‘Kia ora koutou katoa, can we be friends? Have you checked your friend requests? Why don’t you just hit accept?’
Extract from the opening song of Sexwise
The Sexwise crew L to R: Ngahiriwa, Heidi, Hadley R, Jayde, Jasmine, Adam, Saufoi and Jocelyn
Between March and June, rangatahi/youth in communities spanning Milton to Taipa had the opportunity to participate in Sexwise, and they fully-engaged with the programme from the opening song to the final advice circle. THETA delivered 27 weeks of Sexwise to diverse priority communities in fourteen DHBs.
Programme evaluation indicates that most students are learning about sexual health, and that some are changing their behaviour as a result of participating. Opportunities for collaborative actions were created and, in most districts, local providers were motivated to add value to the programme.
‘the character Tim, with the school bag, reminded a lot about my self, not wanting to have gay friends, gay people are weird, so i grew a deeper understanding of how other people feel when your being that person and also i got to see a part of me in that character’ – from Sexwise online student survey 2014
Sexwise aims for every participant to identify with something in the story because effective engagement can bring about empathy and transformative learning. The student quoted above was one of the few who responded to an online survey and his comments illustrate learning through drama. He has reflected on his own behaviour and, importantly, the impact his behaviour may have had on others. Writing about theatre in education Bolton proposes that ‘the principle educational purpose of drama is change in understanding’ (1986, p.108).
Teacher and student engagement levels are assessed and Sexwise was successful or very successful in every indicator, except for one which asked students to describe their participation. 87.5% chose the ‘watch and listened’ category and only 45% chose ‘giving advice’. However, programme observation by teachers, health professionals and THETA personnel suggests much higher rates than indicated – especially for the latter. Four out of five service providers and teachers strongly agreed that the programme was culturally appropriate for rangatahi/youth.
‘Our boys never engage in sexual health programmes, particularly our Pacific Island boys. They normally walk out of the programmes and refuse to engage. Today the boys haven’t done that, they all listened and enjoyed the show and stayed for the whole workshop’. Emailed comment from a staff member of Te Puna Wai O Tuhinapo (CYFS Unit)
In terms of the extent that participants have learned about sexual and reproductive health, Sexwise met all but one of its evaluation targets. When students were asked if Sexwise had made them think about their behaviour, 66 % selected ‘Agree’ or ‘Agree a lot’. Our indicator for this question was 70% so we aren’t too far off our target. Given the wide range of issues that are covered by Sexwise it is not surprising that students indicated they gained knowledge about a large number of topics, ranging from ‘Saying no if I don’t want to have sex’ (87.72%) to ‘Coercion’ (60.53%). It is worth noting one student’s comment:
‘[I] would just like to point out that most of the boxes are unticked because I already knew a great deal about these things.’
All students who returned surveys were able to identify sexual health information within the programme.
There are high levels of new learning and extended learning.
There are moderate levels of learning about their own sexual health and that of others.
In most cases, the learning is more than gained knowledge; it is a deeper understanding of things they already knew.
Teachers felt Sexwise was very successful in terms of supporting existing health education programmes:
‘I can not think of any suggestions to improve your programme. The coordinators are very very talented and we were very surprised with the whole programme, you have definitely put a new twist to sex education it is actually now a fun topic and also a very real topic to be involved in. You have removed the awkwardness from participating in sex education.’
In addition to supporting existing programmes, some institutions have improved their practice as a result of hosting Sexwise. The Salvation Army Alternative Education Programme (Dunedin) is supporting students by providing transport so that they can get to the sexual health clinic. Salvation Army staff say ‘everyone is onto the need for checkups; in fact, the more knowledgeable students are now educating new students. Open discussion about sexual health is actively encouraged.’
71.43% of students indicated a greater confidence to talk to someone about sexual health and visit a SRH service provider after participating in Sexwise. Students report they are most likely to talk to friends and family/whānau, and doctors are the most likely clinicians to be consulted, followed by Family Planning, and nurses.
To promote the use of follow up services, a region-specific handout card for students was distributed: but only when the cards were provided by local contacts. Next year THETA will produce a national card for all students, and local services will be listed on our website.
THETA has also attempted to measure if there is behaviour change amongst students as a result of participating in the programme. We have previously received anecdotal evidence of an increase in students using clinical services so we set up an online survey to capture this data. Unfortunately, only five responses were received. Two thirds of respondents indicated ‘a few’ and one third indicated ‘a lot’ when asked if they were aware of a rise in appointments following the programme. While the survey was not statistically valid, nevertheless it was pleasing to find out that nurses (and in one case, a Social Worker) are increasingly involved in the planning and follow up to Sexwise, especially in Whanganui (shout out to Jolene!).
‘When asked [about students making appointments] adolescents said it was because of the handouts given out following the programme and being aware of the services available by public health and the other agencies in the community.’ Response in clinical service provider online survey.
Five previews for Parents/Caregivers were delivered, along with one stakeholder evening, one session with student teachers at the Otago University College of Education, and one presentation to an enthusiastic group of PSSP (Peer Sexuality Support Programme) students in Auckland (Thanks ASHS!).
Overall, Sexwise was very well received by parents, despite the challenge of motivating parents to attend previews. Schools that were the most successful at motivating their parents achieved this by integrating Sexwise into other activities. Hawera High School, for example, set up the Sexwise parent preview evening as part of the school’s biennial consultation (Link to Hawera High newsletter advertising preview).
We really appreciate all the great support we receive as we travel around the country. An honorary chocolate fish goes out to Michele Grigg and the HBDHB for providing total wrap- around support and linking Sexwise delivery to the launch of the MSD ‘Are you that someone’ campaign. THETA was able to spend an additional week in the district, thanks to some funding provided by the HBDHB and the local PHO. The region’s preview sessions and other sessions were well supported; local handout cards were provided; media were contacted; and the Actor/Educators received some pastoral care in the form of a social night.
The THETA Facebook page showed increased activity this year including posts from students:
‘Thank You, for coming to Aorere College. I wish you could come again. Thank You, I learnt a lot from the Play you did for 9MV. It could help me in the future. I enjoyed have you, guys. 🙂 I had fun watching you guys, and you guys made me laugh so much. Thank You again for coming.’
This year THETA trialled a cloud-based database to allow SRH providers easier access to the Sexwise schedule. While it was used, we think that the new online SHopp Newsletter has the potential to be a much better vehicle for providers. By the time this article goes ‘live’, THETA’s annual plan will have been submitted to the Ministry of Health, including service districts for 2015. Thanks everyone who completed our consultation Surveymonkey. We will make the most of every opportunity to update you about our plans, and we always appreciate hearing from anyone keen to support Sexwise.
Contact Gareth McMillan email@example.com (or see you at the NZSHS Conference if you’re attending).