Resource development for Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)
Harassment in the news
In March and April 2021 accounts of peer sexual harassment and the existence of a ‘rape culture’, first in independent and then state schools became headline news in the UK. These headlines largely came as a result of postings on the website, Everyone’s Invited, set up in 2020 by Soma Sara, inviting testimonies of survivors of an environment that could no longer be tolerated. In 2021 the number of postings grew exponentially.
Concerns have existed for some time. In 2014, Relate, the UK’s leading relationship support organisation, called for Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) to become a compulsory part of the national curriculum. Moving forward to September 2020, all primary schools are now required to teach “Relationships Education” and secondary schools, “Relationships and Sex Education”, which applies to all schools in England, including independent schools.
It is clear that schools have a major responsibility to address the situation, and now, more than ever they need support and support materials. In the months leading up to the start of the new RSE curriculum ClickView started working with consultant Rebecca Jennings who has more than 18 years’ experience working with children and young people in educational settings. She has worked with the Department for Education, training staff and assisting the DfE with the development of their Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) Curriculum.
ClickView’s aim was to develop two ‘Respectful & Intimate Relationships series of video-based resources for parents and schools, along with supporting information and advice for teachers in delivering this potentially complex but vitally important topic. We also wanted to make these resources available to whoever needed them free of charge, which I am glad to say we have we have been able to do.
Support for parents
Parents also need help. Recent research carried out on our behalf, by YouGov revealed that while 85 per cent of British parents are confident about supporting their children with the facts around the realities of sexual relationships, less than half said they actually receive support from their children’s schools (43 per cent). So not only do parents want and need help with educating their children on this issue, but as with all aspects of a child’s education, having parental support is vital.
Establishing a framework
Feedback from the schools I work with shows that teachers have mixed feelings about teaching RSE. Those who have many years’ of teaching experience are often more comfortable delivering the learning than those who are new to the classroom. All have agreed that having learning content that is already created and standardised across the school, makes it easier and more effective.
So, what is the framework that we recommend for teachers who are working with their students to develop their understanding and appreciation of sex and relationships?
The first important consideration is to offer all students a level of anonymity; particularly for those who may have questions that they are not comfortable asking in front of their peers. We suggest setting up an enclosed box in the hall, back of the class or even the changing rooms, so students can write down their question and put this in the box anonymously for the teacher to introduce as a ‘nameless’ question in class.
These lessons need particularly careful preparation. Students within a class could potentially have a variety not only of backgrounds, but also of past experiences. Therefore, even if your school has created its learning content for each class to use, each teacher should review the lesson in advance. Our RSE videos all come with transcripts so teachers can read what will be included prior to the lesson and can always stop the video before it gets to something that either they, or a student, may not be comfortable with.
It’s also important to have a list of prepared questions associated with the lesson content so that teachers won’t be put on the spot by having to think of the best way of beginning a dialogue with the students; such questions are included in our free content.
Before a lesson starts, we also recommend setting up a ‘contract’ with the students of what is acceptable and what isn’t. For example, you may agree with them that personal questions can’t be asked. This avoids the ‘hey Miss have you had sex?’ question which can be responded to by simply reminding them of the contract agreement, before moving on.
Our videos, which ‘play out’ related story lines are designed to take the pressure off the teacher in creating effective learning content and developing students’ understanding. The learning also comes in a format that our ‘YouTube generation’ of students feel comfortable with.
Whatever content you use, it is important to get the right balance between being light-hearted but also delivering a very important message. When selecting videos on YouTube, ensure they are appropriate for the student’s age and not too graphic.
The videos in our two Respectful & Intimate Relationships series are designed for Year 10 – 12 students (Grade 9 – 11). They encourage teachers and parents to introduce and explore the challenging and important issues surrounding respectful relationships, including consent, sexual harassment, domestic violence, misogyny in pornography and the sharing of intimate images.
Supporting individuals in context
If a supportive resources framework is in place, and a student is confronted with a related issue, they will now have a strong foundation for a deeper level of understanding; it’s about giving them the confidence to ‘see’ the issues from a broader perspective, develop a respect for how others may feel and acquire the tools necessary to address issues in their future lives.
ClickView’s two original series, Respectful Relationships and Respectful Intimate Relationships series are designed to give teachers the tools and resources needed to teach these topics with confidence. Both series are free for both educators and parents to access.
Department for Education