A report published in BMC Public Health states that socio-economics and neighborhood have a more powerful influence on sexual activity among 15- and 16-year-olds than the classroom.

A team of researchers analyzed data on nearly 5,000 pupils from 24 different Scottish Schools. They found that overall 42% of girls and 33% of boys reported experience of sexual intercourse, but the rates between schools ranged widely, from 23% to 61%.

Commenting on the value of sex education in schools, lead author Dr. Marion Henderson said, "It would be over-simplifying to interpret these results as suggesting that sex education isn't valuable. The study was looking at effects of school beyond the sex education curricula."

The study found that how well a school is run appeared to have little influence at all on sexual behavior. Once the researchers had accounted for all the known predictors of sexual activity (parental monitoring, individual socio-economic factors, the age of pupils, their levels of personal spending money or the proportion of their friends perceived to be having sex) – the variance between schools dropped sharply.

The characteristics of a school, including relationships between teachers and pupils, appearance, discipline and the school's layout, showed only a very weak impact on the rates of sexual experience.

Socio-economic factors remain very influential even after individual pupils’ socio-economic status is taken into account.

Dr Henderson explained: ‘‘School-level socio-economic factors, such as levels of deprivation, do have a big influence. This suggests that an individual who is deprived but attending a school with an affluent catchment area may be discouraged from sexual activity, whilst an affluent individual attending a school with a deprived catchment area may be encouraged towards earlier sexual intercourse.”

Article: Marion Henderson, Isabella Butcher, Daniel Wight, Lisa Williamson, Gillian Raab, What explains between-school differences in rates of sexual experience?, BMC Public Health 2008, 8:53doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-53