Sex education in schools is - at long last - starting to respond to what young people need, but it will never be enough to support young people in the comprehensive and engaging way they need. Especially in the digital age.
Here, Lucy Whitehouse from new sex education charity Fumble, explains why online resources, co-created with young people, are the next big frontier in meaningful relationships and sex education, and how Fumble is making it happen.
You can support Fumble in their urgent fundraising appeal here.
Sex education has never been very sexy. Overlooked by squeamish policy makers, an extra burden on already stretched schools and teachers, it’s long been at best uninspiring for your average teen.
Encouragingly, this year is the first academic year in which the subject is compulsory in all UK schools. Now packaged as relationships and sex education (RSE) and acompanied by health education (often gathered together as RSHE), sex education in schools has finally hit the big time. Or at least, it should have.
Beset, understandably, by the global pandemic, schools can now start offering RSHE from the summer onwards, delayed from its original September 2020 start. And even when they are able to offer it, it’s likely that provision will be patchy. Budgets are tight, teacher capacity has not magically increased, and school will never be the setting in which young people feel comfortable asking some of the more embarrassing but essential questions.
To be fair, the statutory RSHE guidelines are pretty decent. Robust, inclusive, realistic about the reality young people face today - the government, guided by the excellent Sex Education Forum, has made a real effort to respond to what young people need. There is flexibility in how schools implement the new curriculum, and that’s necessary to allow for things like faith perspectives, and the local context of any given school.
But we recognise that school will never be the site of truly relevant and impactful sex education. And that’s why we - myself and a group of vibrant, passionate young volunteers - have launched Fumble.
What is Fumble, and how will it revolutionise sex education?
Fumble is a new youth charity in the UK, offering a free, engaging, comprehensive, safe and healthy online sex education platform: created with young people, for young people.
We know young people (we are young people!) use the internet to ask questions about sex, relationships, health and wellbeing, and a lot of content currently available for this is not appropriate, safe or positive. Indeed much of it is actively harmful: we know a significant and increasing number of young people are using online pornography as sex education.
The BBFC, for example, has found that young people feel that sex education in school does not prepare them enough, and instead they use pornography to learn ‘what to do’ during sex. The same survey found that over 40% of young people who knew about pornography believed that watching it made “people less respectful of the opposite sex”. Therein lies the problem.
We want to offer an urgently-needed healthy, happy, alternative voice online.
Fumble ensures that all young people have access to relevant information about their sexual health, identity, and intimacy, so they can make healthy decisions in their lives. We want young people to have the skills and knowledge to successfully manage their sexual health, mental health, and relationships.
Fumble answers the questions that young people may be afraid to ask their teachers or parents, or that they may not be able to find relevant, healthy and engaging answers elsewhere. We cover related topics that are often overlooked in the provision of sex education, like pleasure, LGBTQ+ experiences and rights, disability, mental health and consent.
We believe young people deserve access to a relevant, engaging digital resource that equips them with the skills and knowledge to successfully manage their sexual health and relationships today: that’s Fumble. To find out more about what we do, and support our urgent fundraising appeal, click here.