The following was taken from my local teenage pregnancy newsletter:
“Policy update by Sarah Teather – Children’s Minister with responsibility for teenage pregnancy
We are currently reviewing the curriculum, including the place of sex and relationships education (SRE) within it. We will be announcing our plans later this year. But whatever the status of SRE in future, we are clear that it should focus more on relationships.”
Well hurrah that Relationships plural was mentioned. I don’t know if you have noticed but the 2000 DFE SRE guidance involves a singular “relationship” because obviously we are all only supposed to have ONE relationship EVER. Full Stop.
(oh yeah and this wonderful document hasn’t been updated because they haven’t got round to publishing the new one yet. So although completely and horrifically out of date (just read it and
weep laugh) it is still the main “proper important official like doc” schools have in regards to SRE and schools. Sigh.)
Now we all know that Family Education Trust think we should only have one relationship and it should only be sexual after we get married (otherwise it’s misery and regret time)– but back in the real world people are likely to have more than one relationship before they settle down.
Now Sex and Relationships Education should absolutely be about relationships. Abso-bloody-lutely! In fact I know some areas call it Relationships and Sex Education to reinforce the importance (me I say potato potato but no matter). Relationships are the absolute core of everything we should be doing in Sex and Relationships Education.
After all if you don’t have a good relationship it is probably unlikely you will be having good sex (yes there maybe some adults who may enjoy sex outside of a relationship – but for me as a teacher working with teenagers I absolutely want to be giving them the message that having healthy strong relationships are a very important-no- absolutely essential part of their developing sexual identity. )
But one thing slightly concerns me about this “we are clear that it should focus more on relationships.” And that is lesson time (if you are lucky enough to have discrete lessons)! Wholeheartedly agree sex education needs to be moving on from “plumbing and prevention” but those “basics” still need to be taught and in many schools even the basics are not being taught very well and now we need to focus more on relationships? Will we get more training and support for that? Is there going to be an expectation that schools should be modelling good relationships as a whole school approach? (Because you know PSHE gets very little if any curriculum time but it is an area that could be covered across the school!) Or are we supposed to now throw the baby out with the bath water and just focus on Relationships and hope the rest of it will sort itself out?
In my school we had 6 hour long lessons on Sex and Relationship Education for every year group except Year 11. And that is some of the most generous time allocation I have seen in a very stuffed timetable. Many schools get an hour in Y9 and thats it! In that time we needed to cover, puberty, feelings,friendships, relationships, marriage, Sexual relationships, contraception, STI’s including HIV , staying safe, accessing help and support, sexual bullying, sexting/sex in the media & pornography (addressing these scary oversexulised times)/internet safety, homophobia, pregnancy, abortion, parenting. There was no room for anything else so if we are to increase our focus on relationships something will probably have to give. I appreciate we can have a “relationship” slant on many of the lessons but sorry not at the expense of the absolute basics.
And don’t forget 9/10 parents want their children to receive information about practising safe sex and using contraception so its not that parents particularly want to have any of the “plumbing and prevention” stuff as part of their remit (although obviously some would prefer we never mentioned sex at all). Perhaps parents would be better doing the relationship education focus- after all they are the core relationship role model that students have?
So in conclusion, it’s interesting times for Sex & Relationships Education- Will keep you posted….