Are you ready for Relationship and Sex Education?

We recently asked National Education Union members what they thought about the proposed changes to the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and PSHE. Respondents were positive about the reforms, but just 28% were confident about their school’s readiness.

“91% of respondents agreed that “the Government must provide additional funding for Relationships and Sex Education and PSHE for staff training and resources”

The barriers to successful implementation of the new RSE curriculum included a lack of training, low staff confidence, insufficient curriculum time and poor quality, outdated or non-existent resources. The Government must listen carefully to these concerns and act accordingly.

Curriculum

Relationships and Sex education should form part of Statutory PSHE. The Government has the power to make it statutory and must use it. PSHE is the best vehicle for delivering the RSE curriculum, as well as other important reforms, such as mental health, wellbeing, employability skills and online safety. 

“91% of respondents agreed that “in an ideal situation PSHE would have a regular place in the school timetable and clear position in the school curriculum”

PSHE should be afforded the same status as other National Curriculum subjects, and the “accountability curriculum” pressures - related to Progress 8, Ebacc and the SATs - must be addressed to allow professionals the space to teach PSHE well.

Resources

Resources to support curriculum delivery really do matter - and granting teachers access to a range of high quality, relevant and accessible resources will be crucial to empowering them to deliver RSE with confidence. This isn’t just a funding issue, though money is clearly important, it’s also a workload issue. We can’t expect teachers to spend hours searching for resources. We need to make access as easy and affordable as possible.

Teacher training

Resources alone won’t cut it either, staff delivering RSE must feel confident doing so. This means that they need time to attend relevant, good quality training - a space where teachers and support staff can maintain their subject knowledge, practice answering difficult questions, share good practice and build a support network. We all know how empowering great CPD can be, those delivering RSE deserve this investment of both time and money. 

“96% of respondents agree that high quality relationships and sex education can play a role in keeping children safe from harm”

The Government also needs to think about making sure we have enough teachers confident teaching PSHE. In the primary school every teacher might teach PSHE, so space needs to be found in initial teacher education for PSHE training. There is a case too for training PSHE specialists for secondary school. While those delivering the subject are likely to have a number of specialisms, ensuring that every school has a confident PSHE leader who is both passionate and knowledgeable is important.

“Over 90% of respondents support the inclusion of the following topics in the Primary Relationships curriculum: puberty, menstruation, correct terminology for body parts (including genitalia), appropriate and inappropriate touch, online safety and privacy, and what to do if you feel unsafe”

Levelling up

Many respondents are proud of the excellent PSHE and RSE that they deliver in their schools, and many schools are already in a strong position. It’s important that we recognise that, and we view this reform not as a total revolution - but as a levelling up.

There is a consensus across the education sector that introducing statutory PSHE is the right thing to do. There is also a commitment from education professionals. Goodwill and agreement alone are not enough. The Government must give the subject of PSHE the status it deserves.

Written by Anne Heavey, education policy adviser at the National Education Union 

Blog
01 February 2018