Educating young people about relationships makes for better relationships – Mulholland

“Teaching young people about how to have safe and healthy relationships is not going to put the notion of having sex into their heads – it will however empower them to make educated, informed decisions” says Alliance Councillor Sian Mulholland.

Councillor Mulholland was speaking at Belfast City Council during a debate on her motion endorsing a report from the Belfast Youth Forum on Relationship and Sexual Education (RSE), ‘Any Use?’

Councillor Mulholland said: “We should be striving to ensure that children and young people are equipped with the knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to cope with the many pressures and challenges of modern society from as early as is appropriately possible.

“The results from the Belfast Youth Forum’s report are startling with 60% of the respondents indicating that they felt that the RSE information they received was either ‘not very useful’ or ‘not useful at all’.

“The design and delivery of RSE is rarely carried out in conjunction with young people. It is most often implemented from an adult’s perspective and even at the best of times, with the best of intentions can fail to address the key issues felt and experienced by the young people themselves. As a result, RSE can vary from school to school in quality, quantity and tone; it can be irrelevant, misguided and oblivious to the issues faced by young people identifying as anything other than heterosexual/heteronormative. It is clear, those tasked with the design and delivery of RSE must engage with young people as co-designers to ensure learning is relevant, inclusive, appropriate and useful.

“I am pleased that Council has supported my motion based on the three asks from the report; that a rights based and proactive approach to RSE should be adopted; that a curriculum programme and relevant interventions be co-developed with young people and, that specialist staff should deliver RSE.

“At Council Committee level, we have already committed to requesting a meeting with the Ministers for Education and Health, the Education Authority and other key stakeholders. As a statutory body with community planning powers, we should be utilising this platform to work on a multi-agency, multi-disciplinary approach to creating a rights based, safe, inclusive, age appropriate approach to RSE because this report from the Belfast Youth Forum makes it abundantly clear – young people are being failed by the current provision or lack thereof.”