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Sex Ed

27 Nov, 14 | by shaworth

The teaching of sex education in British schools remains a divisive topic at the forefront of media attention as the Government considers its position on whether or not the teaching of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) should become mandatory in England and Wales

At the moment, all maintained secondary schools must provide SRE. This means that Free Schools and Academies, which are not obliged to follow the National Curriculum are excluded from this requirement, and primary schools can choose to provide it depending on the decision of their governing body. The National Curriculum contains a mandatory component on the teaching of reproduction as part of the science curriculum, but parents have the right to withdraw children from the teaching of SRE as part of Personal, Health and Social Education (PHSE) teaching, a right laid down by the Education Act of 1996.

The Government’s initial investigation into the state of SRE in England and Wales found that a third of schools did not provide adequate sex education, often with too much focus on the mechanics of reproduction, and little emphasis on the importance of relationships.

Obviously, as time marches on, the relationships and the pressures on young people change over time. The age of internet communication has brought with it new social problems that could not have been predicted when the idea of sharing information with computers was first postulated. The first generation of people growing up with access to the internet have access to explicit sexual imagery and obscure fetishes that their parents went in ignorance of. The government’s review of whether or not SRE should be compulsory, one might therefore argue, comes several years too late.

The fundamental question at the heart of the current Parliament Select Committee is whether or not all children have a right to SRE, and whether all schools should therefore be required to provide it. Last week the committee took views from witnesses representing both interdenominational and faith schools to try to answer this question.

Faith schools often have moral standpoints on sex and relationships laid down with the code of their religion. A interesting point raised is that students attending the school, and therefore followers of that religion, may feel that SRE which doesn’t take into account faith views to not be applicable to them, which was a reason raised by both the Catholic (Philip Robinson, Religious Education Adviser, Catholic Education Service), and Islamic (Yusuf Patel, Founder, SRE Islamic) representatives as to why SRE should not have a mandatory curriculum, allowing schools the freedom to teach within the confines of their faith. It was also suggested that if parents felt their children could not be taught SRE viewpoints consistent with their own religious views would feel pressured to withdraw them from the lessons.

This point was rather eloquently put down by one of the questioning MPs, Siobhain McDonagh (around 10:10am for those watching the video), who enquired as to whether the faith viewpoints on alcohol and drug misuse education as part of PHSE was a concern to parents whose faiths had particular teachings on the subject. The response of the witnesses was that it would be hard to argue against an education on the dangers of alcohol and drug misuse, even if a faith had strict prescriptions against their use. Naturally a comparison to the potential dangers of sex was drawn, and to which neither faith representative could voice an argument against in this context.

Ultimately, the only way to find out if compulsory SRE improves the quality of SRE delivery, and as a secondary outcome improves our unplanned pregnancy rate, rates of STIs and sexual assaults, is to implement and carefully evaluate what the effect on these outcomes are. In the meantime, as professionals, we just have to do our best to educate the young people who cross our paths, and provide them with the best service possible.

RCOG – Abortion Guidelines & Honorary Fellowships

25 Nov, 11 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has, this week, published its revised guidelines on the care of women requesting induced abortion. The recommendations cover commissioning and organising services, possible side effects and complications, pre-abortion management, abortion procedures and follow up care.  A summary of new and improved recommendations and link to Q&A’s are in the RCOG press release.

Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) – based in the US, is a non-profit organisation recognising the need to create abortion providers for tomorrow:  www.medicalstudentsforchoice.org. They aim to try and correct the drastically falling numbers of providers in the US and Canada – 57% of current providers are over 50. This along with targeted violence, restrictive legislation and medical schools not addressing the issue means doctors are qualifying with little knowledge of abortion.

RCOG Honorary Fellowship

Toni Belfield

Our friend and colleague, Toni Belfield, has, today, been awarded an RCOG honorary fellowship in recognition of her long service in the field of contraception and sexual health and passionate dedication to providing accessible, evidence-based information for men and women. Included in the citation Professor Janice Rymer noted responses from colleagues who said Toni is “One of the most knowledgeable people in women’s health” and “Her contribution is always very sound”.  Her many friends in the field know, love and respect her as an ardent advocate for service users (never patients or clients!) and as someone who always keeps us on our toes when it comes to accurate use of terminology – we always fit IUDs never coils! Congratulations Toni.

Take Action! Respond to the PSHE Review – Deadline 30th November

The Department for Education is running a Review of PSHE including Sex & Relationships Education with a view to improving its delivery in state funded schools. You can read the review and respond online by following the link. The British Humanist Association has succintly summarised the situation and the fears of many in its statement to accompany its own response.


Horror in the 21st Century

28 Oct, 11 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

As Halloween and Trick or Treat approach we face an even greater horror, as Monday 31st October 2011 is the day the world’s population is forecast to crash the 7 billion barrier only 12 years after it passed 6 billion.

Despite overall rates of fertility falling and the basic right of all women to manage their own fertility having been officially recognised at the Cairo Conference in 1994, 215 million women in ‘high fertility’ countries still don’t have access to voluntary contraception. In addition “millions of adolescent girls and boys have little access to sex education and information on how to prevent pregnancies or protect themselves from HIV.” UNFPA report – The State of World Population 2011

As the number of commentators that report and respond to this prediction increases will politicians and others in power finally listen to what ‘family planners’ have been saying for years and concentrate budgets where they can do some good. Or are we in danger of ignoring this situation until it is too late. This, of course, echoes the post of 4 weeks ago that reported Mary Robinson ‘s warning to the UN on the same issue on the 20 year anniversary of the Rio summit and declaration .

UK’s Breast Screening Programme to be Reviewed

The UK’s National Cancer Director, Professor Sir Mike Richards, has ordered an independent review as questions were raised by the Nordic Cochrane Centre’s systematic review over whether screening may do more harm than good. As this controversy could undermine the excellent effects that are achieved by screening it is important to investigate and resolve any uncertainties. As Sara Hiom of Cancer Research UK (who will jointly lead the Review) said “We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the fundamental principle underpinning screening – that earlier diagnosis helps improve outcomes – is right and that screening does help save lives”.

MHRA warns against purchasing HIV and non-compliant tests over the internet

We also hear that non-CE marked tests which claim to diagnose HIV and other STIs, available from a UK-hosted website, could give inaccurate results according to a press release from the MHRA . This is aside from the fact that it is illegal to market HIV tests to the public. The HPA has also been involved in contacting all those known to have purchased the tests but warn others considering using the internet as a way of accessing anonymous testing to check that any product is compliant with regulations.

Good News: another new study confirms what we already knew that The Pill and pregnancy have the biggest impact on reducing ovarian cancer risk –  published in the British Journal of Cancer and part-funded by Cancer Research UK. The greatest protection was afforded by taking the pill for more than 10 years followed by ever users then getting pregnant and having more than one child.

Around the Globe

13 Oct, 11 | by shellraine, e-Media Editor

The latest edition of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology includes a supplement entitled: A Hormonal Contraception Update: A Decade of Innovation & Transformation.

In addition AJOG published (online 11th July 2011) a study on the impact of long-acting reversible contraception on return for repeat abortion by Rose S B and Lawton B A. The objective of the study was to determine the rate of return for repeat abortion in relation to postabortion contraceptive method choice 24 months onward from an intervention study.  Its conclusion states: “This study provides strong support for the promotion of immediate postabortion access to LARC methods (particularly intrauterine devices) to prevent repeat abortion.”

September saw the European Society of Contraception (ESC) hold its 11th Seminar in Kaunas, Lithuania. One of the most notable features was the number of participants for a regional symposium  – 533, with the majority being from Poland and Latvia. A number of our colleagues from the UK were involved in either presentations or workshops: Dr Sarah Randall, Dr Anne Webb and Dr Simone Reuter. In addition there was a Board of Directors’ meeting which involved the 2 UK representatives, Dr Meera Kishen and Shelley Mehigan.

Kaunas itself was fascinating for its combination of old and new: elements left over from its communist-dominated past with many crumbling, abandoned buildings and its, especially young, people who are trying to adapt to a new world with western influences. This was particularly evident in the apparent twin obsessions of pizza and eating outside – as well as this may work if the pizzas are made in the Italian way and the cafes are in the Mediterranean it suffers a little in translation to a chilly Baltic state with locally made fare.  This was partly corrected by an apparent benefit to the local blanket industry!

The next full Congress will be in Athens in June 2012.

Meanwhile at home:

Have you completed elements of the new DFSRH: e-SRH; Course of 5; Clinical Exerience and Assessment; e-Portfolio or the LoC SDI or IUT? The Faculty would like to hear from you. They have commissioned an independent review by Professor Ed Piele of the University of Warwick. Visit the Faculty website to give your feedback on your experiences.

UK Agony Aunts bed-in to make sexual health a priority –

What would be the correct, collective noun for a group of agony aunts?

Well in this case it could be a ‘bedful’ or maybe a ‘boudoir’ as 8 of the UKs finest gather to add their support to a group of sexual health charities – Brook, FPA (Family Planning Association), Terrence Higgins Trust, and MedFASH – calling on the government to protect sexual health services as many have seen reduced funding lead to cuts in vital services. This at a time when:
i) a survey by Brook confirms that only 6% of children learn the facts of life from their parents – the internet, TV and friends being the usual source of information (sometimes misinformation) and
ii) the House of Lords HIV and Aids Select Committee report last month found efforts to control the spread of HIV are woefully inadequate as £2.9m is spent on prevention compared with £762m on treatment.

Fiction Book Reviews

Have you enjoyed reading the fiction book reviews in the Journal? Did you agree with the reviews this time of The Room by Emma Donaghue and The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell? The book for January 2012 will be Pain of Death by Adam Creed (Faber & Faber).

Latest from JFPRHC

Latest from JFPRHC