All Different, All Beautiful - Brook Wirral SRE Programme

As a result of Wirral's teenage pregnancy rates not decreasing, Brook Wirral decided to reflect on their work and identify gaps. After talking to staff and young people they realized that 90% of their education work was providing information (e.g. how to use a condom) but they did very little on skills development or confidence building. Young people reported they had the knowledge to be safe but not the skills or confidence to put it into practice.

Brook Wirral decided that working with less young people but for more time was more beneficial than doing thousands of one-off condom demonstrations. Their next challenge was to convince the commissioners and funders that this was the right approach to take. They believed that in order for programmes to make a positive impact on behavior change they needed time to build relationships with the young people and time for 'reflective practice'.

With this idea in mind Brook Wirral worked with young people and staff to develop a programme. Their approach was informed by models of experiential learning cycles, developmental group work and personal development. An accreditation was developed to support the theory that raising self confidence will lead to better aspirations which in turn will impact on sexual health.

The programme runs for 5 days, with a new theme each day. This includes diversity and relationships within the community; decision making and risk taking; gender, including impact on relationships; self esteem and confidence. Half a day is dedicated to sexual health.  Resources have been developed for each specific day including giant interactive board games that create discussions on each theme.

This programme has been delivered in a variety of settings, but has prioritised particularly vulnerable groups include looked after young people, those in hostels, NEET, and those at risk of exclusion. They work very closely with each agencies' key worker to identify the young people who will be part of the group. Sometimes they work with existing groups. Group size is small (maximum of 14 young people) and the young people are over the age of 13. Although they have worked with mixed groups they prefer to work with single sex groups to ensure the young people feel safe and comfortable to explore the topics within the programme. The following considerations help decide if a single sex group would be more useful:

1-     Are the young people vulnerable in relation to their sex / gender e.g. if they have experienced sexual violence or coercion, multiple pregnancies etc.

2-     Young age groups work better in single sex grouping to avoid embarrassment and encourage more openness

3-     The type of agency they have been referred from, e.g. if it is an existing group living in a hostel

In terms of impact each programme is evaluated to look at individual progress and also their satisfaction. Feedback is positive. In the longer term Brook Wirral are interested in 'transferred learning' and will follow-up with agencies to find out progress of individuals.  There has been some anecdotal evidence of better school attendance, improved relationships amongst young people, and Wirral has also had a drop in teenage pregnancy rates.

What surprised the worker was how de-motivated young people were, and how by just providing the time and space for them to talk and interact helped to bring their spark back. After the programme the participants were invited to join either a young women's, young men's or young LGBT evening sessions at the Brook centre. This provides valuable on-going support and helps them to become more familiar with Brook as a service. These sessions are a mix of youth-led and structured activities which are geared towards personal development, relationships change and sexual health.

The main learning from the programmes includes the importance of having a balance between information giving and skills development and confidence building. Facilitators need to be flexible and adapt the programme if necessary and allow the programme to evolve. The programme needs to be facilitated not prescribed and the facilitators need to have an understanding of group dynamics, the needs of young people, be supportive and not too quick to judge and have a desire to listen (not just talk).

All different, All beautiful is joint-winner of the FPA Pamela Sheridan Award for excellence in SRE, 2010.

For more information contact:
Kai Wooder,Education Manager, Brook Wirral, email kai@wirralbrook.org.uk

Contact Brook Wirral.