Pamela Sheridan award winner 2013

Croydon cuts it

Croydon's Teenage Pregnancy and Sexual Health Outreach Team is the 2013 winner of the Pamela Sheridan young people sexual health service / project. The Sex Education Forum heard from the Croydon team at our summer members event and quickly understood  what makes their work so complete.

Since the launch of the national teenage pregnancy strategy (2000 - 2010) Croydon has achieved a big reduction in its under-18 conception rate with a drop of 44.5% from the 1998 baseline.  The statistics for quarter 3 of 2011 show Croydon achieving a 50% reduction from the baseline. Croydon has a diverse, large and growing population - and is the second largest borough in London.

Croydon's sexual health service strategy is like a very good cake, made up of generously sized slices contributing to the whole. The priorities are:

  • Providing a  comprehensive quality sex and relationship education (SRE)
  • Accessible sexual health services offering a wide range of contraception choices
  • Targeted provision to at risk groups
  • Training local workforce
  • Targeted local campaigns

Croydon Council Healthy Schools Team has worked over many years to develop a primary school SRE curriculum and to work strategically to ensure this is adopted by a large proportion of local schools. The Teenage Pregnancy and Sexual Health Outreach Team focuses on SRE for the secondary school age-group and in particular targets provision to at risk groups. The SRE work complements the accessible sexual health service provision which the team themselves run in FE colleges and outreach settings. The team members have a vital mix of social work, nursing and health promotion backgrounds enabling them to seamlessly connect the one-to-one, clinical and group work elements of their offer.

Sexual Health Outreach Worker Chris Thompson says:  "The relationship with young people is key. As well as delivering our holistic 6-week SRE programme, we put ourselves in places that young people go, from school assemblies or colleges  to shopping centres and parks. We go out of our way to be visible. This helps build up trust and provides continuity  because it links up the clinical and outreach work". 

Nurse Katie Greenaway, says: "We have set up and now run 6 outreach clinics for young people in various venues across the borough. These are easily accessible and open at times that suit young people. Young people feedback that they appreciate seeing the same nurse each time they visit the clinic and respond well to the tailoured, individual approach such as text message reminders."

The Teenage Pregnancy and Sexual Health Outreach Team has developed a strong ethos for all their work, which involves being sex positive and focusing on health, not illness. They also have a zero tolerance policy on discriminatory remarks including homophobia. This is explained in SRE through use of ground rules. Chris says "There have been times when we had to remind pupils of the ground rules and ask them to leave the class if they can't uphold them. The other thing we are clear about is avoiding the kind of class room banter that can embarrass young people". 

Importantly, team members are not afraid of addressing potentially difficult issues such as pornography and sexting, and feel confident to engage young people in constructive dialogue about these issues that they know are important to them. At every step of the way, the team considers what the barriers to good sexual health are for young people and how they can remove them. As a result, attention is paid to details like telling young people which bus they need to use to travel from their home to a sexual health service.

Training is central to the team's strategy to building a competent local workforce that can share their ethos and extend their work to other settings. The team offer ten courses for local professionals throughout the year as well an annual seminar. The calendar of training events includes:

  • Supporting Young People in Delaying Early Sex
  • Young People, Sex & Pleasure - Being Sex Positive
  • Basic Introduction to Safeguarding & Sexual Health
  • Pornography:  Influences on Young People's Sexual Health & Relationships
  • Contraception and STI Overview
  • Alcohol, Sexual Health and Young People
  • Supporting Pregnant Teenagers and Young Parents
  • Self Esteem, Young People and Sexual Health
  • Sex Talk: It's Easy - Introduction to SRE
  • C-Card Distribution Scheme

 Participants in training events also get follow up support and the opportunity to become an 'SRE champion'.  Those volunteering to be a champion receive on-going support from the team and are encouraged to be advocates helping to get SRE and young people's sexual health needs understood by new audiences and on the agenda in their workplace.  The team also produces a quarterly newsletter keeping the local workforce up to date on local developments.

The team's SRE Training and Development specialist Kerry Addison says "We are lucky to have a committed local workforce who is enthusiastic about keeping SRE and sexual health a priority in Croydon.  It's great to see so many new faces interested in these areas year on year, as well as longstanding colleagues returning for updates. Winning this award was a fantastic experience and we are hugely grateful for the recognition of the work that goes on in Croydon."


For further information contact:

Chris Thompson
Twitter: @CroySexHealth


Published by the Sex Education Forum, July 2013.