Half of teachers ‘lack confidence’ in new RSE lessons

NEU and NSPCC join forces to urge DfE to provide face-to-face training for all schools

The NEU and NSPCC have raised concerns about schools' readiness for the new relationships and sex education lessons.

The Department for Education has been urged to give teachers face-to-face training for new relationships and sex education lessons after a survey revealed that many lack confidence to deliver them.

Primary schools will be required to teach updated relationships education from September 2020, while secondaries will have to cover relationships and sex education (RSE).

The guidance has been updated to cover issues created by the internet and social media, and to reflect changes in attitudes towards social issues.


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However, a survey of 2,175 school leaders and teachers carried out by the NEU and the NSPCC highlighted concerns about their state of readiness.

It found:

  • 47 per cent expressed a lack of confidence in their ability to deliver the RSE/relationships education. 15 per cent were very confident in their ability;
  • 52 per cent expressed uncertainty that their school would be ready to deliver the subjects in September 2020;
  • 61 per cent of secondary teachers said they do not feel confident about teaching the impact of pornography;
  • 54 per cent of secondary teachers were not confident about teaching lessons on female genital mutilation.

Face-to-face training was identified by 78 per cent of respondents as the format that would give them the confidence and skills to deliver high-quality RSE.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Children need an RSE that is inclusive, empowering and protective delivered by confident and equipped teachers.

“The DfE must show real leadership in removing the barriers that stand in schools’ way. All schools must have access to fully funded face-to-face training to ensure high-quality provision by 2020.”

His comments were echoed by the NSPCC’s head of policy, Almudena Lara, who said: “We know teachers up and down the country are doing a fantastic job but delivering RSE without proper training is like asking a German teacher to deliver Mandarin lessons.

“For the first time ever all schools will be obliged to discuss key issues of consent and coercion, enabling more children to say no to things that make them feel uncomfortable.

“It is clear teachers need better support, which is where the government must do more or risk undermining the new curriculum.”

A DfE spokesperson said every school will have the support they need to deliver these subjects to a high quality from September 2020.

They added that the department was working closely with schools who are starting to teach the subjects from September 2019.

They said: “We are setting up a working group – made up of representatives from teaching unions, sector experts, faith and minority groups, parents and young people – who will provide us with evidence and feedback to support the delivery of these subjects from September 2019 and beyond.

“We are investing up to £6 million this financial year in tools, materials and support for training which will equip schools to teach relationship education; relationship and sex education and health education and increase the confidence and quality of teaching practice.”

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