Ministry working to improve sex education

By Lynn Bibley for the New Zealand Herald, Sunday 8 November, 2015:


The Ministry of Education is offering schools professional development programmes to help teachers deliver sexuality education after a major overhaul of the health curriculum six months ago.

Lesley Hoskin, associate deputy secretary student achievement, said the Ministry worked with sexual health experts, teachers and health professionals to update guidelines to give schools a clearer understanding of what they needed to consider when covering sexuality education.

The revision took into account changing social climates, recent youth health research and broader understandings about sexuality and sexuality education.

It also covered issues such as abuse, consent and healthy relationships.

Hoskin said as the health curriculum was not prescriptive there were a number of resources schools could use.

Schools were able to use contemporary issues important to students to explain or or illustrate different scenarios or issues.

Programmes used in schools include the ACC’s Mates and Dates initiative, which is aimed at preventing sexual and dating violence, Rape Prevention Education’s Sex ‘n’ Respect and Family Planning’s The Sexuality Road.

Students were also taught about consent and the perils of social media.

The Ministry was also working on further resources to support teachers.

Schools were currently being offered professional programmes to help them deliver sexuality education.

Health, which includes sexuality education, is the only part of the curriculum on which schools need to consult their parent community every two years.



Read the full article, HERE.

The case for starting sex education in kindergarten

Saskia de Melker for BPS Newshour, Wednesday 27 May, 2015:

The case for starting sex education in kindergarten

“Who here has been in love?” Anniek Pheifer asks a crowd of Dutch elementary school students.

It’s a Spring morning in Utrecht, and the St. Jan de Doper elementary school gym is decked in heart-shaped balloons and streamers. Pheifer and Pepijn Gunneweg are hosts of a kids television program in the Netherlands, and they’re performing a song about having a crush.

Kids giggle at the question. Hands — little and bigger — shoot up.

Welcome to “Spring Fever” week in Dutch primary schools, the week of focused sex ed classes… for 4-year olds.

Of course, it’s not just for 4-year-olds. Eight-year-olds learn about self-image and gender stereotypes. 11-year-olds discuss sexual orientation and contraceptive options. But in the Netherlands, the approach, known as “comprehensive sex education,” starts as early as age 4.

You’ll never hear an explicit reference to sex in a kindergarten class.In fact, the term for what’s being taught here is sexuality education rather than sex education. That’s because the goal is bigger than that, says Ineke van der Vlugt, an expert on youth sexual development for Rutgers WPF, the Dutch sexuality research institute behind the curriculum. It’s about having open, honest conversations about love and relationships.

By law, all primary school students in the Netherlands must receive some form of sexuality education. The system allows for flexibility in how it’s taught. But it must address certain core principles — among them, sexual diversity and sexual assertiveness. That means encouraging respect for all sexual preferences and helping students develop skills to protect against sexual coercion, intimidation and abuse. The underlying principle is straightforward: Sexual development is a normal process that all young people experience, and they have the right to frank, trustworthy information on the subject.

“There were societal concerns that sexualization in the media could be having a negative impact on kids,” van der Vlugt said. “We wanted to show that sexuality also has to do with respect, intimacy, and safety.”

Beyond risk prevention

The Dutch approach to sex ed has garnered international attention, largely because the Netherlands boasts some of the best outcomes when it comes to teen sexual health. On average, teens in the Netherlands do not have sex at an earlier age than those in other European countries or in the United States. Researchers found that among 12 to 25 year olds in the Netherlands, most say they had “wanted and fun” first sexual experiences. By comparison, 66 percent of sexually active American teens surveyed said they wished that they had waited longer to have sex for the first time. When they do have sex, a Rutgers WPF study found that nine out of ten Dutch adolescents used contraceptives the first time, and World Health Organization data shows that Dutch teens are among the top users of the birth control pill. According to the World Bank, the teen pregnancy rate in the Netherlands is one of the lowest in the world, five times lower than the U.S. Rates of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases are also low.

There are multiple factors that likely contribute to these numbers. Easy access to contraception is one. Condoms, for example, are available in vending machines, and the birth control pill is free for anyone under age 21. But there’s also a growing body of research that specifically credits comprehensive sexuality education. A recent study from Georgetown University shows that starting sex ed in primary school helps avoid unintended pregnancies, maternal deaths, unsafe abortions and STDs.

Proponents of the Dutch model argue that their approach extends beyond those risks. Their brand of sex ed reflects a broader emphasis on young people’s rights, responsibility and respect that many public health experts say is the foundation of sexual health.

A 2008 United Nations report found that comprehensive sex ed, when taught effectively, allows young people to “explore their attitudes and values, and to practice the decision-making and other life skills they will need to be able to make informed choices about their sexual lives.” Students who had completed comprehensive sex education in the Netherlands were also found to be more assertive and better communicators, according to an independent health research agency that conducted a study of the Dutch programs.

“We have to help young people navigate all the choices they face and stand up for themselves in all situations, sexual and otherwise,” said Robert van der Gaag, a health promotion official at Central Holland’s regional public health center.

‘Little butterflies in my stomach’

At the St. Jan de Doper school, a group of kindergartners sit in a circle, as their teacher, Marian Jochems, flips through a picture book. The pages contain animals like bears and alligators hugging.

“Why are they hugging?” she asks the class.

“Because they like each other,” one girl answers.

Jochems asks them to think about who they like the most. Several kids say their mom or dad. One girl names her little sister. A few name other children at school.

“How does it feel when that person hugs you?” Jochems asks.

“I feel warm from the inside,” one boy replies. “It’s like there are little butterflies in my stomach.”

Lessons like this are designed to get kids thinking and talking about the kind of intimacy that feels good and the kind that doesn’t. Other early lessons focus on body awareness. For example, students draw boys’ and girls’ bodies, tell stories about friends taking a bath together, and discuss who likes doing that and who doesn’t. By the end of kindergarten, students are expected to be able to properly name body parts including genitals. They also learn about different types of families, what it means to be a good friend, and that a baby grows in a mother’s womb.

“People often think we are starting right away to talk about sexual intercourse [with kindergartners],” van der Vlugt says. “Sexuality is so much more than that. It’s also about self image, developing your own identity, gender roles, and it’s about learning to express yourself, your wishes and your boundaries.”

That means the kindergartners are also learning how to communicate when they don’t want to be touched. The goal is that by age 11, students are comfortable enough to navigate pointed discussions about reproduction, safe sex, and sexual abuse.

Let’s not talk about sex

In the United States, sexual education varies widely from state to state. Fewer than half of U.S. states require schools to teach sex ed, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a global nonprofit that researches sexual and reproductive health. Just last month Congress extended the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), which funds comprehensive adolescent sexual health initiatives across the country. At the same time they increased funding for programs that promote sexual abstinence until marriage to $75 million a year. And Deb Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit dedicated to sexuality education, says that sex ed in the U.S. still overwhelmingly focuses on minimizing the risk of pregnancy and STDs from heterosexual intercourse.

And nearly four in 10 millennials report that the sex education they received was not helpful, according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.

“We have failed to see that sexual health is far more than simply the prevention of disease or unplanned pregnancy,” says Hauser. That narrow focus, she says, leaves young people with few skills to cope with their feelings and make decisions in sexual encounters.

Not everyone agrees. In fact, comprehensive sex ed has yet to take hold in most parts of the country. Utah, for example, requires that abstinence be the dominant message given to students. It bans discussing details of sexual intercourse and advocating for homosexuality, the use of contraceptives or sexual activity outside of marriage.

Utah state representative Bill Wright has further tried to restrict sex ed. In 2012, he proposed a bill requiring that abstinence only be taught and that it be an optional subject. It passed but was vetoed by the governor.

Sex ed is “not an important part of our curriculum,” Wright said. “ It is just basically something out there that takes away from the character in our schools and takes away from the character of our students.”

Utah is far from alone. Half of U.S. states require that abstinence be stressed. “We have created generations of people who are not comfortable with their own sexuality,” says Dr. David Satcher, the former U.S. Surgeon General. That extends to parents and teachers, he says.

In other places, the tide is shifting toward an approach closer to that of the Dutch. Two of the largest school districts in the country — Chicago Public Schools and Florida’s Broward County — have recently mandated sex education for elementary school students. Chicago Public Schools requires at least 300 minutes a year of sex education for kindergarten through fourth grade students and twice as much time for fifth through twelfth graders. In the fall of 2015, schools in Broward County will teach sex education at least once a year in every grade, and the curriculum will include information about topics like body image, sexting and social media.

In the Netherlands, schools aim to educate parents too. Parents nights are held to give parents tools to talk to their kids about sex. Public health experts recommend that parents take cues from their kids and make it an ongoing conversation, rather than one awkward, all-encompassing “birds and the bees” talk. For example, they advise, if you walk in on your child masturbating, don’t react shocked; don’t punish or scold them. Have a talk about where it is appropriate for such behavior to occur.

“We talk about [sex] over dinner,” said one father at a Spring Fever Parents Night. Another said he recently answered questions about homosexuality posed by his twin 6-year-olds during bath time.

Lessons in love

Sabine Hasselaar teaches 11-year-olds. In a recent class, Hasselaar posed a series of hypothetical situations to her students: you’re kissing someone and they start using their tongue which you don’t want. A girl starts dancing close to a guy at a party causing him to get an erection. Your friend is showing off pornographic photos that make you feel uncomfortable.

The class discusses each scenario. “Everyone has the right to set their own limits and no one should ever cross those limits,” Hasselaar says.

There is an anonymous ‘Question Box.’ in her class during “Spring Fever” week. Students submit questions that teachers later address in class. “Nothing is taboo,” Hasselaar says. One of her students, for example, wrote: “I think I am lesbian. What should I do?”

Hasselaar addressed the issue in class: “It’s not strange for some girls to like other girls more than boys. It’s a feeling that you can’t change, just like being in love. The only difference is that it’s with someone that is the same sex as you.”

And in fact, most of the questions from her students aren’t about sex at all. “Mostly they are curious about love. I get a lot of questions like, “What do I do if I like someone?” or ‘How do I ask someone to go out with me?’”

Questions like these are taken just as seriously as the ones about sex.

“Of course we want kids to be safe and to understand the risks involved with sex, but we also want them to know about the positive and fun side of caring for someone and being in a healthy relationship,” van der Vlugt says.

That’s why you’ll find teachers discussing the difference between liking someone (as a friend) and liking someone. There’s even a lesson on dating during which a teacher talked about how to break up with someone in a decent way: “Please, do not do it via text message,” the teacher said.

After elementary school, these students will likely go on to receive lessons from a widely-used curriculum called Long Live Love.

“In the U.S., adults tend to view young people as these bundles of exploding hormones. In the Netherlands, there’s a strong belief that young people can be in love and in relationships,” says Amy Schalet, an American sociologist who was raised in the Netherlands and now studies cultural attitudes towards adolescent sexuality, with a focus on these two countries.

“If you see love and relationships as the anchor for sex, then it’s much easier to talk about it with a child,” Schalet says. “Even a young one.”


Read the full article, with videos, HERE.

Sex education guidelines updated by Ministry of Education

Kirsty Johnston for, Thursday 28 May, 2015:

Sex ed classes add consent and coercion

Schools have been formally advised to add lessons about consent and coercion into their sexuality education programmes for the first time.

However, the Ministry of Education has refrained from changing the curriculum or making the lessons mandatory, so schools are still able to choose what sex lessons they give their students.

The ministry released updated guidelines on sexuality education today, which have an added focus on decision-making around sex and cultural differences.

They come in the wake of ongoing calls for better sex education in schools, including recommendations from the 2013 Health Select Committee which found “fragmented and uneven programmes” were partly to blame for the high teenage pregnancy rate.

The issue was again raised following the Roastbusters incidents, in which West Auckland youths bragged on social media about having sex with drunk and underage girls, but were not convicted.

Deputy Secretary for Student Achievement Dr Graham Stoop said schools told the ministry they wanted to be able to equip students with the right skills to navigate relationships with others, and to keep themselves safe.

“We understand this can be a difficult subject, so we’ve also produced a brochure for parents. It tells them what their children are likely to be taught, and at what age, and how parents can express their views.”

Dr Stoop said the revised guide was aimed at helping encourage problem-solving and decision-making for students in relation to sexual activity, as well as assertiveness skills and identifying pressures from others.

“The guide has been produced with the help of schools, education groups and professionals, and health experts. It outlines the importance of recognising sexual diversity. Schools should be mindful of diverse student viewpoints when planning classe,” he said.

“Research shows that when students feel their personal values are treated with respect by their peers and schools, they stay at school longer and achieve more.”

The report said issues that require attention are consent and coercion; and the sexualisation of young people, particularly girls.

The effects of pornography on young people’s understanding of sexuality and relationships also needed to be a focus, as did examining the bias that opposite sex relationships are normal.

Sex education is currently a compulsory part of the health curriculum, however, schools are free to decide how they teach it, in consultation with their school community.

They must consult every two years on how they teach it.


Read the full article, HERE.




Sex education guidelines updated by Ministry of Education

From, Thursday 28 May, 2015:


Schools have been advised to address issues of consent and coercion in their sexuality lessons.

The advice appears in the Ministry of Education’s updated guidelines for schools on teaching sexuality education, which were released on Thursday. It is the first time the guide has been revised since 2002.

A 2013 Health Select Committee report found sexuality education programmes in New Zealand were fragmented and uneven, and recommended a new, consistent and evidence-based programme.

The updated guide takes those findings into account, as well as changing social climates and other recent youth health research.

For the first time the guidelines cover issues of consent and coercion, as well as cultural differences.

Deputy secretary for student achievement Dr Graham Stoop said feedback from schools was that they wanted to be able to equip their students with the right skills to navigate relationships with others, and keep themselves safe.

“We understand this can be a difficult subject, so we’ve also produced a brochure for parents. It tells them what their children are likely to be taught, and at what age, and how parents can express their views.”

The revised guide was aimed at helping encourage problem-solving and decision-making for students in relation to sexual activity, as well as assertiveness skills and identifying pressures from others.

It was produced with the help of schools, education groups and professionals, and health experts, Stoop said.

“It outlines the importance of recognising sexual diversity. Schools should be mindful of diverse student viewpoints when planning classes.

“Research shows that when students feel their personal values are treated with respect by their peers and schools, they stay at school longer and achieve more.”

While sexuality education is a compulsory part of the health curriculum, schools are free to decide how they teach it, in consultation with their school community.

Schools must consult every two years on how they teach it.


Read the full article, HERE.


One in a Hundred: Improving Justice for Sexual Violence Survivors

Louise Nicholas,National Sexual Violence Survivor Advocate at Rape Prevention Education is a key speaker at this years’ Cartwright Anniversary Seminar“One in a Hundred: Improving Justice for Sexual Violence Survivors.”

The title of the seminar comes from research suggesting that only about 7 out of 100 incidents of sexual violence are reported to police. Of those 7, only 3 cases are likely to get to court, and of those only about 1 is likely to result in a conviction.

There are a range of reasons why rape survivors do not report the crimes committed against them. Many survivors believe the inaccurate but widely held victim-blaming attitude that they were responsible for the sexual assault.

Of the 3 out of 100 cases of sexual violence that goto court, Louise Nicholas says “Defence lawyers play on victim-blaming attitudes to slam survivors of sexual violence around the court like tennis balls.”

“It is not the defendant who is on trial; it is the rape survivor who is on trial.” Nicholas says.

“Rape survivors are called names like ‘vindictive liars’ by some defence lawyers and judges rarely step in to protect the victim from these verbal attacks.”

“Rape survivors often ask me, why are defence lawyers so nasty and why do they make it so personal?” the Survivor Advocate Louise Nicholas says.

At the ‘One in a Hundred’ seminar ex-Commissioner Warren Young will speak about the 2012 Law Commission recommended reforms that aim to improve the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the trial process, with particular regard to sexual offences.

These recommended reforms include replacing the jury with a decision-making panel that includes one judge and two trained jurors, ensuring that judges and counsel are trained in the particular dynamics and challenges associated with trying crimes of sexual violence, and offering alternative routes for resolution. In particular, Project Restore will also be profiled at the seminar. This is a collaborative project which provides a specialist restorative justice response for those impacted by sexual violence. HELP and Rape Prevention Education continue to be key supporters of this project.
Dr Kim McGregor says “If we are to make our communities safer from sex offenders, especially for our children, youth, and women, then the Government must ensure the Law Commission recommendations are given full and urgent consideration.”
“The current adversarial system is inhumane especially for survivors of sexual assault. Why on earth would survivors of sexual violence want to enter the current criminal justice system that blames and re-brutalises them? ” McGregor says.
McGregor states,“If sexual crimes are not reported, and those who commit sexually harmful behaviour do not get a sanction and the specialist treatment they need, then our communities will continue to be unsafe especially for our children, youth, and women.”
The government’s action plan for the Reducing Crime and Re-offending targets of the Better Public Services initiative includes providing support for repeat victims, and specialist support for victims of particularly traumatic crime such as sexual violence.
According to research from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, at least50% of girls and women who are sexually assaulted are likely to be sexually re-victimised and survivors of childhood sexual abuse are twice as likely as non-victims to be sexually assaulted later in life.
The panel of high profile speakersat the Cartwright Seminar includes National Sexual Violence Survivor Advocate Louise Nicholas of Rape Prevention Education, Victoria University Associate Professor of Law, Elisabeth McDonald, and Ex-Commissioner Warren Young. The panel will explore some of the barriers to justice for survivors of sexual violence in New Zealand with a focus on court processes, and what can be done about them.

The seminar ‘One in a hundred: Improving Justice for Sexual Violence Survivors’has been organised by Women’s Health Action in partnership with Counselling Services Centre, HELP, Rape Prevention Education and Tu Wahine Trust.

The seminar will be held at Parnell Trust Jubilee Building from 1-3 pm on Tuesday 13th August, 2013, followed by afternoon tea. Registration costs $10 and can be obtained from Women’s Health Action or (09) 520 5295.

Media Enquiries to:
Dr Kim McGregor, Executive Director Rape Prevention Education.
021 378 991

Louise Nicholas, National Sexual Violence Survivor Advocate, Rape Prevention Education, 021326505

RPE Delivers Prof Ed to Red Frogs Group

Prof Ed Red Frogs 19 Aug 2013, FionaRPE Education Team Member Fiona McDonald leads a discussion about how to identify potentially harmful behaviour and safely intervene to a group of Red Frog volunteers during a Professional Education workshop presented on 19 August 2013.

Red Frogs is a group of people committed to connecting, caring and educating the youth and young adult generation throughout their party and social environments. With great involvement in the Auckland universities, halls of residents, major dance parties and festivals, Red Frogs is fast becoming the people to call when you want to a create a good time that will also be a safe time. For more information about Red Frogs click here.