All schools in England are now required by law to deliver a robust programme of relationships education in primary school and relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons in secondary school.
Government guidance (DfE, 2019) provides a broad and full range of content to cover, but how do schools know if their curriculum goes deep enough in addressing current issues, for example sexual harassment and abuse?
Ofsted and young people themselves have repeatedly called out the gaps in RSE. Key information about what a healthy relationship looks like, discussion about pornography and aspects such as FGM are frequently neglected or missed altogether.
Reviewing the list of topics that are covered in the RSE curriculum and ensuring that sufficient time and skilled teaching resource is available are both vital steps to take. However, even an experienced teacher of RSE may feel that the list of things to teach about is overwhelmingly long and will not fit into their programme.
Leaders and RSE teachers alike benefit from stepping back and spending some time considering the evidence-base around what we know works. Research shows that RSE is more effective when it uses participatory, learner-centred approaches, and when it is responsive to the realities of children and young people’s lives, with scope to explore their views, attitudes, and norms (SEF, 2015). Research also highlights the benefits of parental engagement, so that both home and school are involved.
Sex Education Forum remain concerned about the under-investment in training for schools in England to provide high quality, evidence-based RSE. Teachers must feel confident and supported to deliver lessons on a subject that can have such a profound impact on young people’s lives. The opportunity to attend interactive training is invaluable, with a safe space to reflect on values and how our own experiences impact on how we teach RSE. We urge Ministers to explain why only one in five schools have received UK Government funded training to implement RSHE, and we encourage schools to source high quality training and information resources, rather than start from scratch.
Sex Education Forum adheres to a set of 10 values and principles for evidence-based RSE, and these are shared by our community of Educators and Partners. These values can be a guide when choosing resources, working with external agencies and reviewing RSE provision at your school.
As Chief Executive of the Sex Education Forum, Lucy oversees the day-to-day running of the charity and ensuring our members and partners continue to receive everything they would expect from the Sex Education Forum, including high-quality resources, training, advice and the latest policy developments.
Lucy has been at the forefront of campaigns for statutory RSE, and is regularly called on to inform both the policy and research agenda and to speak in the media.
Lucy has written numerous publications including guides on involving parents and carers in RSE, and a series of e-magazines for educators.