Amber Newman-Clark, Education & Wellbeing Specialist for Brook in London, works hard every day to challenge stigma around sex and sexuality so that young people feel empowered to take control of their own lives. This is a week in Amber’s shoes…
Why I do what I do
The message that sex, bodies and certain aspects of relationships should never be discussed is the message I remember clearly receiving from society as a child and young person.
This is not a unique feeling; many of the people I speak to in my work have received similar messages throughout their childhood and teenage years.
Often what drives sex educators is the hope that we are making the topic less shameful, giving people the tools to speak about it and hopefully busting some common myths along the way. A drive for me is the thought that I could make a difference to the way someone learns about sex and relationships, and challenge the usual stigma and shame attached to these topics.
Disclaimer: My weeks vary massively! How many and what types of workshops I deliver depends on the time of the school year. COVID has affected my job a lot, too. This week in the life is based on a typical week pre-lockdown.
My specific role at Brook has a large element of ‘targeted’ group work, where I work with smaller groups of young people and sometimes 1-1 outside of mainstream school settings such as youth clubs, supported accommodation, pupil referral units (PRUs) and many more.
On Mondays we’d usually have a team meeting and then I would spend a lot of the day planning for upcoming education sessions and trainings during the week (see before the session paragraph on what this might entail). I might also have a call with a local youth club to plan upcoming sessions.
In the afternoon I might be teaching a sixth form session about Pornography. This also requires time to be spent travelling to and from the session. When back in the office, I’d need to also reflect and log any admin or safeguarding concerns flagged during the session (see after the session paragraph).
On a Tuesday, I could be delivering a full day professionals’ training about Brook’s Traffic Light Tool. This involves training teachers about how to identify, understand and respond appropriately to sexual behaviours in young people.
On Wednesday morning I would need to upload data and evaluation form feedback from the professionals’ training on Tuesday. I may then be required to film some social media content for the Media and Communications Team.
In the afternoon, I might spend some time report writing. Every quarter, we write reports about the work we have done and people in the local area we have reached.
This is a great way to look back on what we have achieved and a nice excuse to look through comments young people have made about our sessions over the past month.
The rest of the day could be spent preparing for a small group workshop in a PRU on consent for the following day.
In the morning I’d travel to the PRU to deliver a 1 hour workshop on Consent to Year 11 students, then travel back to the office and carry out any necessary post-session admin and reflection.
I might then work on designing some new resources for young people with SEND (special educational needs and disability), as well as preparing for a workshop on STIs and contraception for the next day.
Lastly, I might travel to an external meeting with targeted youth support about upcoming work helping their teams to provide sexual health services on local estates.
A Friday could entail 3 back-to-back classes with year 10 on STIs and contraception as part of a school’s drop down day on sex education.
After this, I might attend a training (e.g. on chemsex) before travelling back to the office to carry out any post-session admin.
I could then spend the rest of the afternoon packing condoms and health promotion resources for a stall at local youth club event. I’d attend the event to distribute condoms and do some sexual health promotion with quizzes and prizes.
Before the session
When you have a planned session in your calendar, the session itself is the thing you spend the least of your time on. In fact, it is everything around the session which takes the time. Most of our standard sessions are pre-planned, designed, quality assured and updated regularly. But sometimes you may get a session which needs more pre-planning.
This might involve:
- A group planning session where you would like the team to help with particular aspects of the session
- Calling a colleague with particular specialisms to help with the planning of the session
- Re-familiarising yourself with the outcomes of the session
- Checking whether any information has changed about the topic (things change all the time in sexual health so it’s important to stay as up to date as you can)
- Gathering the resources you need for the session
- Inputting the session details into our data system.
After the session
- Any safeguarding concerns to report?
- Reflection: with colleagues, with a manager, with yourself
- Every member of staff working with young people has to attend a safeguarding supervision every 3 months where we bring safeguarding concerns that have been reported already. This space is for supporting colleagues sharing best practise and discussing complex cases.
- Inputting data from the session including any evaluation data.
There are many other elements to my role which I have not mentioned, including but not limited to: networking meetings, speaking at a panel event or on a podcast, providing expert comment for the Comms Team to be included in press articles, parent meetings, and more!
I love so many aspects of my job, but most of all it is the people; the colleagues I work with everyday, the young people I get to teach and the professionals who care so much about the young people in their lives.
I get to be the person who hopefully helps to build confidence in people to discuss these vital topics in a way which promotes inclusivity and de-stigmatises conversations. Doing this definitely gives me hope and propels me forward to continue doing what I do.