Foróige’s REAL U programme (Relationships Explored and Life Uncovered) was developed to enhance our service delivery to young people in relation to their sexual health. This is a high quality, comprehensive programme designed to be used in the non-formal learning environment. It is aimed at young people aged between 12-18 years in a group work setting. Foróige worked closely with The Rape Crisis Network Ireland, The Marie Keating Foundation and the Health Service Executive Crisis Pregnancy Programme and BeLonG To in developing this manual.
The programme was informed by two theories - the Health Belief Model and the Theory of Planned Behaviour, both of which illustrate the importance of working on attitudes and knowledge which in turn, enhance the likelihood of a participant having the self- efficacy to make responsible choices in relation to their sexual health. The resource will assist in the development of skills such as decision making and communication skills, which promote positive well-being and confidence in relationships.
Aim & Outcomes
The REAL U programme is more than just a sex education programme. It is a personal development programme that aims to equip young people with the skills, knowledge and confidence to develop healthy relationships, make responsible decisions in relation to their sexual health and ultimately delay the onset of early sexual activity.
Overview of Contents
The programme was developed to enable young people to explore issues pertinent to relationships and sexuality. Modules are selected based on the needs of the young people taking part in the programme. The materials provide accurate information, offer age appropriate activities and are culturally sensitive. Below is an outline of the modules within the REAL U programme:
On completion of the core module participants will be able to:
• Recognise and develop strategies to cultivate positive relationships.
• Develop and practice positive communication skills, in particular assertiveness.
• Demonstrate increased awareness of their behaviour in relationships.
• Understand the importance of respect with regards to a person’s sexual orientation.
• Outline ways of maintaining positive emotional well-being.
• Describe the importance of developing their own boundaries within relationships.
• Understand how the male and female reproductive system works.
On completion of the elective modules participants will be able to:
- Explain the physical and emotional changes that take place in girls and boys during puberty.
- Understand the possible consequences of sexual activity e.g. STIs, parenthood etc.
- Develop strategies of discussing contraception in a relationship.
- Explain the causes, symptoms and treatment of a range of STIs.
- Identify some of the influences on human sexuality including media influences.
- Recognise the importance of a good hygiene habit.
- Acknowledge the benefits of checking their own bodies.
- Describe methods of coping with stress.
- Demonstrate a heightened understanding of sex and the law.
- Differentiate between pornography and the reality of a relationship.
- Access relevant information available to them.
On completion of this 2 day training participants will be able to:
- Cite the aim of the REAL U programme.
- Describe the outcomes of the programme for young people.
- Outline the theories that underpin the manual
- Facilitate the REAL U programme with young people.
- Acquire a comprehensive overview of sexual health information relevant to young people including STIs, contraception and legal issues.
Training is interactive, where participants get the opportunity to facilitate activities. Those attending the training should have the level of facilitation skills necessary to role out the manual to groups or individuals. Rape Crisis Network of Ireland staff and volunteers contribute to the training by facilitating the module they developed for the manual, Sex and The Law. This input has proved to be hugely successful, as participants get to critically analyse the mixed messages that young people are faced with in relation to negotiating consent and under-age sexual activity and the law. Experts in the area of contraception and STIs are invited to contribute to the training. This input is very informative and allows participants to ask questions relevant to the sexual health of the young people that they work with. Using the contraceptive kit, participants are given the opportunity to examine different types of contraception. This input concludes with a condom demonstration which highlights points to emphasise with a youth group. On completion of the training participants receive the manual and accompanying resources including posters, parent pack, evaluation paper and they are emailed PDFs of all the activities needed for their participants.
Overview of Evaluation
The Evaluation of Foróige’s REAL U programme was undertaken in 2013 by NUI Galway Child and Family Research Centre. A combination of qualitative and quantitative measures were used in the study. The study highlighted that the REAL U programme is seen as effective in engaging young people, responding to their needs and impacting on their knowledge and attitudes in this area. Baseline data indicated that there was a need for the REAL U programme, with misinformation regarding sexual knowledge and prejudicial attitudes evident among the young people. Outomes data showed statistically significant effects for the young people who had taken part in REAL U in relation to attitudes to LGBT and knowledge about sex. Young people rated the programme highly, with 98% rating it as good, very good or excellent, while 84% said that they would recommend the programme to other young people. Qualitative data highlighted that young people found the programme to be relevant, fun and insightful and participants said that it made them better informed and more aware of the consequences of their actions. A survey of staff trained in the REAL U programme indicated that all respondents believe the programme is effective in meeting its objectives.