Let’s talk about sex…… education

Let’s talk about sex… education. Catchy title, but in reality we talk about this subject as RSE, which is relationships and sex education. The emphasis on relations is an important factor.

Young people, parents and carers in Cornwall are being asked for their views on sex education as part of a new partnership aimed at promoting healthy relationships and sexual health.

Building on the success of the latest decline in teenage pregnancy rates by more than a half, Cornwall Council’s Public Health and Health Promotion Service teams have joined forces with Brook and the RCHT Sexual Health Hub to launch TALK RSH (relationships and sexual health).

To help the group develop its social media work and resources available, people are being asked to take part in one of two online surveys – one aimed at young people, the other at parents and carers.

The surveys are available at www.cornwall.gov.uk/TALKRSH. Please share and complete the survey by the 16th July.

The surveys will be used to develop TALK RSH social media work with young people and resources and information for parents and carers later this year.

Timely and accessible information on relationships and sexual health is vital in improving the wellbeing and sexual health of people in Cornwall, explained Louise Sweeney from Cornwall Council Public Health.

Over the last few years there has been a tremendous amount of work being done in Cornwall to help improve sexual health. As a result we In Cornwall have seen our rates of teenage pregnancy decline, which is really good news. But we know that there is more to do and the TALK RSH group, made up of different agencies and organisations has put a plan in place to help ensure we can effectively give the people of Cornwall the messages around relationships and sexual health.”

As a large rural county it is vital people get the information they need to make informed, healthy choices around their sexual health and can access services when they need them. We are keen to hear from young people and their parents and carers to ensure we support them in the best way possible.”

In one if its first pieces of work, TALK RSH  – which I am a member of – wants to hear from young people and parents and carers.

The facts are young people aged 16-24 are most affected by poor sexual health and sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia. Those involved with the programme want to be able to engage with young people through social media to ensure they receive up-to–date, consistent information about relationships and sex education, in addition to what they learn at school.

Young people in Cornwall also told us they wanted to be able to speak to their parents and carers about relationships and sex, but national research tells us that parents and carers can sometimes find these conversations difficult, especially if their own sex education was patchy

We are also keen that they know where they can access trusted information online when they need it. To do this we are asking young people to complete a survey on how they would like to engage with us on social media, which we will be available online and through schools and young people’s projects.”

It is important to find out how parents and carers in Cornwall feel about this and to make sure they know where they can get information and support locally. We’ll be sending out a parents and carers survey alongside the young people’s survey and would love to hear back from as many parents and carers as possible.

This is an important topic that affects our young people, I know that relationships and sex education helps to reduce teenage pregnancy, and gives young people the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe, but there is still a lot of misinformation, myth and fear out there on these topics.

We know we can make a difference on this, but it’s vital we hear from you to help us inform TALK’s work, so please get involved and take part in the surveys.

For me it is great to work alongside individuals who care about this subject, and who want both parents, carers and young people to have the correct and up to date information available.

Cornwall’s Teenage Conception Rates Drop – Again

Today the ONS released the annual conception data for 2013, this data includes under 18 and under 16 conception data. It is good news for Cornwall. I know this may seem ‘old’ data but this is the latest data available.

For Cornwall, the conception rate for under 18’s was 21.3 per 1000 women, down from 26.1 per 1000 women in 2012. The great news is this was a decrease of 17.8% in the number of conceptions from 242 to 199 in a twelve month period and a 41.6% decrease since the baseline was set in 1998. Furthermore, the conception rate for under 16’s was 3.9 per 1000 women, a decrease of 15% in the last 12 months from 4.6 in 2012. This means the  data for 2013 has seen the largest percentage decrease in one year for Cornwall since 1998. It is important to continue this momentum or we could see ourselves having increase of teenage conception rates.

Teenage Conception Rates 1998 till 2012

Teenage Conception Rates 1998 till 2012

The reason Cornwall has been successful in reducing the number of teenage pregnancies is down to contraception and condoms though the improved access and support to getting condoms though the C-Card Scheme. Education which provides accurate, high-quality and timely information that helps people to make informed decisions about relationships, sex and sexual health. Early intervention supporting is another key factor as is supporting young people to reducing teenage conceptions. There are many exciting pieces of work being delivered and planned in reducing teenage pregnancy and supporting young parents, and as our environment changes.

Cornwall’s rate is edging closer to the average rate for the Southwest region 21.2/1000 for 2013 and 24.8/1000 for 2012 and has increased the gap in a positive way between Cornwall and the National Average. The National Average currently stands a 24.5/1000 for 2013 and 27.9/1000 for 2012. Cornwall has also exceeded both in terms of achieved percentage change since the 1998 baseline.

It is important to note that data can fluctuate but we can feel positive about this downward trend, so we must still do all we can to reduce the rates. The full data can be accessed here ONS Conception Statistics, England and Wales – 2013. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/vsob1/conception-statistics–england-and-wales/index.html


Kernow King’s Sex Tape a finalist in the UK Sexual Health Awards

A film produced by Health Promotion Service at Cornwall Council and starring Cornish comedian, Kernow King has been shortlisted for a national award at the UK Sexual Health Awards. The award in which the film has been shortlisted for is the Pamela Sheridan Award, which recognises pioneering approaches to relationships, sex and wellbeing education. The film was short listed because the awards panel liked the innovative approach to exploring issues with young people and use of humour to make the resource more accessible.

I am really proud of the work by the team behind the film, Matt and Emma, the star, Kernow King and all those who gave up their time to produce this outstanding educational film. It is excellent that the Kernow King’s sex tape and resource has been shortlisted against tough competition. I believe the resource is so strong because of the involvement of Cornwall’s young people, strong partnership, commitment and drive from Health Promotion Service, Cornwall College and Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust Sexual Health Hub, of course, the involvement of the Kernow King himself. Relationships and Sex Education is incredibly important and this resource is another step in ensuring young people are getting the information they need to stay safe and healthy, in a fun, innovative and engaging way.

The reason behind the film is young people are disproportionately affected by poor sexual health. In Cornwall 16-24 year olds account for 67% of chlamydia diagnosis. This film helps to show getting tested is not the horror story that often does the rounds, but shows why if in doubt, you should get tested and take more precautions. Furthermore, young people aged 16-24 are more likely to sexually active than their younger teenage peers, therefore increasing their risk of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. A gap emerged within Relationship, Sex Education (RSE) for this age group with the majority of provision delivered within schools and few available resources to be used in a Further Education environment and was another reason for the commissioning of the Kernow King film.

The Launch of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video

The Launch of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video

So how did this film come into being? it all started with four young people’s focus groups were held and involved; Young Mums Will Achieve, Brook Young Fathers Project and two groups of NEET young people. As a result of young people’s feedback more traditional teaching methods, such as lectures were discounted. It was clear that a peer led, fun, interactive resource needed to be developed. With this in mind story boards were created starring the ‘Kernow King’, local celebrity and comedian, and Cornwall College students. It was decided that the story would be retrospective of ‘Kernow Kings’ College years and would be filmed at the local Cornwall College campus. It would involve college students acting with him and his ‘love interest’ that was of similar age to him.

The film centres around Kernow King asking the audience (young people) what they would do in certain scenarios. In the film Kernow King also makes sweeping statements to prompt group discussion. It is not all about the film, as there is also resource material to support the video was also developed to help and guide lecturers and other professionals working with young people.

The video and resource of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video was launched in Cornwall on July 2014, at Cornwall College Camborne. The launch involved all the students that were part of the focus groups and students that acted in the video, were involved in its development and production. I was very proud to be part of the celebration and helping to raise the case for better RSE for our young people!

For more information on the Health Promotion Service:www.healthpromcornwall.org and SHAC www.cornwallshac.org.uk


The Launch of Kernow King’s Sex Education Video

As I said in my earlier blog this morning, today was the launch of Cornwall’s sexual health video. This took place at the Union Building at the Cornwall College Camborne campus. Those gathered included students, professionals from the various organisations involved with the project, and some media (thanks Heart FM for turning up, and Pirate FM and BBC Radio Cornwall for running the story).

 Those gathered were shown the full 20 minute film, and handed the educational material that goes with this film. It is important to say this is a two-part programme with the film and then the training material for the actual discussion with the young people.



The training material that goes with the film

I would say this, but the launch of the film was a great success with laughter coming from the assembled crowd.  More importantly, the message the film was trying to deliver came through in a clear, informative, and in a humorous way. Everyone gathered loved the film, especially the students who this filmed is aimed at. The film does not try to lecture; it plays out a scenario that most young people could face. And as the scenario plays out, the film gives clear information on what a young person can do if they are at all worried about sexual health.

Those involved with the making of the film, and those who are supporting this film, should be very proud of the joint working and excellent educational material that has been produced. I am looking forward to seeing more groundbreaking ways of delivering information on RSE in Cornwall.

Lastly (I am always willing to laugh at myself  which is why I am including this in the blog) I made a comment on taking one of the ‘lollipops’ for ‘the Boy’. These lollipops were scattered on the table amongst pens, information material and small sweets. However, the lollipops turned out to be condoms-on-a-stick. It might have been ok if I said this comment to myself, but I said it in front of everyone, including Kernow King. Who then went on to tweet it with the picture below with much merriment from those gathered. For information ‘the Boy’ is my son and he’s 11.

Kernow King (@Kernow_King)
25/06/2014 16:59Premier of the kk sex tape made by @themotionfarm Highlight was @CllrAWallis picking up a “lollipop” for his son! pic.twitter.com/wH3VWjPswg
Me and the 'lollypop'

Me and the ‘lollipop’

Let’s Talk about Relationships, Sex and Sexual Health

Today at the Cornwall College Union Building, a partnership between Cornwall Council (Health Promotion Service), RCHT’s Sexual Health Services and Cornwall College launch a ground breaking interactive film that uses humour to get young people talking about sexual health. This film stars the comedian Kernow King, who has used his own comic talents to deliver this important message on sexual health. The film is targeted at those aged 15 years and over, and the film will be used in schools and further education colleges across Cornwall. This film is also the first of its kind to be launched in England. Sex education

Sex maybe a hot topic for young people, but discussing safe sex is not always high on the agenda. This why this film delivers the right information and brings the subject of sexual health to the forefront of their thoughts, but without scaring young people about sexual health. It is important for young people to remain healthy and informed and to know that there is plenty of support available to them if they need it.  And that support is not terrifying.

This film has been commissioned because the young people tell us there was very little relationship and sexual education available to them. They also have fears and barriers accessing what they see as intrusive sexual health testing services and wanted a current, informative and a fun approach to Relationship and Sexual Health (RSE).

There are so many myths and rumours surrounding sex and sexual health. This is why it is critical young people receive the right and most up to date information. I believe this new resource with make a real difference to our young people’s lives. Not only will it help them to be healthier, it will also encourage them to have the kind of conversations that really matter.

The popular myth is young people are having sex earlier. Data shows this is not the case. National data published in the Lancet gives good solid data with regards to sexual lifestyles and attitudes of our young people.  This is called NATSAL. It shows that two-thirds of young people don’t have sex until at least 16  and that there was no significant change between NATSAL 2000 and NATSAL 2010. The average age of first sex for those aged 16-24 now is 16 years. For Cornwall,  the average age of having sex for the first time is 16 for young women and is 17 years for young men.

It is important to say it is not all about sex, as a big part of this subject is about relationships. Hence why the whole subject is called Relationship and Sexual Education. I feel it is important we equip our young people with the right information as they progress into adulthood. For far too long, the issue of RSE has been stuck on the fringes of education, when in fact it should be amongst the core subjects in our education system. I am heartened that so many bodies and organisations want RSE to be a core subject. Yet, the Government remains blinkered to what young people want.

I will however in my role as portfolio holder for children and young people continue to champion this subject by working with those organisations who see the importance of good RSE. It is also important to debunk the many myths and misunderstandings surrounding RSE.

Sex education 2

The good news is the message on good sexual health is getting through. As the latest figures showing cases of Chlamydia reduced by 15% last year. In Cornwall, the average rate of teenage pregnancies (under 18) has fell from 30.6 per 1000 in March 2012 to 26.2 per 1000 in March 2014. This shows by giving our young people the right information, we can continue to reduce STD’s and teenage pregnancies in Cornwall. However, we must do more.

I am grateful to Kernow King for giving his support and time to this important subject. I am also grateful to the different organisation and Motion Farm, the film makers, for working together to produce this excellent film. Special thanks to Emma and Matt who did much of the hard work putting this film together and the lesson which goes with this film. Well done indeed.

Cornwall Council launches ‘traffic light’ tool for positive relationships and healthy sexual development

Cornwall has always been an area of innovation and doing things first, so it is hardly surprising when Cornwall Council  becomes the first local authority in the country to formally adopt a new “traffic light tool” designed to help children and young people to adopt positive relationships and healthy sexual development.


Me giving my support to the tool, and how it is important to have good RSE in Cornwall.

Brook’s Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool, adapted with permission from Family Planning Queensland (2012), with initial funding from the Department of Education, uses a “traffic light” approach to help practitioners working with children and young people distinguish healthy sexual development from potentially harmful behaviours. 

The tool,  formally launched today at a special conference funded by the Council and held at Truro’s Health and Wellbeing Innovation Centre, uses “green” to reflect healthy development; “amber” to identify a behaviour outside healthy sexual behaviour and “ red” to highlight a cause for immediate concern. With very little guidance currently available for professionals, the development of the Sexual Behaviours Traffic Light Tool has been warmly welcomed by both national and local agencies and professional bodies working with vulnerable children and young people.

It is a real pleasure to work alongside Brook.  As Brook helps young people to make informed, active choices about their personal and sexual relationships so they can enjoy their sexuality without harm. They are just one of the organisation in Cornwall who work together to give better advice and guidance to our young people. The CEO of Brook, Simon Blake has blogged HERE

A short film made by young people talking about relationships, sexual health and sex is HERE

I am struck by people’s willingness to talk about the weather – to the point it is a national obsession; but relationships, sexual heath and sex are for many still taboo subjects – only to be spoken in hushed voices.  We have a culture in which we don’t talk about growing up, relationships and sexual health , sex gets swept under the carpet; teenage pregnancies and STIs rise and sexual assaults go unreported.

Young people are telling us loud and clear that they want to hear more from us about growing up, healthy relationships and positive sexual health. This is not just from professionals, but more importantly from their parents. Peer research undertaken in 2013 found young people in Cornwall wanted more information on services, relationships, resisting pressure and how to say no. 

If we don’t talk to our children and young people about relationships and sex they will go looking for this information else where, potentially from inaccurate, distorted and indeed harmful sources.

It is a myth our young people do not want to talk to their parents, but we have to make sure parents have the right information with the ability to ask questions themselves. As we know that children whose parents are comfortable talking to them about relationships and sexual health are less likely to participate in risky sexual behaviour. So our work should not end with proactively supporting children, we should be proactively supporting parents and carers to play this vital role in their children’s development.

Simon Blake - CEO of Brook; Felicity Owens - Director of Public Health, Lex- Teenage pregnacy co-ordinator; Me; young people and Ed and Trudi from Brook and Kate from Children's Services.

Simon Blake – CEO of Brook; Felicity Owens – Director of Public Health, Lex- Teenage pregnancy co-ordinator; (Me); young people Trudi and Ed from Brook and Kate (2nd right) from Children’s Services.

Evidence tells us that good relationship and sex education from a range of sources is a protective factor against unplanned pregnancy and STIs. Lets also dispel the common myth of young people ‘all at it.’ This is not true, as the age at which people first have sex in the UK is 16 (and above)years old. This figure has changed very little over the past decade (NATSAL 2013).

Embedding positive relationships and sexual health into our understanding of wellbeing for children and young people is vital for their happiness both now and in the future.  By Implementing this tool across Cornwall will give practitioners the skills and resources they need to support our children and young people’s healthy development as well as to respond effectively to risks.

It is our collective responsibility to make sure all children and young people develop the skills and knowledge to make positive choices now and in the future.  This is why the Brook Traffic Light System is so important to help identify risky behaviour early, and not demonize those perfectly normal actions of our young people.

The young people today are not only the adults of the future but the parents of the future.

Further information on Brook can be found HERE.

Brook services provide free and confidential sexual health information, contraception, pregnancy testing, advice and counselling, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and outreach and education work, reaching over 280,000 young people every year.  www.brook.org.uk. Ask Brook helpline 0808 802 1234.

The Brook Bitesize programme dealing with relationships and sex

This week I attended and took part in the Brook Bitesize Outreach programme at Hayle School. What is the Bitesize programme? The answer is it delivers Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) sessions in formal and informal settings.

This programme covers many subjects that explores relationships and sexuality in a way that encourages young people to examine their own attitudes and values on the subject. It aims to help young people to interpret the range of messages (and myths) they receive and provides them with reliable, factual information, giving them the knowledge and the skills required to negotiate positive relationships and to enjoy good physical and emotional health as a result.

I found this programme to be fantastically delivered and more importantly, in a way that engaged the Year 11 students who were taking part in the programme. The programme covered the use of condoms and how to use them correctly; STDs and the impact on not being safe, or if you have an STD making sure you receive the right treatment; the use of alcohol; and the correct usage of words and expressions that have all too often been used negatively.

The last 45 minutes of the programme was given over to questions. These were asked anonymously, but tackled all subjects. And I mean all subjects. It was great to hear these questions being asked and answered in a very positive and to the point manner. It certainly gave me confidence in the right information being given to these students. 

By having programmes giving good and up to date Relationship and Sex Education – like the Brook programme –  we can make sure our  young adults have the right and up-to-date information that allows them to make informed choices. Which is something as a parent and Lead Member for Children and Young People I totally endorse.