Get To Know: Sex education saviours PSHE Matters
Sex education in schools can be a tricky subject. It's hard enough getting proper information on practising safe sex, let alone dealing with the myriad sexualities that are burgeoning around about the time of high school. So, Not So Popular's Jade French caught up Kimberly Malone Crossley, of PSHE Matters – a new campaign group who want to change our relationship towards learning about sex.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and PSHE Matters? How did the campaign come about?
Well, a group of us met at the Women of the World festival at the Southbank, in a young activists workshop run by UK Feminista. We were discussing all the issues we see with sexism, rape culture, poor awareness about mental health services, stigma in all these areas and realised the place for change was in education. If these issues are discussed openly and with good teaching and advice, problems are much easier to solve and stigma can be dissolved. Plus at the moment PSHE in schools is pretty shit - even the students know it.
What are the main issues you’re experiencing with sex education in UK schools?
Well for a start it isn't compulsory to teach - and by the way PSHE = Personal Social Health Economic education - all important parts of being a functioning, happy healthy member of society. Very important areas to teach to young people, and yet it depends on the school you go to whether the curriculum is run or not. And it depends on the teacher as to whether it is run well. Another issue is the curriculum is outdated, non-inclusive and difficult to find - to have a complete year of lesson plans you have to look at many different websites - and some of them you have to pay for
What would your main changes be?
We want to update the curriculum that is already there and speak to organisations that are already running education workshops to try and create a curriculum and teacher training plan to ensure the PSHE education in the UK is well-informed, inclusive, well taught and compulsory across the board
Your group is made up of young people aged 16-21, is it important that change is led by the people affected?
Well, in this case, the problem is very much swept under the carpet - so we are the only ones really pushing for it. People wonder why there is sexism in the workplace, stigma around mental illness, violence between young people, lgbtq+ issues - people say that it is society, but society is made up of people. To change the societal view and attitude, you have to start with the people - and often education breeds tolerance and understanding
Any anecdotes on the most cringe sex education you’ve experienced?
You may know the condom on the banana lesson (or cucumber I guess!) but our school nurse brought in a massive pink dildo mounted on a plaque and thwacked it down on the table by way of introduction pretty amusing but as I recall one of our only sex discussions in my secondary school education.
Are there any models around the world that you think the UK could learn from? What makes these sex education classes so good?
We don’t have to look far - there are workshops run by charities in the UK that are amazing - teaching assertiveness in the workplace to girls, teaching emotion focused coping to boys, breaking down gender roles, teaching about the lgbtq+ rights movements and creating honest, open talks about sex - it's amazing - but it should be the standard. The key is inclusiveness, openness and informed teachers
What type of work are you exhibiting at your event at Deptford Cinema? Who is behind the artwork?
We have a brilliant selection of works for such a small space - zines commenting on societal views on people's sexual preferences (Frigid and I’m a Slut) - a tabletop piece commenting on the confusion of adolescence and places where this could be eased with open discussion, some water colours by Morgan MacGregor - so many lovely talented people - we are hoping, in fact, to work with them on the curriculum to make pieces that can be used for teaching. There will also be some live music - we are very excited to show off these wonderful artists.
Could you tell us a little more about Caroline Lucas’ involvement? What can other political parties do to support PSHE in schools?
Two of our members live in Brighton and attended an event that Caroline was at - they got to chatting and she is excited about our campaign - there isn't much politicians can do for us right now but offer support. Then when we have a curriculum, we have a path into government to ensure we are heard and can try and make PSHE education compulsory.
Finally, what can people do to help make changes / your campaigning?
Come along to the event check out our social media for updates and if you really wanna help come and have a chat with us or shoot us a message on facebook - we have a lot planned in the pipeline and the more people on board to help comb through old lesson plans, work with professionals to write the curriculum and campaign for compulsory high quality PSHE the merrier see you there!
PSHE Matters is a campaign group consiting of 5 girls; Bea Forrester, 17, Beth Deakin, 16, Elenor Weinel, 18, Kimberly Malone Crossley, 21 and Constance Pope, 16. They believe PSHE should be compulsory for one hour each week and that teachers should be properly trained. The syllabus needs updating and the topics in it need to be reviewed by professionals. The next generation faces all sorts of challenges from social media to safe sex.