10 basic tenets of teaching sex and relationship education


In a previous blogpost I mentioned a few of the basic tenets of sex education. So I figured I would list some of the important ones here, they are some guiding principles but they are flexible and adaptable. These are more for people working within schools so if you are a sex educator out of schools you may want to amend/adjust as appropriate.

1) Agree your ground rules

Set up your ground rules before you begin and reinforce them as you go along. Agree them as a group. This sets up the safe boundaries for you to work together as a group. Most importantly suggest the “no personal experiences- just general situations and examples”. They don’t want to hear about your private life any more than you want to hear about theirs! Plus this also keeps the space safe from public child protection disclosures (see tenet6). Also it may be advisable to agree a room boundary too in that kids shouting “masturbation for the nation” in the corridor to the Y7’s and other teachers just after your lesson may not reflect that brilliantly on your very important work! Ooops!

2) Follow the ground rules

Make sure you also follow the ground rules as well as getting the young people too. Once, when just starting out in sex ed, a kid asked me something hilariously wrong that I burst out laughing, I had to stop personally apologise to him and the class for breaking our ground rules which included “not making fun of people”, thankfully he accepted my apology and we moved on, but it is so important that you role model the ground rules you want the group to stick too.

3) Use inclusive language

Make sure the language you use is inclusive. Remember there maybe some LGBT young people in your group and your sex education needs to meet their needs too. For example you could use “your partner” rather than “your boyfriend”, and don’t just talk about penis in vagina sex- you can mention oral and anal sex too. Remember these activities are not sexual orientation specific.

4) Terminology

Also on language – its probably safer to agree as a class to use the “proper words” for things and if a students isn’t sure what the correct word is then to discreetly ask the teacher. This is because some words may cause offence to some people so it maintains a safe group environment if you agree to use the same words

5) Anonymous question box

Always provide an anonymous question box for young people to ask questions as some students may have a question they are too embarrassed to ask in front of the class. This can also give you breathing space if you are worried about answering questions “on the fly” as you can take the questions away and decide on how you feel most comfortable answering them. Also remember sometimes some questions may not require the extreme level of detail you may be about to launch into so make sure you clarify where a student is coming from by asking more questions if you need to.

6) Child Protection and confidentiality

Always keep in mind child protection and confidentiality. If you maintain proper distancing techniques such an anonymous questions and no personal stories then you are unlikely to have any CP issues arise. Remember your role is not one of trying to play private detective sniffing out sexually active teenagers. You may or may not have sexually active teenagers in your class (stats are 1/4-1/3 of teenagers have sex under the age of consent). Remember the age of consent is 16 but the Sexual Offences Bill 2003 states that a child under 13 is unable to consent to sex and all such cases MUST be referred onto CP lead for your school. Always make sure you follow the child protection policy in your school. Oh and P.S Many teachers don’t seem aware of this but age of consent for a student and teacher/youth worker of that student to engage in a sexual relationship is EIGHTEEN not sixteen. Shagging a student you have taught sex ed too is such a very very bad idea and just gives the subject a bad name- so please don’t do it.

7) Sex Education Policy

Make sure your school has a robust sex and relationship policy and follow it! You can get into trouble with your school if you do not follow school policy in your lessons so make sure you know it inside out and if its crap (many are!) you can have an essential role in developing the policy so that it works for you and the whole school community. Use the sex education forum as a starting point for developing policy or email me! 😉

8 ) Work with not against parents.

Currently as the law stands – all parents have a right of withdrawal from Sex Education apart from the biology bits. So consult them. You will probably find that most parents want schools to do the contraception side of things. If you want to engage with parents don’t hold a separate event for them to attend as you won’t get many parents other than those with very strong opinions and this could then polarise your work to that of a vocal minority, my advice would be to just have a stand at a parents evening so that all parents at the parents evening can engage if they wish.

9) Be respectful of differing values related to sex and relationship education.

Sex education can be a difficult subject as it can have such a wide spectrum of differing values but most importantly your role as a teacher of the class is to engage with as many learners as you possibly can. Your learners will all have different experiences and values to you and it is important you don’t alienate them by ranting on about your own opinions on abortion, underage sex, teenage parents, homosexuality etc etc. Be careful not to state your own opinions as facts and make sure you clarify the difference with your students. You should ensure you are respectful of your students differing values and opinions- and offer opportunities for students to engage in discussion about them- the class doesn’t need to reach consensus but opportunities should be offered for all opinions to be heard if expressed thoughtfully and mindful of not being offensive. (Getting students to use Using “I feel….” statements rather than “they are….” may help)

10) Have fun and enjoy it!

Sex education honestly is the best subject ever- you will rarely have behaviour issues if you have set your ground rules up correctly because all the students are generally highly motivated to learn. They are engaged and on task and it makes you feel like a fab teacher even if it is bottom set year 9 last thing on a rainy windy friday afternoon!

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2 thoughts on “10 basic tenets of teaching sex and relationship education

  1. Pingback: 10 Top Tips: Teaching Sex and Relationships Education | The Creative Education Blog

  2. Pingback: Putting the R back into SRE- as a teacher and a mother. | sexedukation

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