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Sex and relationships education guidance. Consultation launched today – have your say!

January 25th, 2010

Dr Petra

Today sees the launch of a three month consultation by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, focusing on how we will plan and teach sex and relationships issues to children and teens.

Previously we’ve had consultations over whether to make sex education statutory, at what age(s) it can be delivered, what should be covered, and whether parents have the right to withdraw their child from classes.

As sex education is going to be compulsory within schools the next phase of public consultation will look at what will be taught, how it will be delivered (and who by), and to identify what support teachers will need to provide high quality information to children.

The DCSF say:
“The purpose of this consultation is to gather views on the draft document, Sex and Relationships Education Guidance. This document provides guidance to maintained primary, secondary, special schools and pupil referral units (PRUs) in England on all matters relating to SRE, including how good quality SRE can be planned and delivered, how to develop an SRE policy and how to support the health and social needs of all pupils with regard to sex and relationships. It is relevant to all staff, particularly senior managers and those responsible for co-ordinating, teaching and supporting the delivery of SRE. Headteachers and governing bodies are required by law to have regard to the guidance”

The consultation document, and educational guidance, plus a response form is all available here.

I would recommend you respond to this consultation. If you are a teacher, parent, healthcare provider, youth worker or young person you will have opinions about what is being suggested.

In the past concerns have been expressed over the attention paid to issues of delivering sex and relationships information to young people with physical disabilities; those with learning difficulites; including information that went beyond biology or discussions of contraception and STIs; and tackling sexuality. Disadvantaged and excluded young people in particular may not be best placed to receive sex education. So you may wish to consider if all groups of young people in all family situations are catered for within the documentation.

Teachers have often complained about uncertainty over what they can deliver, anxieties about how to manage teaching sessions on sensitive topics, and particularly addressing questions or issues that move beyond biology and require answers about feelings, emotions and negotiating sex. Again, it will be worth reflecting on how teachers will be enabled to cover a wide range of SRE topics.

There is also the issue of how we apply evidence to teaching. Many educational practices are based on good intentions but may not be evaluated, critically thought out, or based around theoretical approaches that can underpin good sex and relationships teaching. Teachers often don’t have the time, skills or access priviliges to find and apply research to their practice. Schools often engage trainers or performers from outside organisations to provide SRE lessons without thinking whether what is delivered is appropriate for pupils or has any discernible impact. This is not to detract from the hard work many are engaged in, nor to discourage innovative practice. However, when looking at the consultation documents it is necessary to reflect on what is being suggested and how that fits with educational theory and practice, and the latest evidence around sex, relationships and young people.

The closing date of the consultation is 19 April 2010. Please share the link to the consultation documentation and encourage your friends and colleagues to respond.

The media hypes up our anxieties about sex and relationships education, and we’re often led to believe bad things will be told to our children without our consent. This is not true. You can see what is being proposed, have your say, and suggest areas for improvement.

All of us are responsible for the sex and relationships information we provide to our youth. This is an excellent opportunity to inform what is taught to them to give them the life skills they need to negotiate our modern sexualised culture.

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