A students' guide to what you don't know

I have found throughout my work in relationships and sex education, both as an educator and a researcher, that young people are eager to talk about the issues that affect them and want to be involved in the design of the education that they receive. They are candid and mature in their approach – something that is not always acknowledged and in many cases they are assumed to be too immature to make educational decisions and have opinions when it comes to relationships and sex education. In my experience I have seen that quite often their voices are quashed and there is a perception, especially with relationships and sex education, that older generations know better. However, when given a voice it can be seen that this is not the case.

Dr Sophie King-Hill

Participatory research and codesign

This project took into account the importance of listening to youth voice and how fundamental this is when designing resources that will be used with them. By using participatory research and co-design approaches, this gives young people an equal say in what is being taught to them and also how this is being approached. Young people are the experts in what they need and quite often this is overlooked. Participatory research works with young people to explore issues that concern them, and in this case, contributes to co-design of resources that can be used. By using this approach the power imbalance that is often felt by young people with older generations is shifted and rather than feel disconnected from researchers and educators they become an integral part of the process. This approach not only gives value to what is being produced but also demonstrates to young people that their voices and perspectives are valid.

The project

The ESRC IAA in the School of Social Policy funded a project that allowed a participatory and co-design project to take place that initially was aimed at working with young people to design a resource for relationship and sex education. Quite often children and young people have the views of adults imposed upon them and a more participatory approach is needed to capture the voices of young people – to inform and steer adults in the design of sex and relationships sessions that are underpinned by equality and recognition of intersectionality.

Design: Void One

Void One, a well known graffiti artist, was given the initial plans and design ideas laid out by the young people. Void One was chosen as he is well known for his work that portrays the voices of the unheard. This was in keeping with the underpinning principles of the project. Graffiti was chosen as it carries hidden meanings and has been historically linked to social justice and giving a voice to those in society that don’t normally have one, giving authenticity to the resource. Void One is also working on another youth voice project with Dr Sophie King-Hill.

Download the students' guide (PDF) or view the images below. If you require a more accessible version of the guide, please get in contact with us.

An introduction to the guide
Five ways to use the tips
Tips on making the sessions work
Tips from the students
Tips from the students for the teachers
More Tips from the students for the teachers


It is intended that this resource will provide insight and understanding for schools and leadership teams when planning relationships and sex education.

With huge thanks to the young people involved in the project:

Atar (14), Babu (15), Betty (15), Denis (15), Erina (14), Ewan (15), Hasan (15), Julius (15), Kyra (14), Malachi (14), Ollie (15), Rukshan (15), Tyler (14), Tyler (14).

And, as always, to Bec Tigue from the University of Birmingham School for supporting the project and consistently listening to the voices of young people.

For more details on how this was carried out or for any questions you may have on the project and participatory research and co-design with young people contact Dr Sophie King-Hill: s.kinghill@bham.ac.uk