A lot has changed since the last official guidance on Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) was published in 2000: not least the emergence and growth of sexting, social media and online pornography.
To inform the content of the new RSE guidance (statutory from September 2019), the Department for Education recently held a public consultation asking parents, educators and young people for their views.
As well as submitting our response, we took part in a Parliamentary Consultation meeting, organised by Fiona Bruce MP. Around 100 people attended, from various organisations who have a desire to see young people equipped to build healthy relationships. After short key note speeches, there was a chance to raise points and ask questions.
acet UK CEO, Sarah Smith, spoke about how parents are young people’s key educators, but that they often feel ill-equipped in having these conversations with their children. She explained how acet UK meets this need by delivering parents' workshops.
Now the consultation has closed, we will have to wait and see what makes it into the guidance. RSE is a contentious subject with a range of viewpoints on what should be taught, when and by whom. For instance, a group of medical professionals is campaigning for fertility education to be part of RSE, as 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving.
Research may also inform the RSE guidance. For example, puberty has been shown to be starting earlier: in the 1960s, only 1% of girls entered puberty before the age of 9; today, up to 40% are doing so. This will be key when considering what ‘age appropriate’ lessons mean.
We will also be interested to see whether the government will be prescriptive about who should teach RSE. Only 28% of National Education Union members are confident that their school is ready, fearing that lack of training and confidence will be barriers to successful delivery. acet UK’s teacher training course may be what many schools are looking for, while others may prefer external experts like us to deliver RSE for them.