Meeting the SRE Needs of Asian Young People in Nottingham

Nottingham is a multi-cultural city with a large Asian community. The Nottingham Healthy Schools Team includes an Asian SRE Advisor. This role was set up to meet the needs of Asian children and young people, families and communities in relation to sex and relationships education (SRE). The Asian SRE Advisor is currently supporting schools and the community in the following ways:

  • Consulting Asian young people about their views and experience of SRE
  • Training for teachers and school staff on faith and culture and the implications for SRE
  • Providing a faith-based narrative on SRE resources and helping to identify suitable resources
  • Advising schools on development of SRE policy and practice that is inclusive and sensitive to culture and faith
  • Supporting parent consultation events organized by schools
  • Providing information about SRE in a variety of languages
  • Working with youth workers and addressing their training needs
  • Involving local faith leaders

This case-study describes one element of the Asian SRE Advisor's work; a consultation with Asian young people in Nottingham about their views on SRE.

How the consultation was carried out
More understanding about the SRE needs of young Asian people was sought. Initially consultation was trialled using focus groups led by youth workers in community settings. However some workers were uneasy about running the focus groups on a culturally sensitive issue and the few young people that wanted to take part in the groups were all male. Instead, an anonymous questionnaire was designed in consultation with youth services, Asian community workers and Connexions. This was sent out via Connexions to Asian secondary school pupils across Nottingham City. 

157 young people responded to the questionnaire and represented at least 10 secondary schools in the city. There was an even split between males and females responding (48% and 52% respectively) and 77% identified as being Muslim, 10% as Sikh, 9% as Hindu, 3% no religion and 1% as Christian. Participants were also asked to identify their ethnic origin as Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi or other. This question was included so that the dual influence of faith and culture could be considered. 

What young people said
The survey asked young people if they had ever been spoken to by their parents about sex. The majority had not. In contrast the majority (80%) had received some SRE at school. The questionnaire then explored the range of topics covered in school SRE. The more biological topics such as puberty and HIV/AIDS were ranked as most likely to have been covered. Topics relating to culture, attitudes and values were least likely to have been covered including homophobic bullying, domestic violence, arranged/forced marriages and gender stereotypes. Young people were asked which topics they would like to be covered in SRE; cultural differences ranked highest, followed by arranged/forced marriages.

Young people were asked if any topics had been presented from a faith-perspective in SRE; 70% answered no.  And yet 64% of young people said they would like the faith-perspective to be included. Young people were asked which, if any, SRE sessions they would like delivered in single-sex groups. 16% of males and 46% of females wanted some sessions delivered single-sex.

What next...
The questionnaire findings were written up as a report with questions for discussion flagged up throughout. In this way the report avoids making closed conclusions or assumptions from the questionnaire data and instead invites dialogue with a wide range of partners including parents, youth workers, school staff and community members.  The final section of the report listing discussion points is reproduced below.

Points for discussion
When considering the process of consultation:
What alternative methods can we use to ensure that consultations are fairly represented?

When considering the influence of Ethnic Origin:
What ideas and belief systems may have been brought over from the South Asian sub continent and how can we challenge and/or infuse these belief systems/cultural practices within a planned programme of SRE?

When considering the role of parents:
 - Why is it important for parents to be able to discuss SRE with their children?
 - Why aren't Asian parents talking to their children?
 - What support can be offered to parents to develop the skills, knowledge and attitude for effective communication to take place?
 - What responsibility do parents have to discuss SRE with their children?

When considering those young people who have not had any SRE:
Do we know if the young people would like to take part in SRE?
 - What alternative provisions could be put into place?

When considering the topics that are covered in SRE:
What place do topics such as Domestic Violence and Arranged/Forced Marriages have in SRE?
 - How can we use SRE to empower our young people and ensure that they understand their rights?
 - How can we ensure that our young people can access both information and support that is in place to support them?
 - What training needs to be offered to professionals to be able to recognise victim of DV and Forced Marriages?
 - If these topics are not covered within the schools' SRE curriculum how can we ensure that our young people are receiving this information?
 - Who is responsible for ensuring that young people understand that DV and Forced Marriage are illegal and unacceptable within the faiths of Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism?

When considering the lack of faith perspective in schools' SRE programmes:
Who should provide this information?
 - Why are so few schools presenting SRE from a faith perspective? 

The topics of Cultural Difference, Arranged/Forced Marriages and The Law and Sexual Behaviour were identified as subjects that young people would like covered in their SRE:
Who has a responsibility to ensure that these needs are being met?
 - What additional training/resources do staff members need to be able to deliver these sessions?
 - How should these sessions be incorporated into schools/youth work?
 - What additional consultation needs to take place to ensure that sessions delivered are appropriate to the pupils' needs?

105 of the pupils questioned wanted to discuss faith when discussing sex and relationships:
How can schools work with local religious organisations and The Healthy Schools Team to ensure that the information they are delivering is appropriate?

When considering who young people want to deliver their SRE:
 - What responsibility do local religious/Asian Youth organisations have to fill these needs and how can this be met?
 - How can we ensure that the schools, youth workers and religious leaders are fulfilling young peoples' expectations of them?
 - How can these people/ organizations work together effectively
 - What support will be needed
 - What are the benefits for multi agency/group working? 
 - What are the barriers? How can we overcome these?

The report was sent to all of secondary schools involved to inform their SRE provision. It was also shared with Imams to inform them of the need for religious perspectives to be included in SRE.  Findings from the report also lead to the Asian SRE advisor writing a set of SRE lessons from an Islamic perspective on the topics of Islam and Cultural Differences, Islam and Forced Marriages and Islam Sex and the Law.  These lesson plans are available to secondary school teachers. As a result of the report the youth service has identified the need for staff working with young Asian people to be trained about SRE from a faith, legal and health perspective.

Key learning / success factors

  • Having a specialist Asian SRE advisor has meant there is a dedicated resource able to take forward consultation with young people and to share findings with families, schools and community leaders
  • Trial and error led to finding a suitable method for young people to get involved in consultation; in this case an anonymous survey proved more effective than focus groups
  • Data from the questionnaire with young people has been used to create a set of open questions that can be used to stimulate wider dialogue
  • Both cultural and faith perspectives were acknowledged throughout the process
  • As a result of the report SRE teaching materials have been developed tailored to the needs of young Asian people

For more information contact:

Navkiran Nahal
Asian SRE Specialist
Nottingham Healthy Schools wesite