Sexuality is broader than sexual activity. It encompasses all the things that make us who we are. Shaped by culture, history, values, education and experience, our sexuality influences our views of individuality, family, parenthood, and community.
From a young age, children are exposed to sexual imagery and language in their environment, and their bodies are experiencing and developing sexual responsiveness. Their curiosity is inevitable, and the answers they get should clarify—not confuse—the issues for them.
Adolescence is a particularly stressful and confusing time as both physical and cognitive aspects of sexual expression begin to align, and the opportunities for personal decision making expand. Sexuality begins to be a significant part of relationship experiences. We want those relationships to be healthy and safe, as they are the training ground for life as an adult.
The latest national research has revealed that most young people learn about sex and sexual health (93 per cent) from school-based sexuality education programs (Writing themselves in again).
Family members were also found to be a significant source of information at 61 per cent.
However, students reported low levels of confidence to discuss sexuality or contraception with parents.
With the latest research telling us that school children are turning to schools and their families for reliable information, it is important to support schools and parents to do the best job they can.
Research tells us that many young people are sexually active in some way and this has increased over the last decade. Research reports two issues of concern:a low level of consistent condom use increased rates of unwanted sex, particularly in relation to alcohol use.
There are numerous competing messages about sexuality in the world. Many are misinformed and sensationalist, yet are often presented in highly communicative styles, through pop videos, advertisements, internet blogs, mobile phones, film, reality TV and television serials.
The primary purpose of many of these messages is to sell a product, not to equip young people with what they need to know for a healthy and fulfilling adult life.
Comprehensive, whole-school sexuality education, that provides consistent and accurate information to all young Victorians from an early age and is respectful of diversity, can contribute to positive behaviour change.
Young people can make good decisions about their sexual health if education policies, programs and services are available to help them.
A shared partnership approach between schools, parents and the local community will ensure sound, evidence-based and responsible sexuality education is readily available for all Victorian young people.
Teaching about sexuality encourages students to develop a coherent set of personal values based upon respecting themselves and others. Students who understand and value themselves and others are better equipped to develop meaningful and respectful relationships. They are able to take a positive approach to managing their lives and develop the necessary skills to prepare them for current and future life challenges.
Sexuality education lays the foundations for students by learning the correct names for parts of the body, understanding principles of human reproduction, exploring family and interpersonal relationships, learning about safety, and developing confidence. These can then be built upon gradually, in line with the age and development of a student.
Sexuality education encompasses a range of relationships, not only sexual relationships. Children are aware of and recognise these relationships long before they act on their sexuality and therefore need the skills to understand their bodies, relationships and feelings from an early age.
Sexuality education provides opportunities for students to develop media literacy skills which are essential to help children and young people understand, interpret, and evaluate media messages and imagery related to sexuality, relationships and gender.
The teaching of human sexuality within K–6 PDHPE aims to:
- prepare students for changes which they will experience during puberty and help them to accept change as a normal part of growing up dispel myths which students often hear
- provide an opportunity for students to learn about their changing bodies in a positive environment free from discrimination or prejudice, including homophobia
- provide students with consistent knowledge and information, which can help combat peer pressure
- provide a forum to discuss concerns with trusted adults
- generate opportunities for children to talk to their parents openly and honestly about issues relating to sexuality which provide a platform for communicating during adolescence
- provide opportunities for students to develop decision-making skills and to approach issues with confidence in their abilities to solve problems.