Right way on sexual health

28th June 2013 at 01:00

As chair of Glasgow's Young People's Sexual Health Steering Group, I must welcome the report on teenage pregnancy from the Scottish Parliament's Health and Sport Committee.

To put it bluntly, the MSPs' findings fully vindicate the approach Glasgow has been taking since Glasgow City Council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde formed our steering group in 2004. Our services have been transformed as a result and would now provide an excellent reference point for anyone expected to devise the national strategy called for by the parliamentary committee.

Our Sexual Health and Relationships Education curriculum has been completely redrawn and is now delivered by trained teachers to all P1 to S6 children in non-denominational schools in Glasgow; the support service Talk 2 has been established to help parents to discuss sensitive sexual and relationship issues with their children; the Young Parents' Support Base was set up to encourage teenage mums to remain in education; a specialist midwife was appointed to support young pregnant women; and an extensive training programme has been developed for residential staff and foster carers.

Making it easier for parents and children to talk to each other is a key part of our programme. This helps to build bonds between parents and their children. It also helps to identify potentially harmful behaviour and encourages young people to delay sexual activity until they are physically and emotionally ready.

People get alarmed about what is "age appropriate", but we have found that you can begin the discussion about sexual health and relationships with primary pupils without any difficulty. Talking about such things as the proper names for body parts, feelings, special relationships in a child's life, how living things grow, family life or respect for individuals is not in any way controversial. But these form the building blocks for later conversations and make it easier to tackle more sensitive and personal subjects.

What we have in Glasgow is the right way to go and we are quite happy for others to come to this city to learn from our experience.

Councillor James Coleman, Chair, Young People's Sexual Health Steering Group, Glasgow.

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