Lessons on living without sex

STEVE DOWNES Romance is a word that most teenagers probably think floated away with the Ark.And few would say it is the first thing on their mind when someone attractive catches their eye.

STEVE DOWNES

Romance is a word that most teenagers probably think floated away with the Ark.

And few would say it is the first thing on their mind when someone attractive catches their eye.

But an initiative among a group of Norwich teenagers is flying in the face of stereotypes, and trying to make a dent in the rising number of teenage pregnancies.

Romance Academy, which was launched last night, takes a dozen 14 to 16-year-olds and challenges them to go without sex throughout the 15-week course.

Instead, the six boys and six girls will meet each week to focus on topics such as building and sustaining healthy relationships, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, drugs and alcohol and self-image.

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The course, organised by Pregnancy Crisis Norfolk (PCN), is inspired by the popular BBC2 series No Sex Please We're Teenagers.

It is being run by Christian youth workers Sarah Woodger and David Lanchester.

Mr Lanchester said: “We want to help educate people about relationships and sex issues. There's a lot of media pressure on teenagers to have sex and it's easy to lose the whole relationship side of things.”

The young people, who attended an open evening last night at the Fishergate Centre in Norwich, will meet every Tuesday evening throughout the course. They will also have social events and a residential weekend away.

PCN director Biddy Collyer said: “Anyone who saw the BBC2 programme last year must have been inspired by the enthusiasm and compassion of the two Christian youth workers who pioneered the Romance Academy.

“We believe it is an exciting opportunity positively to influence the lives of young people by challenging them to question the messages that society throws at them and helping them realise their value and worth.”

PCN is working with YMCA Norfolk, the Matthew Project, Norwich Youth for Christ and church youth groups to find young people who want to get involved.

Course organiser Melissa Snell, from PCN, said: “Research has shown that, with good self-esteem, a young person is more likely to delay having sex and less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour when they do become sexually active - thus reducing the risk of unplanned teenage pregnancy and STIs and their associated cost.”

She added that there would be a graduation ceremony at the end of the course, to which the young people could invite family and friends.

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