The National Children’s Bureau and the Sex Education Forum have secured funding from Comic Relief to provide a programme of sex education promoting healthy relationships targeted specifically at those children most likely to suffer sexual exploitation.

‘Lessons in Love’ will draw on the experiences of young people and expert practitioners to develop a flexible programme of sex and relationships education (SRE) for use with teenagers identified to be at risk of sexual exploitation. A 'training the trainer' model will be used to create a nation-wide group of practitioners that are skilled and confident to deliver the programme.

While any child or young person can experience sexual exploitation, those in or leaving care, homeless or caught up in the criminal justice system are at particular risk, as recent cases in Oxford and Rochdale have shown. These young people often miss out entirely on sex education because their school attendance is disrupted and they may have had very little discussion about it growing up at home.

Help protect young people from poor sexual health
Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum said: ‘Evidence shows that a broad programme of SRE, that starts early, helps protect young people from poor sexual health and harmful relationships. We know that some young people are at a higher risk of sexual exploitation than others and so it is essential that these young people don’t miss out on vital education about relationships. ‘Lessons in Love’ will help ensure that vulnerable children have a chance to think about what they hope for in relationships in the safety of a small group led by a trained educator. Young people will be closely involved in the design of ‘Lessons in Love’ to ensure that it reflects the real-life experience of young people who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.’

Young people say that the quality of SRE in school is falling short - with more than half of young people (56%) saying they did not learn 'what is good and bad in a relationship' in school (Sex Education Forum, 2008). Ofsted is concerned that this inadequacy may leave children and young people vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation because "they have not been taught the appropriate language or developed the confidence to describe unwanted behaviours or know where to go to for help."(Ofsted 2013).

The ‘Lessons in Love’ project is currently undertaking a ‘call for evidence’ of effective sex and relationship interventions for vulnerable young people. They would like to hear about any relevant SRE programmes and resources that have been delivered by colleagues working with young people in care, youth justice, housing, alternative education and youth support settings. For more information on how you can get involved visit: http://www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/about-us/lessons-in-love-project/call-for-evidence.aspx