Ah, you lucky ladies and gents. Guess who’s going to be teaching you RSE next term? Yup, that’s right – it’ll be me. I bet you’re looking forward to it already, aren’t you?
Seriously, though. I know that the truth is, the prospect of a series of lessons on ‘relationships and sex’ isn’t likely to fill any of you with joy.
You’re not Y7/8 kids any more, and ‘going out with’ someone isn’t the game it used to be.
Some of you will worry about embarrassing topics being covered; others, that you might have your decisions challenged and criticised.
And of course, for a good number of you, just the thought of being in a classroom where private body parts could be mentioned will still set off a hysterical giggling fit (even though, honestly, we’ve been talking to you about your own basic biology for years).
But trust me, 9EP. This is the year when, according to our curriculum, RSE starts to get really interesting.
We are going to be talking about some incredibly important stuff – it matters hugely to me that you pay attention… and take it seriously. Because ultimately, I don’t want you to end up making the same mistakes I did.
Back when I was your age, you see, there was no such thing as ‘RSE’. We had so-called ‘sex ed’, instead – a couple of hideously mortifying lessons where the boys were taken into one classroom, and the girls into another, and each group was shown an ancient video about how babies are made.
There was some mention of love, I seem to recall – but certainly nothing about how not to make a baby.
And that wasn’t the only thing that our teachers didn’t speak to us about.
We weren’t told about consent, and how crucial it is.
No one discussed what a ‘healthy relationship’ might look like, nor gave us guidance on how to spot the warning signs of potential abuse from someone claiming to adore us.
So when, at the age of 15, I found myself with a boyfriend who looked like Morten Harket (ask your mums), but whose idea of romance was buying me a bag of chips before trying to take my clothes off, I didn’t know how to tell him that wasn’t what I wanted.
I didn’t know that it was OK to want not to rush things. I didn’t know that saying ‘no’ didn’t make me a prude, or a tease; nor that saying ‘yes’ to one thing didn’t mean I was implicitly up for anything.
Early habits are hard to break. I was in my 30s before I experienced a relationship that was based on real affection and respect, rather than power.
And by that time, I’d already had to make one of the toughest, most painful choices in my life, having been told by a boy that asking him to wear a condom would definitely ‘spoil it’, for both of us.
I don’t want that, for any of you.
I’m not saying that what I’m going to tell you next term will magically ensure that none of you ends up in a less-than-ideal relationship, nor that it will protect you from anything bad ever happening.
But the more informed you are – about your rights, your autonomy, and your responsibilities to others – the better able you will be to make good choices, regardless of all the pressures you are subjected to these days (at least us oldies didn’t have social media and internet porn to worry about…)
So here’s the deal, 9EP. I’ll make the lessons enjoyable – keeping the embarrassment factor to a minimum.
I’ll make sure there’s enough time, and a safe space, for you to talk about your concerns.
There’ll be zero role play.
And you? Well, if you arrive with open minds, honest feelings and the understanding that our aim, as a school, is both to empower you, and to keep you safe… I think we’ll get through this just fine.