South Thames College: Embedding Sexual Health in the Curriculum

The idea for a 'teenage sexual health' project emerged organically. Tutor Nicola Kench explains that a young woman in her tutor group was talking about the slang words used for women; words like 'slag', 'bitch' and 'ho'.

Responding to the groups' eagerness to talk further about gender, sex and relationships, Nicola designed a Key Skills Level 2 assignment in Communications called 'teenage sexual health'.  

The assignment required that learners 'investigate an STI, and examine the social and emotional consequences of different attitudes to sexuality'. A variety of activities ensured that communication skills were developed through:

  • Researching
  • Summarising
  • Writing original documents
  • Participating in group discussion
  • Presenting a short talk

The project was so popular with the group that Nicola piloted it with a further 3 groups. Nicola explains that young people often fail to see the point of Key Skills, but the topic of teenage sexual health was something relevant and engaging, it generated a sense of synergy between the topic, participants and purpose.

Young people evaluated the project very highly:"It opens our eyes - especially at our age. You would think that the majority of us would know about sexual health and STIs, but if you take the time to go into it - you actually know that we don't know about these things - most of us didn't have no sex education in school - I didn't - I didn't even find out about periods. It was kind of scary to know that these things happen"   (Female project participant, aged 18)

Pastoral Support and Enrichment Manager Andrew Beardall cites the contextualization of sexual health within the curriculum as a key to success.

Graphic design students were commissioned by the local PCT to design social marketing materials that would promote sexual health. Young people sat on the judging panel, and the winning poster design was of such quality that it has been used across Wandsworth PCT and beyond. 

The ethos of young people's active participation is evident in several locations in the college. Youth worker Labake Fadayomi is employed full-time by the college to help engage young people, which may include those at risk of skipping classes or dropping out of college for personal reasons.

Labake distributes condoms from her office. Some brands of condoms are more popular than others, so Labake buys in condoms in response to young people's requests. In the words of a student: "If you have any problem - just go to Labake and she will listen to you".

Contact: Andrew Beardall,
E-mail: andrew.beardall@south-thames.ac.uk

Presentation delivered at Sex Education Forum conference on FE and sexual health services, March 2008: 
Involving Young People - Wandsworth PCT and South Thames College