Sex education at school is young people's preferred source of information about sex, according to a new report from Queen's University and the University of Ulster, but it doesn't cause teens to have less sex or lead to fewer STDs. Forty-two per cent of 16-year-olds from across Northern Ireland who completed the 2011 Young Life and Times Survey identified sex education at school as the source of the most helpful information about sex. It is seen as the most reliable and trustworthy source of information, with many respondents saying that they would have liked more lessons.
1,434 teenagers across Northern Ireland completed the Young Life and Times Survey, an annual survey of 16-year olds undertaken by ARK, a joint initiative by Queen's and the University of Ulster. The survey gives an insight into lives of 16-year olds across Northern Ireland, addressing a number of key issues.
The key findings relating to sexual health have been published in a new report, entitled Messed up? Sexual Lifestyles of 16 year olds in Northern Ireland. They include:
Dr Dirk Schubotz from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen's, and author of the publication said: "All these findings are myth-busters in the face of those who portray young people as irresponsible, promiscuous beings who don't think about the consequences of entering a sexual relationship.
"However, the findings also show that those teaching sexuality education with a 'no sex before marriage' agenda need to acknowledge that at least one in four young people don't make this choice.
"School-based sex education is clearly young people's preferred source of information. However, many of the respondents were critical of the negativity with which sexuality education is taught in school, and few felt at ease talking to their teachers about sex. Despite the fact that Relationship and Sexuality Education now forms part of the compulsory post-primary curriculum, some respondents reported that they had received none. This would suggest that a more open and positive approach to sex education is required."
A second publication from ARK, entitled Young Men and Sexual Health, has been published to coincide with Men's Health Week (11-17 June). Drawing on information from a number of sources, it highlights that:
Report author, Dr Paula Devine from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen's, said: "The fact that high number of diagnoses of some sexually transmitted diseases, especially chlamydia and gonorrhoea, are particularly high among young men shows that there is a need for more education in this area."