RSE day is a chance to celebrate all the amazing relationships and sex education that is happening in the lives of young people.
Throughout the pandemic, the amazing members of the Esteem network never stopped finding new and effective ways to support young people. We had members switch to providing live video link lessons; making and delivering mental health care packets for young people; creating brand new video-based RSE resources; and being incredibly flexible in working with local schools if and when the situation allowed for it.
The pandemic didn’t stop or slow down young people going through puberty or having questions about relationships and sex.
The theme of this year’s RSE day is 'faces'.
Young people may be as likely to see their own face in a selfie as a mirror and with online video services being so common during the pandemic they may have spent a lot of time looking at their face in the last year.
The adolescent years are key times for people to start to explore and establish their personal identity. Advertising, mass, and social media have continued to exploit impossible beauty standards to make money from people’s insecurities.
Yet, young people face a seemingly increasing number of challenges as they establish themselves as independent adults.
Young people continue to face a pandemic where they have been asked to limit their lives principally to protect older generations. They face decades of shifting environmental conditions that were often caused by the generation they worked to protect from COVID.
They face challenges in the social space around claims and counterclaims of ‘cancel culture.’
The Ofsted review of sexual abuse and harm in school settings suggests that young women especially are facing threats to their personal safety that are inexcusable.
Young people are facing up to the racism that persists in Britain and they are calling for society to not flinch away from difficult conversations.
They are facing questions of classism, gender and sexual equality, global identity, and global responsibility.
They face qualification confusion and economic uncertainty with a job market dominated by temporary and zero-hour contracts.
They face being simultaneously told to be silent and to speak up.
And in all this, young people are turning their faces towards the issues and not away. They are facing up to some of the challenges that my generation largely minimised or ignored.
In the cascade of issues young people face, some things remain constant. Young people are searching for meaningful relationships of all types: friendships, family, romantic, and more. The work of relationships education is to help young people develop the attitudes and skills necessary to build and maintain healthy relationships.
We do not exist to restrict or limit their relationships but to equip them for relationships that will help them face the challenges that come at them from all sides.
Equally young people consistently report that they are searching for positive adult role models who can demonstrate how to have open, honest, and respectful conversations about sex.
Some alarming gaps in knowledge are sometimes there, which sex education can respond to, but beyond knowledge young people have questions about the emotional and physical aspects of sex in the world they face.
In a vacuum of unashamedly frank and honest information from trained adults, young people will fill that vacuum with whatever they can find, from playground rumour, media messages, traditions, or online influences. Sometimes they find amazing life bringing ideas from these sources but other times they fill the vacuum with inaccurate or even harmful information.
Much of Esteem’s underlying educational ethos can be summed up as building up young people’s foundation and support to allow them to make deliberate, thoughtful, informed, and helpful choices in their life.
We passionately believe such a foundation helps young people face the issues of today, issues that are played out at global, national, local, and personal levels.