Youths Unsatisfied With Relationship & Sexuality Education

Young people across Belfast have called for greater emphasis to be placed on Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE).

A report by Belfast City Council's Youth Forum found that half of young people believe their right to such education is not being met. Nearly 34% of those who completed the survey said they had never received an RSE lesson in school, while only 10% of young people who did receive RSE lessons said the information they received was 'very useful'.

The Youth Forum and the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY), Koulla Yiasouma, launched their 'Any Use?' Report as part of UN World Children's Day celebrations. The findings follow an extensive consultation period and dedicated survey focusing on RSE in schools.

Members of the Belfast Youth Forum are now fighting to have their voice heard to impact RSE going forward, adopting a rights based approach. Members would like to see young people involved in co-producing an RSE curriculum that would be taught by specialised, qualified and trained staff.
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Youth Forum member Conor Fay said: "Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) is such an important issue for young people. The Belfast Youth Forum think we should have more of a say in what our Relationship and Sexuality Education looks like and how it is taught to us. Our 'Any Use' report can really help decision makers and policy makers improve RSE and make it more relevant to young people's lives."

The 'Any Use' report sparked calls from relevant organisations for curriculum change that takes on board the findings.

Dr Michelle Templeton of Queen's University Belfast Centre for Children's Rights, a partner of the Youth Forum, said a number of gaps in education provision have been identified, along with potential solutions to make RSE more applicable to real life.

"But they need policy makers to hear their voices and include them in shaping RSE reform," Dr Templeton said.

"They know what they need, and can help us create interventions that are more useful, comprehensive and inclusive, which will have far-reaching benefits for society at large. Not only by increasing positive sexual health outcomes, but by developing their understandings around sexuality, sexual behaviours and gender equality and parenting, that can lead to a reduction in sexual crimes and domestic violence too. That's what good quality RSE is all about."

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane said: "It's important that we seriously consider the findings within their 'Any Use?' report and take action to improve the quality of information and access our young people have to Relationship and Sexuality Education."

Along with QUB, Common Youth also partnered on the research.


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