A teenager from East London has launched a campaign to make peer-to-peer sex education compulsory in schools, with the aim of ensuring every pupil in the UK is informed by the time they become sexually active.
Research has found nearly half of pupils (49%) aged 13 to 17 feel they receive too little sex and relationships education (SRE) in their schools and 82% wanted their lessons to come from a young person. The survey, commissioned by Channel 4's Battlefront campaign, prompted 18-year-old Shereece Marcantonio to launch her programme.
The trained sex educator travelled across England to investigate how sex education could be made more effective for young people. She found almost half felt "awkward" asking questions in class when taught by their normal teacher.
Speaking at a House of Commons reception to unveil her findings, Marcantonio, who has previously blogged for the Huffington Post UK said her own experience was one of the driving forces behind the campaign.
"When I was at school my SRE was pretty non-existent. It was embarrassing and outdated."
Marcantonio, whose three older siblings were all teenage parents, said young people needed to be armed with the knowledge of how to protect themselves.
"My campaign has always been about changing the national curriculum, by trying to get peer-on-peer teaching into sex and relationship education.
"If we can educate kids in a relaxed and engaging way, we can help avoid unwanted pregnancies and help teenagers cope with their first sexual experiences safely."
At the reception, the audience was treated to a taster lesson on safe sex, which included a demonstration of how to put on a condom. Young teachers Carl and Kaleigh, from peer-led programme Respect, proved sex education didn't have to be embarrassing or awkward as they managed to be both informative and entertaining.
Marcantonio's commitment to the cause is both encouraging and refreshing. When asked by a member of the audience how far she was "going to take" the campaign she replied "All the way."
"I'm not going to stop until I see SRE on the national curriculum. I at least want to see the programme endorsed by the government - that way schools will be far more willing to have teach their pupils."
Together with Dance4Life, Marcantonio and her team have delivered more than 2,500 lessons. The initiative also has the support from X-factor winner Matt Cardle, Made in Chelsea star Francis Boulle, who starred in a sex-education video (see below), and MP Chris Bryant.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: "We are carrying out a wide, internal review of the PSHE curriculum to strengthen classes to address weaknesses reported by Ofsted last year."
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