Sex-education campaigners lay out vision for effective curriculum

The 12 principles of effective sex and relationships education form the core of the Sex Education Forum's recommendations to the government

Adi Bloom

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Sex-education campaigners have laid out their vision for effective and comprehensive lessons in the subject, as the government’s consultation into the content of the sex-education curriculum comes to a close today.

The Sex Education Forum has published the 12 principles of effective relationships and sex education (RSE). These have been backed by the NEU teaching union and the NAHT headteachers’ union.

These principles also formed the basis of the Sex Education Forum’s submission in response to the government's consultation on the content of the curriculum for statutory relationships and sex education.

The consultation closes today. The government then will update its curriculum guidance for the first time since 2000. The completed guidance will be available in time for the introduction of statutory sex-education lessons, in September 2019.

As Tes reported last week, only 29 per cent of teaching staff believe that their schools will be ready to deliver relationships and sex education when it becomes statutory.

'An essential safeguarding tool'

The Sex Education Forum’s principles offer guidelines to teachers, based on research conducted by the organisation. In particular, they highlight the importance of basing sex-education lessons on fact, rather than on opinion.

The principles also emphasise the need for properly trained staff to teach the subject, as discussed in Tes magazine this week. And they stress that the curriculum should meet the needs of all pupils, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pupils, and those with special educational needs and disabilities.

Kevin Courtney, NEU joint general secretary, said: “High-quality, inclusive RSE is an essential safeguarding tool that can help students stay safe. RSE can only be effective if the content is reflective of and relevant to all students.”

He added that it was vital that teachers felt confident and well-equipped to deliver the new curriculum. “Statutory guidance must be accompanied by a comprehensive and well-funded package of support for schools,” he said.

And Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said that he was endorsing the 12 principles, as they provided clear guidance for schools on the content of sex-education lessons.

“It’s so important for all pupils in all schools to be taught about appropriate relationships, and for that teaching to be effective,” he said.

“The government must be prepared to invest in what is needed for the potentially positive impact of RSE to be a reality for pupils.”

The 12 principles of good sex education

  1. It should be an identifiable part of personal, social, health and economics (PSHE) education, with timetabled lessons across all key stages.
  2. It should be taught by staff regularly trained in relationships and sex education and PSHE, with expert visitors invited in where appropriate.
  3. Schools should work in partnership with parents and carers, informing them about what pupils are learning and explaining how they can complement this at home.
  4. Pupils should feel safe in lessons, and should have opportunities to develop critical-thinking and relationship skills.
  5. It should be based on reliable sources of information, and distinguish between fact and opinion.
  6. It should promote safe, equal, caring and enjoyable relationships, and discuss real-life issues appropriate to pupils’ ages.
  7. It should give a positive view of human sexuality, with honest and medically accurate information, so that pupils can learn about their bodies and sexual health in ways that are appropriate to their age.
  8. It should give pupils opportunities to reflect on values and influences that may shape their attitudes to relationships and sex, and encourage respect for different viewpoints.
  9. Pupils should be informed where to go for help and treatment, as well as how to find reliable information online.
  10. It should foster equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, and challenge all forms of discrimination.
  11. It should meet the needs of all pupils, including those with special education needs and disabilities.
  12. Teachers should ask for pupils’ views, so that teaching can be made relevant to their lives.

For more information, visit the Sex Education Forum's website.

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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