Sound advice on the awkward questions

15th September 1995 at 01:00
The Family Planning Association tackles teenage angst with an information-packed sex education video, writes Lesley de Meza.

You TV as a source of advice on growing up is bang up to date and takes account of recent legislative changes in sex education and national curriculum science.

The pack was developed by the Family Planning Association with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and looks at physical and emotional issues. Liz Swinden, a former teacher and health promotion specialist who wrote the comprehensive handbook, certainly has a handle on what teachers want. At first quite daunting, the handbook is thoughtful and well written, and carefully referenced to the national curriculum. Do take the time to read through it.

Some of the most positive work around sex education happens in informal settings. The book includes a small section on working in youth clubs or at home but more space could have been given to these important areas.

The activities section is well illustrated, though there is nothing particularly new, and it was extremely disappointing to find yet another "word search". More useful activities cover sexual health, getting pregnant, understanding sexually-transmitted diseases and finding out about relevant services. Helpful ideas are given for working with groups such as setting ground rules, confidentiality, answering questions.

The section on dealing with specific issues has to be read. Teachers are reassured that it is perfectly acceptable to teach about homosexuality in an objective way. Section 28 of the Local Government Act of 1988 does not apply to schools. However, when we came to the video, why no specific mention of lesbianism?

Suggestions are given for using the video with your class, underlining the importance of viewing before showing. The video begins with slick graphics, rave-type music and lots of zits, orthodontic braces, lank hair and teenage faces. From there it dovetails neatly on to penis size, breast size, erections and periods. It certainly caught my attention.

There are "interesting facts" for the anoraks in the audience. Did you know that there are around 300 million sperm, or one teaspoonful, in the average ejaculate? Correct terminology is used throughout, often backed up with excellent illustrations supported by the words printed on the drawings.

Presenter Tricia Kreitman makes a fair attempt at talking about all the potentially thorny issues, but why from across a kitchen table? She is chatty and friendly, though at times a little rushed, and when it comes to talking about sexual intercourse, she can't stop moving about. I thought she was going to show us something exciting but nothing happened.

This is a sound resource for supporting a planned programme of sex education, but it won't do it all. Planning, preparation and knowledge of your students' needs are essential, if sex education is to have real meaning.

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