'Don't be so bashful'

16th March 2007 at 00:00
Inspection agency says teachers need to get over their embarrassment

ALL TEACHERS have a duty to discuss sex and relationships with confidence and without blushing, according to Wales's chief inspector of schools and training.

Susan Lewis's comments came as the latest report from an Estyn inspection team attacks schools for not doing enough to develop a "whole-school approach" to sex education.

Alluding to Wales's unenviable teenage birth rate, Ms Lewis said only a minority of schools were demonstrating good practice. And she said bashful teachers needed to gain more confidence about helping young people make the right choices within relationships.

"Mostly schools rely on individual sessions that provide basic information but with few chances for pupils to discuss moral and emotional issues,"

said Ms Lewis.

The Assembly government issued guidance to schools on sex education as part of the personal and social education framework four years ago. But, in the latest report evaluating the impact of the guidance, it was claimed that many schools still do not take the subject seriously enough.

Inspectors found effective teaching was often hampered because of the limited time given to the subject. Heads, governors and parents were also attacked for having too narrow a view on how sex and relationships education should be taught.

In response, Ms Lewis called for PSE to be made compulsory within the curriculum.

And she called on local authorities to provide more training to help schools and teachers overcome embarrassment. Schools also needed to do more about adopting an integrated approach through a variety of subjects including PSE, science and religious education.

A new draft PSE curriculum is under consultation until the end of March.

PSE could be extended to 16-19s. Welsh exam board the WJEC is also piloting a new PSE qualification - equal to half a GCSE - for 15-year-olds.

Making PSE compulsory would compel maintained schools to allocate it timetable space, as well as to adhere to general standards.

The report was launched at Cowbridge comprehensive in the Vale of Glamorgan - a school singled out for its good practice in the area of sex and relationships education. Julie Thelwell, assistant head and in charge of the PSE programme, said: "Our approach to sex has always been frank and we will discuss any subject."

The school has a dedicated team and also involves outside agencies such as the youth service, healthy schools co-ordinators and theatre companies.

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