‘Sexual health circus’ in Bristol schools puts a positive spin on sex education
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‘Sexual health circus’ in Bristol schools puts a positive spin on sex education

‘Sexual health circus’ in Bristol schools puts a positive spin on sex education

The UK’s new RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) curriculum has caused some controversy among conservative groups, but most agree that the newly updated sex education is mandatory for students.

The updated RSE curriculum includes teaching students about female genital mutilation (FGM), how to have healthy relationships, LGBT issues, as well as the dangers of sexting and paedophile grooming.

Jess Herman, a sexual health advisor in Bristol, came up with the idea to have a ‘sexual health’ circus for schools, which is most likely the first of its kind in the country.

According to the Facebook page, “We have created a powerful, interactive and engaging circus show which will help young people navigate the rocky road of adolescence.”

“Expect high skilled circus artists grappling with the hot topics of pornography, pleasure, relationships, consent, ‘nudes’ and much more! Don’t miss incredible acrobatics, daring aerial, stunning duo hula hooping, astounding juggling and spectacular equilibristics!”

The idea was born out of her realisation that an alarming number of students are ill-prepared for sex and relationships.

Herman told The Guardian, “Young people do not have enough high-quality relationship and sex education to equip them for the challenges they come across on that road of adolescence. Hearing 15- or 16-year-olds being really unclear about consent is worrying. I’ve had to tell some young people that the sex they have had is not consensual.”

The aim of the circus is to show the positive aspects of sex and relationships in a fun and engaging manner. Herman said that schools don’t always acknowledge different sexualities or provide enough time to help students learn about healthy relationships, and only touch on the basics.

She said, “Traditionally it would be about a man having sex with a woman and not getting her pregnant. But I’m always talking to young people about any gender having sex or being physical with any gender – and about asexuality too. Young people are thirsty for knowledge about how to make relationships fun, enjoyable and pleasurable.”

The show consists of different circus acts such as juggling clubs, spinning hoops, and doing handstands while tackling sexual health issues at the same time, putting a fun and lighthearted twist on an otherwise awkward topic.

The performers consist of Jess Herman, Jacob Hirsch-Holland, Emily Ball and Winston Pyke, guided by director Robyn Hambrook.

They have received £20,000 of funding from the Arts Council and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to bring the show to Bristol schools, beginning this month.

Herman acknowledges there might be some parents who would prefer not to have their child attend, but she hopes that they don’t so that their child doesn’t miss out.

She said, “The earlier young people can have honest and real relationship and sex education, the better-informed they are, and the more they are able to make positive choices for themselves.”

The new RSE curriculum has received backlash over some religious and conservative groups who claim they have the right to withdraw their child from what they deem is “inappropriate” education.

Last month, a parliamentary debate was after more than 100,000 people signed a petition against the mandatory RSE.

In response, the UK government has created a page to address concerns and answer FAQs about the new curriculum.

The website states, “Through these subjects, we want to support all young people to be happy, healthy and safe – we want to equip them for adult life and to make a positive contribution to society.”

If the circus proves successful and well-received by students, schools all around the world should take note on this creative way of making a sensitive yet necessary discussion more engaging and effective.

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