Neighbourhoods Have More Influence than Schools

A team of researchers from Glasgow and Edinburgh analysed data on nearly 5000 pupils from 24 different Scottish Schools. They found that overall 42% of girls and 33% of boys reported experience of sexual intercourse, but the rates between schools ranged widely, from 23% to 61%. “Schools have the potential to influence their pupils’ behaviour through the school’s social organisation and culture, as well as through the formal curriculum,” said study lead author Dr Marion Henderson from the Medical Research Council Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow. “The idea of Health Promoting is now encouraged by government.”

However, the study found that how well a school is run appeared to have little influence at all on sexual behaviour. The results revealed that school level socio-economic factors remain very influential even after individual pupils’ socio-economic status is taken into account. Henderson explained: ‘‘School-level socio-economic factors, such as levels of deprivation, do have a big influence. This suggests that an individual who is deprived but attending a school with an affluent catchment area may be discouraged from sexual activity, whilst an affluent individual attending a school with a deprived catchment area may be encouraged towards earlier sexual intercourse.”

Commenting on the value of sex education in schools Henderson said. ‘‘It would be over-simplifying to interpret these results as suggesting that sex education isn't valuable. The study was looking at effects of school beyond the sex education curricula. Sex education is intended to encourage young people to be responsible for their own sexual health and to make informed choices.”; Source: BMC Public Health