FAQs - School Based Sexual Health Services

Q1. What is the role of teachers?

Q2. Will parents be supportive?

Q3. How many schools are offering a sexual health service?

Q4. How can we protect the confidentiality of young people if they need to attend off-site medical appointments during the school day?

Q5. Is it legal to give contraception to young people under the age of 16?


Q1. What is the role of teachers?

A. Teachers and support staff have an important signposting role. They should be able to tell young people where and how they can access confidential advice on sexual health issues - either in or out of school.

They are not expected to give young people detailed health advice.

Teachers who are delivering Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and PSHE or who have a coordination role for Healthy Schools can look for ways of improving young people's knowledge of sexual health services.

Even if the school does not offer any sexual health services on-site it is important that young people know where they can go for confidential advice and services.

  • Students can be given a research project as part of an SRE / PSHE lesson to find out about local services
  • Information can be displayed in the school about local services through posters and leaflets

 

Young people often enjoy active research projects. Mock visits to a local clinic are an innovative approach that ensure young people know where to find local services and what happens when you get there. For more details see SASHES peer education case-study.

SEF offers a wide range of free resources to support teachers.

Useful document:
Sex and Relationship Education Guidance (DfEE, 2000)  

 

Q2. Will parents be supportive?

A. When a sexual health service is being offered in a school for the first time it is good practice to consult with parents. This can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Presentation made to parents at a meeting and an opportunity to meet the professionals involved in running the service
  • Information about the planned service printed in a newsletter with parents feedback invited
  • A letter home with parents feedback invited

Whichever method is chosen it is important to explain to parents why the service is being set up and what the service will offer.

Parents need to know that the Fraser guidelines will be used. One of the guidelines is that the health professional should encourage the young person to inform their parents/guardians that they are seeking contraceptive advice.

The local Teenage Pregnancy Coordinator or Lead School Nurse may be able to support the school in creating clear messages to communicate to parents, and may be able to make a presentation at a parents' meeting.

Other schools in the area may already be providing a sexual health service, and parents may be reassured to find out how these services have evaluated.
 
Although many schools worry about the reaction of parents, in practice schools that have consulted parents have received few or no objections.

Young people welcome support for parents that will enable them to talk together about sex and relationships.

The Sex Education Forum have produced a dowloadable factsheet: 'Talk to your children about sex and relationships: support for parents'

 

Q3. How many schools are offering a sexual health service?

A. The Sex Education Forum have carried out a national mapping survey of on-site sexual health services in schools and pupil referral units and found that services are now widespread.

The survey was based on a sample covering 70% of local authority areas in England and found that 29% of secondary schools in the sample have on-site sexual health services (627 schools). Services are also common in pupil referral units with  84 units found to have on-site sexual health services.

The survey also found that on-site sexual health services have been successfully set up in a wide range of institutions including young parents unts, faith-based schools, special schools and independent schools.

There are wide local and regional variations in the distribution of on-site sexual health services but such services can be found in each of the nine government office regions. The following provides a snap-shot across the country:

  • In North Staffordshire there are 18 secondary schools that have mobile 'clinic in a box' sexual health services.
  • Five out of 11 high schools in North Tyneside have sexual health services provided by school nurses and supported by youth workers.
  • Thurrock have multi-agency partnerships delivering on-site holistic health drop-in services in 7 secondary schools. They are staffed by youth workers and school health advisors. They also have services in further education colleges.
  • A pilot programme in the London borough of Lambeth launched 2 sexual health drop-in services in secondary schools and one in a Pupil Referral Unit. They are monitoring the services and are planning to evaluate the pilot.

National mapping of on-site sexual health services in education settings: Provision in schools and pupil referral units in England, Sex Education Forum, 2008. [2.6 MB]

To find out more about the school-based sexual health services in your area contact your local Teenage Pregnancy Coordinator.

Joining the free e-mail network for professionals who are running or thinking of setting up sexual health services in schools will help put you in touch with a national network.

 

Q4. How can we protect the confidentiality of young people if they need to attend off-site medical appointments during the school day?

A: Schools have their own off-site rules. When pupils need to attend off-site medical appointments an example of good practice is the following:

A student may be signed out for medical reasons and there is no need to know what the medical reason is.

If a pupil has seen the school nurse, the school nurse does not need to tell the school what the specific medical reason is.  If the school nurse has concerns about child-protection they should follow their policy.

The school nurse can support the young person by accompanying them to their off-site appointment. This support is particularly valuable if the young person cannot be persuaded to involve a parent, and there is no other responsible adult that they want to accompany them.

Off-site rules should be made available to all parents, so there is no need to tell the young person's parents that they went off-site for a medical appointment.

At every stage the health professional will encourage the young person to involve parents. In fact, most young people do choose to tell their parents at some stage.

There is no legal requirement for the school or health professional to inform parents. See also Q5. Under 16s, contraception and the law

 

Q5. Is it legal to give contraception to young people under the age of 16?

A. Young people have a right to access confidential medical advice and treatment including those under 16. This right is supported in law.

In the process of a one-to-one consultation a young person might reveal to a school nurse that they are sexually active. This information must also remain confidential unless there are serious child-protection concerns.

Health professionals work to locally agreed child-protection protocols.

If a young person wants contraception school nurses and other health professionals work to the Fraser guidelines. One of the guidelines is that the health professional should encourage the young person to inform their parents/guardians that they are seeking contraceptive advice.

If a young person reveals to a teacher or another non-health professional that they are sexually active, they should be signposted to a health professional. This might be the school nurse or another local service.

If the professional has concerns about child-protection they should follow their policy. Every school has a child-protection policy.

There is no legal obligation for the professional to inform the young person's parents.


Useful documents:
Best practice guidance for doctors and other health professionals on the provision of advice and treatment to young people under 16 on contraception, sexual and reproductive health (DH, 2004).

 Sex Education Forum briefing: The Sexual Offences Act 2003