Sunday, 28 November 2010

V team cohort 3 debut speech at the House of Lords

Rarely do I get a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye as quickly as I did last Thursday when cohort 3 of the young V team did their debut presentation on their work. Little more than two months into their 44 week placement, the team of nine volunteers made it very clear that society needs to change its attitude to young people and sex, that government has its part to play in improving education and services, and we all have a part in getting more sensible and most of all to trust young people.

They also made it clear that they don't want to put up with second best for themselves or future generations of young people, and that they are determined to make some loud noise about this over the coming months. They teased us with a glimpse of the determination and verve with which their sex positive campaign is being developed, without telling us what they were going to do and how. So watch this space, follow @brookcharity and @simonablake on twitter, visit our website to find out more about their campaign and how you can get involved in making a noise when it launches.

The V team may have stolen the show, and I was enormously proud of them. And I was equally proud of the the rest of the Brook team from across the Network and the national office. Margaret Mead's quote 'don't ever think a group of committed citizens can't change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has' was certainly fitting for Brook's Parliamentary Reception. When I looked across the room at our partners, stakeholders, colleagues, friends, members and supporters we were there united in our commitment to enable young people to enjoy their sexuality without harm - a force to be reckoned with indeed.

Friday, 26 November 2010

It gets better....

This video by Pixar Animation Studios about being gay is utterly inspiring..... and inspired. Well done Pixar.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Teenage Conception Statistics published by ONS

Yesterday the Office National Statistics published their conception statistics for Quarter 3 of 2009. The statistics are really starting to show the impact of sustained activity and resource to educate young people about relationships, sex and contraception, and provide them with the support to make active choices about sex and pregnancy.

· The rate of under-18 conceptions was 36.3 per 1000 girls aged 15-17 – 6.2% lower than the rate of 38.7 for third quarter 2008. For under-18 conceptions, the rolling quarterly average continues to fall and has now fallen over the last eight quarters. The rolling quarterly average for under-18 conceptions is at its lowest rate since quarterly data collection.

· The rate of under-16 conceptions was 7.0 per 1000 girls aged 13-15 – 7.9% lower than the rate of 7.6 for third quarter 2008.

This welcome news comes hot on the heels of an article in Children and Young People Now in which Gill Frances, Chair of the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy, whose work ends in December, warns that without strong national leadership, and continued investment at the local level teenage pregnancy rates will rise. The link to the article is here

Monday, 22 November 2010

Inaccurate report from the Times on the future of 'sexual health lessons'

Last week The Times reported that 'lessons in Citizenship, sexual health, thinking and functional skills are set to be dropped by many in a radical slimming down of the national curriculum'. It is based on the information on an unnamed Government source and perhaps more solidly on a paper written by Tim Oates, director of research at Cambridge Assessment, parent body of the OCR exam board.

Now the headline was clear - 'sexual health lessons to be scrapped in review of the curriculum', and understandably there was a little twitter of concern about the implications of this. I read the paper this weekend to ascertain the truth.

The paper Could do better: using international comparisons to refine National Curriculum in England does indeed mention sexual health on page 2. It says;

Adjustments have occurred not only in the 'core' material of the currculum (e.g the removal of the cross curriculum themes and skills: the move from ten levels to eight) but in the repeated addition of new material (e.g functional skills, Citizenship, sexual health as a theme in biology), changes in assessment (e.g the incorporation of mental mathematics in testing......

But that is the only mention, and Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education in his Foreword states that Department for Education will 'launch its own review of the National Curriculum and the remit will explicitly, for the first time, require benchmarking against the most successful school systems.'

So my conclusion is that we don't know whether or not sexual health lessons will be scrapped in the review of the national curriculum, because the review hasn't happened yet - the only exception to my conclusion would be if the government source quoted in the article told The Times more than 'the national curriculum MIGHT be reduced to 20 or 30 pages and gave a more detailed account of what it would include. Unlikely if the review hasn't happened.

For those of you interested in the national curriculum, Oates' paper is worth a read.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Goodbye and thank you to our second group of Campaign Volunteers

This week we wave a sad goodbye to our second group of Campaign Volunteers. It has been fantastic and inspiring working with them and I would like to wish them all the best for the future.

Talking about their time with Brook one of the volunteers said:

"So its two days before we leave, and as we look around watching everyone type away and talk to each other like in any ordinary office – we remember the things that don’t make this an ordinary office at all. We think about all the crazy things that have happened over the past year, to make it an extraordinary office.

"That meeting room has seen hundreds of meetings between us, in building the Big issues don’t have to be a big deal campaign to what it is today. It echoes of pitches from agencies, decision making, debating on the right copy, slogan, colour and theme. And if you listen hard enough, you can hear hammering and noise from the back of the office where we were preparing for the Stockton launch making piƱatas and a face in the wall – ready to take the campaign to Stockton.

"Stockton didn’t know what hit them when we arrived – in two days we spread the message of self-esteem to the young people of Stockton resulting in 25 young people getting tested for Chlamydia, giving over 150 young people goodie bags with details of Brook’s local services, condoms and educational leaflets, and collectively speaking to at least 200 young people. It was inspiring to see our campaign in action and to see other young people’s reactions to it - especially when they came back later in the day just to say ‘hello’ wearing our t-shirts. It was a really positive two days and all the hard work definitely paid off.

"Through volunteering at Brook, we’ve had an eclectic mix of things to do and places to go. Seen cities we’ve never been to before, and been able to represent the views of young people. Brook provides a really nurturing environment to volunteer in and has allowed us to grow and develop as individuals. We’ve been able to give speeches about issues we’re passionate about, network at Brook 100 events and meet people we’d never have met if not in Brook.

"Talking of meeting new people, a key date in the diary was 10 September 2010 – the day JLS came to national office and talked to us about sexual health. They were really cool and believed in what we’re doing at Brook.

"They share our aspirations for young people’s sexual health, which is to see more young people looking after themselves and their sexual wellbeing. The impact that they have was evident in Stockton, where we saw the interest young people had on a campaign supported by JLS.

"Our time at Brook has been a journey, taking the rough with the smooth and learning about ourselves every step of the way. We wish the next group of nine volunteers all the best in their journey. We’re sure they’ll all shine as a group as well as individuals – and will continue to make this an extraordinary office."

Youth parliament talking about sex and relationships education

Nothing more needs to be said from me, it just has to be time to listen......