Sexual health project in Barnsley wins national award


A multi-faceted programme that takes a holistic approach to sexual health, drugs and alcohol issues affecting young people has won the Pamela Sheridan Award 2011.

The programme is delivered by the Barnsley Sex, Drugs and Alcohol steering group, which is made up of professionals from organisations including the Trust and Barnsley Council.

The Pamela Sheridan Award is a national education prize from the sexual health charity FPA (Family Planning Association), which is presented annually by the charity for excellence in sex and relationships education (SRE). The award was established in memory of Pamela Sheridan, who was an early sex education pioneer and had a lifelong interest in family planning.

The programme in Barnsley was recognised for its highly successful initiative consulting with adults and children, to develop resources, training and support for schools and other organisations to deal with important issues around sex, alcohol and drug use.

The award-winning resources include:

  • A toolkit for practitioners who work with parents/carers: ‘How to talk to children about drugs, alcohol and sex.’
  • A primary school scheme of work
  • A toolkit for secondary schools: ‘How to develop health and wellbeing services for students.’
  • A teaching resource aimed at 12 – 19 year olds

The resources were developed in such a way that schools and other settings can adapt them to fit their own SRE and Personal Social and Health Education (PSHE) programme. This has been particularly important in ensuring the use of the resources since schools vary greatly in how they timetable SRE and also need the flexibility to mould the curriculum to meet pupil needs. The production of new resources has been used to stimulate practitioners and organisations to consider their whole organisation approach to relationships, sex, drugs and alcohol issues.

Using expertise from the healthy settings service, school nursing, substance misuse, and the drug and alcohol action teams the group consulted with young people, teachers, parents and carers and developed a range of unique SRE resources and training for professionals. The resources and training were delivered not only in schools, but across services such as the youth service, youth offending team, Barnsley College, looked after children’s service and children’s centres.

Since 2009, over three-quarters of primary schools in Barnsley and every secondary school have participated in the programme. This is an amazing testament to its success. Members of the steering group were presented with the award at the Sex Education Forum summer meeting at the National Children’s Bureau in London and will receive £1,000 worth of FPA resources.

Julie Bentley, chief executive FPA, said, "The judges chose this initiative because it so clearly linked the issue of sexual health with alcohol and drugs. Educational resources were developed for schools and other organisations to integrate into their SRE programmes. The project also has a clear future. Many local education and health initiatives, such as the Parenting and Family Support Strategy are including the award-winning programme in their local action plans. The panel felt that young people and parents were fully consulted with."


There is a high level of deprivation in Barnsley with the percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals well above national average and educational attainment below average – with most secondary schools being national challenge schools. Hospital admissions for young people relating to alcohol are particularly high, and evidence collected through biannual lifestyle surveys with Year 10 pupils show that sexual activity after drinking alcohol is high, particularly amongst females. Rates of teenage conception are also higher than average at 52.5 per 1000 (2009).

The Barnsley Children and Young People’s Plan for 2009-2012 identified the need to improve Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and drug and alcohol education. Work with schools to improve alcohol awareness and to improve access to SRE selected as priorities for action under the being healthy theme. The commitment and accountability mechanisms attached to the plan have been vital in initiating action and levering support.

A ‘Sex, Drugs and Alcohol’ steering group was set up in 2008 with membership from a variety of agencies including the Healthy Settings Team, school nursing and public health (SWYPFT), the drug and alcohol action team, the youth service, Young Addaction (a substance misuse service) and the looked after children’s team. There has also been input from the early-years service and contraception and sexual health services.

The steering group provided a forum where lead professionals could make crucial links, for example between education and health, sexual health and alcohol. Having such a range of partners around the table resulted in a more sophisticated map of local activity – i.e who was doing what, where and when to educate and support children, young people and families in relation to sex and relationship, drug and alcohol education. Once gaps were identified partners committed funding and expertise to develop resources and a multi-agency training programme.

Future work

Training professionals to deliver SRE and use the new resources has been a key objective of the programme. A training programme has been offered to coincide with the publication of each new resource. Resources are only given to practitioners once they have attended training. This is in order to maximise participation in training and to ensure best practice principles are applied when the resources are used.

Use of the resources and training on offer for SRE is now integrated into the following:

  • Integrated Youth Support Strategy,
  • Parenting and Family Support Strategy
  • Teenage Pregnancy and Sexual Health Strategies
  • Alcohol Action Plan
  • Drug Treatment and Needs Assessment Plan
  • Healthy School Programme materials used in Barnsley

Sexual health project in Barnsley wins national award

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