Researchers have launched a programme in London schools this week to push for changes in the sex education curriculum.
“It’s as much about knowledge-building as it is about creating a space where people feel like they can have these conversations,” said one of the founders, Matilda Lawrence-Jubb.
“My own personal issue with sex education was how didactic it was. You don’t really get time to ask questions.”
Co-founders Anna Alexander and Lawrence-Jubb completed research in London schools as part of the Year Here social enterprise incubator. They were dismayed to find that the sex ed curriculum had not improved since their teenage years.
“I just think it’s a missed opportunity. There is sex ed in schools, there’s time set aside for it – it’s just really weird that it’s a big joke,” said Alexander.
The project launched in a pupil referral unit, a school for students who have been excluded from mainstream education, and a sixth-form college in South London this week, under the name Split Banana.
“Art is a good way to express and communicate, but you have a lot of control over what you’re doing. And it’s all open to interpretation as well,” said Alexander.
The current sex and relationship curriculum has not changed since 2000. The Department of Education (DfE) launched a cross-party consultation in 2017 to update it, with a draft proposal published in July of this year.
The draft currently continues to permit parents to withdraw children up to the age of 15 from sex education, and makes only single references to pornography and menstruation.
It also states that “schools are free to determine how they address LGBT specific content,” rather than as a mandatory part of the curriculum.
“The curriculum needs to be updated, and that needs to happen through hearing younger people’s voices,” said Alexander, noting that only 13% of the responses to the government consultation were from young people.
Split Banana’s research was informed by the increased focus on gendered issues in the last year, with topics like the #MeToo movement and rising male suicide gaining widespread attention.
“We’re really interested in thinking back to where that came from, and whether there’s a space that you could be teaching and empowering young people, so that it doesn’t ripple out.”
Don’t be fooled by the name: Split Banana wants sex education to move away from the ‘condom on a banana’ stereotype.
Instead, their mission lies in starting fruitful conversations with young people, to help them better understand themselves, their bodies and their relationships with one another.
Images are reproduced with the express permission of Split Banana.