UK: assessing the impact of RSE

As well as requesting feedback from young people after every session, the Southwark Esteem team recently ran a focus group with Year 10 students, who have been receiving Esteem sessions each year since they started secondary school.

The results will help us understand the long-term impact of Esteem sessions on young people; identify what has worked well; and inform how we can develop our relationships and sex education programme in the future.

We were greatly encouraged by how much the young people had remembered about their sessions over the years, and how their attitudes and opinions had changed as a result. Here’s a sample of the responses we received.

Connor pseudonym

“In all honesty, I thought it was going to be just more sex ed: common sense and fairly boring. Turns out it was the complete opposite. They focus a lot on mental health and our emotions rather than just cold hard facts. It makes it more relatable and educational. Esteem has changed how I think about sex because I realised there are so many legal and emotional sides to anything sexual.” Connor, 15

Niamh pseudonym

“The educators were more honest and straight to the point, other adults beat around the bush and overcomplicate everything. Consent was the topic that stood out to me the most only because I thought that I had known everything there was to know about consent but the Esteem sessions introduced me to 3 laws which taught me that consent isn’t as easy as just saying yes or no. The Esteem sessions have changed my opinion on sex. They have taught me to be more cautious and careful.” Niamh, 15

Calum pseudonym

“Before Esteem, I would ask my immature, ignorant friends who said they had had sex, even if they didn’t. I thought sex was some rite of passage that we all must do as early as possible but it isn’t. We must do what we want and not be pressured.. The topic that stood out to me was masculinity because no one really talked to me about this, so it has been great to hear and learn, and it gave me a whole new outlook.” Calum, 15

Joseph pseudonym

“I enjoyed my first Esteem session and I thought it was well explained and the educators listened to what I had to say and answered my questions that I had. The sessions have changed the way that I think about relationships and sex because I am now more clued up, which means that I know how I would approach certain situations. The most important thing that I learned about myself was that I could have mature discussions and ask questions to find out more about a topic.” Joseph, 15

Leanne pseudonym

“The Esteem sessions have taught me to be more confident; that I shouldn’t care about body image and be proud to be a female; about the need to make sure you are in a healthy relationship and not taken advantage of. The contraception session stood out to me - it was interactive with a demo which gave more information, and the educators made sure everyone understood.” Leanne, 14

Graeme pseudonym

“People would always talk to me about relationships and sex, rather than to me, so I felt a disconnect and as a result I forgot and stopped caring. The Esteem sessions are a lot more well informed, but not too stacked with info like some other sessions I’ve been to. All the Esteem teachers are pretty cool too, they know what they are talking about. Southwark needs this stuff, there are a lot of misunderstood kids that don’t know who to go to and even though a session is just an hour, it lasts a lifetime.” Graeme, 15

“I feel like knowing the law on consent, sex and pornography was helpful, due to young people in our generation trying to grow up too fast — it invoked understanding.” Sarah, 14