In a world where children are surrounded by multi-media, information technology and social networking, they can enter an adult world at the click of a button! Many parents take it for granted that their teenagers must know all about sex as it’s constantly in the media and “they do all that at school, don’t they?”
The reality is far different, Sex Education in schools is not statutory and there have been no new guidelines issued since 2000, consequently the quality of your child’s sex education in school is a bit of a post code lottery.
Big Talk Education is an organisation committed to keeping children and teenagers informed, safe, healthy and happy. Providing Sex & Relationship Education from 4 yrs upwards and with a team of 10 part time staff, they also provide training courses for parents and professionals who work with children, teenagers and families.
Lynnette Smith has a background in Youth & Community Work and is also a qualified Teacher and Trainer having worked in the field of Sex Education for more than 17 years. She was commissioned to help reduce teenage pregnancy in North Lincolnshire which she achieved with a 20% reduction. She has also helped Local Authorities to train and develop specialist teams to deliver sex education in Senior Schools where students (and the majority of teachers) prefer specialists to be involved.
When Councils began to cut their budgets and the business had to rethink, Business Doncaster helped her to get back on track by providing a Business Mentor. This was an opportunity to diversify and BigTalk now provide Sex Education Roadshows and Enhancement Day Workshops in addition to their usual Lessons to 4,000 young people each year. The new roadshows cover the contemporary issues many Teenagers are facing. These are topics often linked to social media such as Sexting, The Reality of Pornography, Teenage Domestic Abuse and Sexual Exploitation, subjects that regular teachers may not be too keen to deliver. With help and support, Lynnette has also been able to access quality training herself which she feels reinvigorated the business and helped her to move forward with confidence.
Another development is additional courses for Professionals matching the emerging needs in an increasingly sexualized society. In the last year they have expanded into training Staff in Sheffield, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Peterborough and there hometown Doncaster! Lynnette now speaks regularly on Local Radio, giving advice and guidance for Parents and Carers on how to talk with their children about sensitive topics and earlier this year BigTalk Education was nominated for the fpa “Innovation in Sex Education” Award.
BigTalk Education has received national recognition from organisations such as the National Teenage Pregnancy Support Team and in October 2010 Lynnette spoke at the National Sex Education Forum Conference.
As BigTalk’s reputation grows, Lynette would like to see more Training being delivered in Doncaster and other neighboring Authorities. She is also hoping that the School based arm of the business expands so she can increase the hours of her part time staff, who are incredibly skilled and committed.
We asked Lynnette a few questions about being in business:
Who / what was your inspiration for starting in business?
I am passionate about good quality relationship and sex education for children and young people. When I lost the funding for my position with the Local Authority, I decided to go freelance and start my own business!
What has been the biggest challenge for you?
In the beginning I found it difficult just getting out there, selling yourself, your resources and services. It’s still a bit daunting with a new client but I try and prepare well, covering all eventualities.
What do you like most about being your own boss?
Everyday is different. I have autonomy and the sense of achievement when “a plan comes together” it is fantastic! It’s great to have goals to aim for and reach. When you’re the “Boss” you can’t blame anyone else for blocking your progress
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own business?
Research, prepare, arrange contingencies, believe in yourself, be prepared for hard work and then just go for it! It can be very scary, but there is help and support out there. Business Doncaster have been brilliant, they helped me work through any issues and bolstered my business confidence. They provided specialist expert advice to help me diversify and expand, plus there were lots of events where I could network with like minded people who were incredibly supportive.
Future plans, where do you see yourself and your business this time next year?
At present we deliver Sex & Relationship Education to almost 4,000 young people. Next month we are starting training staff in Peterborough who have bought our Sex Education packages. I would like to expand and ensure that the service is available to more schools and organisations in the Doncaster area especially the Sex Education Roadshows. The same with our short courses for Parents whether it is delivering in Children’s Centers or in private homes.