Safe sex and relationships in FE (SaFE): mixed-method, multi-case study to develop a comprehensive sexual health intervention for FE settings

Lead investigator
Dr. Adam Fletcher, DECIPHer, Cardiff University

The promotion of safe and healthy sexual behaviour, including reproductive choice, plays an important role in young people’s health and wellbeing.

Further Education (FE) is a life stage during which many young people initiate sexual activity and engage in risky sexual practices. More than 1.5 million 16-18 year olds are now enrolled on FE courses in the UK, making this a key setting for improving sexual health and relationships. However, there remains very little investment in sexual health promotion activities in FE settings.

To address this gap, DECIPHer has been funded by the MRC to work with the UK’s largest sexual health charity (Brook), the UCL Institute of Education, and LSHTM’s sexual health team, to develop a systematic approach to promoting safe sex and relationships among 16-19 year olds through FE settings.

Aims & objectives
The aim is to develop the first comprehensive intervention for Further Education (FE) settings to promote safe sex and relationships among 16-19 year-olds. Informed by evidence of effective interventions delivered in other contexts, researchers will work with FE students, FE staff and sexual health service providers, to identify how to implement and coordinate the following four components within a single complex intervention: (1) a student-led action group to lead institutional-level change; (2) sexual health services delivered on site; (3) staff training; and (4) sex and relationships education (SRE).
Study design

Students and staff from six FE settings in England and Wales, and staff from Brook, will take part in the study. Participating FE settings will include ‘sixth form’ colleges attached to schools, and FE colleges of different sizes.

The research will involve three stages:

Stage 1: Focus groups and interviews will be used to explore the views of FE students, teachers, managers and sexual health service providers regarding the most appropriate and sustainable methods for implementing: student-led action groups; sexual health services on-site; staff training; and sex and relationships education.

Stage 2: All FE students and staff at each of the six FE settings will be asked to complete an online survey to examine how methods identified in stage 1 may have differential uptake, acceptability and impacts in different settings and/or by different students.

Stage 3: Key findings will be reported at consultation events with FE managers, Brook staff and policy makers, to finalise the intervention logic model and co-produce a new safe sex and relationships in FE (SaFE) intervention.

Start date
1 March 2015
End date
31 December 2015