I’ve written about teaching SRE before – in this post and in this piece for the Guardian Teacher Network. It remains one of my favourite lessons to teach for lots of reasons. Mainly it is because students are so curious and happy to be engaging with the content which is very rewarding. It feels like an important thing to be doing and I am able to do the no-nonsense factual delivery that the subject requires as well as manage the natural embarrassed laughter and the all-important ground rules. This year I’ve been taking the Year 8 SRE lessons as part of our new specialist delivery model PSHE programme. After 8 cycles of the 4/5 lesson programme, I’ve taught every student in Year 8 about puberty, periods, relationships, sexual bullying, contraception and, with input from a local advisory clinic, STIs. All of these topics cycle round again in Year 9, onwards up through the school.
It’s always fascinating to see that all the tutor groups, whilst different, share similar questions misconceptions. Some think they’ve ‘done puberty’ but they still need lots of basic anatomical and biological ideas clarified and corrected. In the new era of de facto zero-filtering on the internet, a high proportion of students have seen sex depicted via pornography or, at least, have engaged with porn-driven ideas via the playground. That’s clear from the questions box. The anonymous ‘questions in the box’ technique remains the staple of the lesson sequence. Here’s a sample from recent lessons – this is what Yr8s want to know:
- When do you start puberty? Why does puberty happen? How does puberty work? Do you get horny during puberty?
- How big is the average penis when not erect? At 13, how big should your penis be? What happens if a boy has an erection in school? If you have a big penis does the baby grow more quickly? What if your penis is too big or too small to fit in the vagina?
- How does it feel to have sex? If breasts are sexual, what do you do with them?
- What do you do if a condom splits during sex? Why do condoms rip?
- What happens when you have sex under 16? What are the punishments for having sex when under-aged? What would happen if you are both under age and both people want to have sex?
- What happens when you have sex during your period? Do men have to use protection? Could you use your period as contraception? Do periods hurt? Why do periods hurt? Can you stop your period or slow it down?
- How can women die from giving birth? How does a woman’s vagina open when giving birth? What if the egg gets damaged during pregnancy?
- Is ‘oral’, sex? Why do people have oral sex? What is ‘sex’? What does ‘spit or swallow’ mean?
- If you have unprotected sex what is the probability of getting pregnant?
- Why to people have orgasms?
- Why are some vaginas ‘flappy’ and others are not?
- Is having sex more than twice a day healthy?
- Do you have to have sex at a certain stage – as in a certain time for the period? Or for boys?
- What happens if you have to pee when you are having sex?
- What happens if you put your penis into an anus? Is anal sex hard? Is it true you can get pregnant from sex up the bum?
- When a boy’s penis touches your vagina does it feel like their penis is going up into your belly?
- Can a transgender man have a vagina?
- How do gay people/ lesbians have sex?
- How does an ‘after pill’ work?
- What is discharge?
- How do women get twins or triplets? How is it possible to have three kids at the same time? Do you give birth to both twins at once?
- How come with porn they don’t get pregnant?
- Can you die of sex?
- Do/ How do women masturbate?
The challenge is to give a non-judgemental factual answer to all of these questions, keeping positive consensual relationships at the forefront with straight and LGBT students in mind at all times, stressing that variation in physical characteristics and preferences is normal and natural. I’m on the team again next year.