East Sussex Safe Around Sex (SAS) Project

The Safe Around Sex Project, formerly known as the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Project, (TP3) has been running across East Sussex since 2000, contributing to government initiatives to tackle high rates of unintended teenage pregnancy.

The project provides additional input to students who need extra support beyond the usual sex and relationships education (SRE) lessons. It builds on ongoing training and consultancy work in secondary schools and special schools by PSHEe & Healthy Schools consultants in the Pupil Well-being and Vulnerable Groups team and is managed by a part-time East Sussex project coordinator, who is part of that team.

Since it began, it has expanded from working in four secondary schools to all twenty-seven, plus all three Pupil Referral Units (PRU's) and four secondary special schools in both Primary Care Trust areas. It now also works in five residential units with looked after children, aiming to target some of the most vulnerable young people. To date it has worked with around 2,500 young people in total.

The project uses innovative ways of doing group work with targeted vulnerable young people in school time, as an additional enrichment to their school SRE. It is run in an informal setting, exploring more detailed, more explicit SRE activities than in lessons, including self-esteem, aspirations, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, understanding their bodies, good and bad relationships and exploring the 'delay' message around sexual activity. The groups are encouraged to incorporate a visit to or from a local sexual health or contraception provider.

Each group undertakes an evaluation of the programme at the end of the process and there is a more formal focus group review carried out by the lead for SAS annually.

The programme is mainly delivered to groups of about eight to ten year 10 students (though sometimes year 9 or 11)  in single gender groups, through either six  one hour sessions in school time, three two hour sessions, a whole day or two half days, depending on the way the school wishes to run it. Students are chosen by the schools, and both girls and boys are selected from those considered to be most vulnerable to the risk of becoming teenage parents. An additional reunion session has been added to the programme in the year following the group work to check the students' knowledge, access to services and whether they need additional support. Extra 1:1 support may be offered afterwards to students who may need it.  It was decided to work in single gender groups because this is what the young people themselves had requested, and it works very well as it allows the participants more opportunity to explore difficult issues in-depth.

The small group work is run by skilled group workers such as Connexions P.A.s, school nurses, youth workers or teaching assistants or occasionally by a teacher (especially in the special schools and PRUs). It is preferable that at least one of the workers involved has a longer-term role in the school to make the project more sustainable and give students someone to refer to once the group has ended. Group workers receive a course guidance manual (June 08) new additional materials (February 2010) and new guidance on student selection and follow up. They also get a toolkit of resources including condoms, demonstrators, contraceptive kits, leaflets and session ideas. The leaflets and condoms are replaced when needed by the project coordinator.

There is an initial half-day training offered to new group workers, once a year. Workers are also invited to countywide networking sessions, twice a year, to update their knowledge and try out new activities. Workers are also strongly recommend to attend the East Sussex Tier 1 and 2 accredited training now available to all workers who deliver SRE with young people, (except teachers, who follow their own CPD programme).

Each school completes a Service Level Agreement form, which is an agreement to commit to delivering the group work and undertake other tasks such as young people and group worker evaluations.

Funding is mainly by Children's Services (from the same funding as the Teenage Pregnancy Re-integration Officer) and supplemented by teenage pregnancy local implementation funds and with administration/management support from the Pupil Well-being and Vulnerable Groups team in the Standards & Learning Effectiveness Service.

In terms of impact, students and group workers evaluate all the groups. The project also conducts focus groups with a selection of students every year. Student evaluation is overwhelmingly positive;

  • A frequent comment is 'we liked the condoms on blue willies' as this seemed useful for most of them, even if they had already done this in lessons.
  • Many students who had been shown graphic STI pictures were not keen on them and group workers have been advised of other more effective ways to cover this topic.
  • Other typical focus group comments included 'it made me more confident, knowing there are places around that can help. There are loads of places and it is helpful that there is one in this area' (from young women in a residential home)
  • 'We are more cautious about diseases. We would now know what to do if we had a problem. We didn't know about the sex clinic in town. It was well good [to visit it]' (from year 10 boys).

Schools have become more aware of the importance of this work and this can be seen in their continued involvement in the programme. Teenage pregnancy rates have gone down in the area. Teachers have also reported an improved attitude to school amongst those young people who participated in the programme.

For further information contact:

Sarah Hazlehurst
SAS coordinator/PSHE Consultant,
Pupil Wellbeing and Vulnerable Groups (5-19)
Standards & Learning Effectiveness Service
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Telephone via Jan Robinson; team administrator: 01323 466854
Email: Sarah.Hazlehurst@eastsussex.gov.uk