Pupils would rather learn about the birds and the bees from older students than patronising teachers. Joe Clancy reports.
Sixth-formers are better at sex than teachers, a five-year study has found. Teaching it, that is.
Far more students felt that sex education was engaging and useful when taught by fellow pupils, according to research for the Medical Research Council.
The council paid to train Year 12 volunteers in 13 mixed comprehensives in southern England to take sex and relationship education.
Pupils taught by the sixth-formers said their lessons were more fun and less censorious.
Students who received peer-led talks said they preferred the activity-based approach employed, "like the lesson where you put the condom on the cucumber".
Simon Forrest, of the Sex Education Forum, who directed the study, said:
"The Year 9s generally thought the adult world was judging them negatively. With a peer educator, there was none of the perceived moralising."
They found teachers patronising and disrespectful and thought that they promoted sexual abstinence until marriage, showing disapproval of sex outside loving relationships. They cited teachers' stress on the risks of contracting sexually-transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies as proof that teachers wanted to deter them from having sex.
Peer educators were perceived to promote "being careful" over abstinence, and had greater empathy with them and greater knowledge of the subject.
Of the 13 schools piloted, 12 are continuing with peer-led SRE in some form, Mr Forrest said, and many sixth-formers had become so highly motivated they continued their work in youth groups.
"A Comparison of Students' Evaluations of a Peer-delivered Sex Education Programme and Teacher-led Provision" in the journal "Sex Education", published by the Taylor and Francis Group