Relationships and Sex Education

Apause and its Scientific Evidence-base

During the halcyon days when Apause contributed to scientific research, I was privileged to count the late and great Doug Kirby as a colleague. Doug’s work and legacy were recently cited in an excellent article, What does science tell us about Sex Ed? As I dutifully read the paper, a persistent voice yawned, “So, what’s new?” until I reached the paragraphs below:

"About 90 percent of the beneficial programs in the Kirby analysis included at least two interactive activities to help participants engage with the lessons via acting out scenarios or other exercises.

At the end of the day, what young people need is the interpersonal skills to negotiate and communicate and to refuse. And to teach that, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time role-playing and not a lot of time labeling body parts,” said Leslie Kantor, chair of the Department of Urban-Global Public Health at the Rutgers School of Public Health. Nearly all of the effective programs in the Kirby review discussed specific sexual and protective behaviors. Usually this included encouraging abstinence as well as the use of condoms or other contraception if and when a person chose to become sexually active. Finally, 90 percent of these programs provided training to the educators who delivered the curriculum."


Role-plays and interactive activities

I am extremely proud to say that Apause (1995) was included as one of the 83 effective programmes in Kirby’s international study (2007) and, unsurprisingly, Apause does, indeed, spend an ‘awful lot of time role-playing’ and acting out scenarios. Moreover, Apause embraced the 17 characteristics Kirby identified as being common to effective RSE.

Tragically, in my opinion, the current political climate militates against the implementation of evidence-based, comprehensive RSE programmes through educational and health authorities. But if they did, the effective ones would almost certainly place a premium on relationships skills, role-plays and simulations.

Training and Resources

Do not misunderstand me, highly interactive classroom activities put special demands on the skill-sets of teachers, and such experiential learning methods do not ‘naturally’ emerge from a responsive and cooperative class. Pedagogies of this kind require careful structuring and sequencing of classroom stimuli, but many teachers and peer educators who may have thought such an approach was well outside their comfort zone have learned to become accomplished facilitators through Apause video-supported, training and even during first use of the resources.


What about body parts? Yes, these are very important. Especially if we think young people should raise their expectations when it comes to negotiating the intricacies of giving and receiving sexual pleasure. But this kind of anatomical knowledge needs to be encountered within an inclusive classroom ethos and contextualised with models which normalise respectful and consensual relationships. Moreover, sometimes verbal languages do not fully encompass these interactions, at such times the deployment of novel theatrical devices such as floor-puppets can present more meaningful reflections of young people’s realities.

Can we help you? 

Visit our home page to get a flavour of how we are trying to offer practical and useful solutions to the challenge of statory RSE.

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Contact me

Contact me: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  to discuss how a low cost, high value collaboration with Apause could support you.


David Evans is the CEO and senior trainer/developer of Apause. He is completing his PhD in interactive RSE methods, at Goldsmiths, University of London