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Study finds third of schools poor at sex education
Irish Examiner 23/09/2005

By Eithne Donnellan Health Correspondent

A third of schools across the State are doing little to implement the department of Education's sex education programme for students, the preliminary results of new research indicate.

The research, which is examining the level of implementation of the programme, has indicated that while one-third of schools are excellent at implementing it, another third are making a poor effort and the remainder are somewhere in between. The study, to be published next year, will also examine for the first time teacher's feelings about delivering the programme, a conference in Dublin heard yesterday.

The conference on Adolescent Sexual Behaviour and Sexual Health at Trinity College Dublin heard calls for changes in the current sex education programme in schools to reflect changes in society, where children are exposed to sexual images at an earlier age. Children as young as eight are now asking questions about sexual behaviour which are not addressed in the current sex education programme in schools, one delegate said.

Deirdre Seery, of the Sexual Health Centre in Cork, said her centre was bombarded by requests from schools to give talks to students, but there were "absolutely pitiful resources" for this work. She complained about the lack of a national sexual health strategy.

Dr Paula Mayock, senior researcher at the children's research centre at TCD, said there had been " a lack of political will" in this area, as well as resources. "I suspect the Department of Health's health promotion unit is not the most heavily resourced unit within the department," she said.

Prof Mayock said sexual health education was a way to empower young people and to promote sexual self - acceptance and a positive view of sex and sexuality. Prof Peter Aggleton, director of the Thomas Coram Research Unit at the University of London said it was a myth that parents did not want their children taught about sex. He said a study showed a94 per cent of parents in the UK approve of sex education taking place in schools.

It was a myth to suggest that sex education programmes only encourage promiscuity. Research had shown they delayed the onset of sexual activity among those not yet sexually active, and among those who were sexually active, it promoted "more responsible forms of sexual activity including condom use", he said.