. She pushed the cardboard tube too hard and the tampon flew across the room and landed on the floor between a group of horrified pre-teen and mortally embarrassed girls who screamed and ran away. Teacher went bright red and we all died a bit inside!”
  • “My class and I were very naive and when we had a full 2 days on sex ed at primary school (quite modern considering how archaic the school rules and ethos were in South Africa) it came to the part of the talk about oral sex. Our teacher asked what we thought oral sex was and out of the 90 girls only one person put their hand up (incidentally the smartest girl in the year) and replied "is it talking about sex". We were absolutely horrified when she informed us what oral sex actually involved.”
  • “The complete lack of reference to LGBT because of section 28 despite me being taught by the campest super-gay guy ever”
  • “Being taught by a priest who opened by saying that he had no idea what he was talking about. And finished by telling everyone not to do it.“
  • “I am going to be so bold as to balance things with a positive sex ed story: I can't remember what year we looked at the biological aspects of sex in science, but that year, we had an awesome science teacher. He started off the relevant lessons by basically getting us to sit and laugh for a few minutes to get the giggles out of the way so that we might then concentrate. I recall that it worked!“
  • “I remember we had to brainstorm all the different names for penis.  The teacher stopped us after "purple headed love monster" came at the end of a very long and comprehensive list“ 

As you can see, the experiences that my friends had was very variable, and that remains the case today.  In a 2015 survey of over 2,500 children and young people by the Sex Education Forum, only 36% of them rated their sex education as good or very good, with 42% saying it was ok and 22% saying it was bad or very bad. 

I'd love to hear what your experiences of Sex Education were - please let me know in the comments. 

 

 

 

*any link with an asterisk denotes an affiliate link - if you buy anything after clicking on those links then you are helping to support this blog, at no cost to yourself.

My Journey to Sex Education

At the end of 2016, after 16 years in the NHS, and facing burnout, I resigned from my job as a Genitourinary Medicine Consultant.  I wanted to find a job that I enjoyed which would also allow me more time to spend with my children.  One of the aspects of my medical career that I had found the most rewarding was teaching, and I have always been passionate about how important accurate and non-judgemental sex education is for young people, particularly as many of the young people that I saw in clinic were only there through lack of adequate sex education.  

Around the time that I was planning my career change my son started to show the first signs of going through puberty, and also had some formal sex education at school.  I bought him a book (What's Happening to Me?*) to help him understand what was happening to his body, and spoke to some of my friends with similar-aged children about how they were addressing the subject. 

I was shocked to discover that many of my friends were not answering all of their children's questions about sex, and that many of them were relying on the school to deliver any information that their children needed.  I have always had one simple rule at home (to answer any question that a child asks me, using age appropriate language) which meant that my son had learned about sperm and eggs, pregnancy, periods, IVF, donor conception and much much more by the time he started formal sex education at school.  I suppose that I had always thought that other people did the same, but it turns out that when sex is involved they really don't.  

All of this led me to embark on a new career as a Sex Education Trainer.  I am able to use my expertise as a Sexual Health and HIV doctor, my love for teaching, and my enthusiasm for ensuring that children are taught the right things about sex at school, to train teachers how to deliver sex education confidently.   I have the expertise and specialist knowledge to able to answer any question from a teacher about sex, sexual health and contraception and I have years of experience of teaching other professionals from my time in the NHS.  

IMG_3697

I am enjoying my new career more than I thought possible, and I am particularly pleased that I am able to use the knowledge and skills gained from my time in the NHS to help teachers to deliver such important teaching to young people.  

If you would like to commission some training from me, please contact me

 

*any link with an asterisk denotes an affiliate link - if you buy anything after clicking on those links then you are helping to support this blog, at no cost to yourself.