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Relationships and Sex Education Digest

January 2019

  • Lucy Russell Head of girls’ rights and youth, Plan International UK, Guardian letter:

Research from UCL has shown girls are significantly more likely than boys to be harassed and bullied online. Nearly half of UK girls 11-18 have experienced some form of abuse on social media.
Quote: We urge the government to consider these findings when forming the new relationships and sex education curriculum for schools which is due out next year. Girls especially need to learn how to navigate the digital world and about the risks of social media, but in parallel understand that they have a right to a voice online.”

  • 3rd Jan — DfE highlight their commitment to teaching of first aid and CPR as part of health education. The proposed guidance stipulates that students should learn:
    • Basic treatment for common injuries.
    • Life-saving skills, including how to administer CPR.
    • The purpose of defibrillators and when one might be needed.

See the draft guidance for more information (See pg. 25, 27 & 30).

  • The Sleep factor lessons are released: Lessons produced by PSHE Association & Department of Children’s Sleep Medicine at Evelina London Children’s Hospital. The lessons are in line with the new statutory guidance — which suggests that all pupils should understand ‘the importance of sufficient good quality sleep for good health and that a lack of sleep can affect weight, mood and ability to learn, and were created in response to growing research into the issue and its impact on health and wellbeing. See also: Guardian article on the issue.

December 2018

  • 17th Dec — National FGM Centre (run by Barnardo's) advised teachers and other professionals to look out for the signs a girl may be at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) and outlined things to look out for (see here): Since October 31, 2015, it has been mandatory for health, social care workers and teachers in England and Wales to report known cases of FGM for under 18-year-olds to the police. If any child tells one of these regulated professionals they have had FGM, or if a professional observes she has had FGM, they must phone the police on 101.
  • 18th Dec — Minister Nick Gibb said in answer to Sarah Champion: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, when the Government plans to publish the (a) regulations and (b) final draft statutory guidance on relationships education and relationships and sex education.   Answer: The Department expects to lay the regulations in Spring 2019. The Government’s response to the consultation will be published and a copy of the guidance will be placed in both Houses after the regulations have been laid.
  • 18th Dec — FPA: RSE & disability Article: Supporting sexual health and relationships for people with learning disabilities
    • Article makes some interesting points around what is best practice in this area and the common concerns highlighted by teachers who the FPA train.

    • Takeaway quote: “only 3% of people with a learning disability live as a couple, compared to 70% of the general adult population. [sic] people with learning disabilities can have relationships, they just might need a little bit more support to do it.”

    • Also check out Enhance the UK’s website for more information on this topic and their campaign — Undressing Disability.
  • Brook released their Annual Safeguarding report: The appendix of this document has valuable demographic data on safeguarding identification and referral.
  • PSHE Association release PSHE Talks Podcast: Discussion in introduction highlights new statutory guidance for health education & relationships (RSE) education and what impact these changes will have on practitioners, as well as a discussion on choosing external visitors wisely.

November 2018

  • 12th-16th Nov — Anti-Bullying week: Barnardo's urged Government to listen to feedback from its relationships and sex education consultation submission. The draft RSE, relationships education and health education guidance currently refers to different types of relationships and Barnardo's says there must be explicit reference to LGBTQ relationships in secondary school lessons and same sex relationships in primary school lessons. Read more here.
  • 29th Nov — Sex Education Forum launch findings from young people’s RSE poll 2018

The majority of young people surveyed were positive about the quality of their RSE, as a whole, at school, though they highlighted clear areas for improvement.

    • 45% rated the quality of their RSE as ‘good’ or ‘very good’
    • A further 39% said the RSE received as ‘OK’
    • Girls were more likely than boys to rate their RSE as bad or very bad

See the full results here and read the accompanying news item here.

September 2018

  • Nadhim Zahawi (DfE) spoke about the department's guidance on sexual violence and sexual harassment between pupils at a safeguarding conference. He commented on the timescale for implementation and the key aims of the new quidance:

“Through Relationships Education, and Relationship and Sex Education, we want young people to learn what positive, healthy and respectful relationships look like, including respectful peer-to-peer relationships, about consent and boundaries, and being safe in various situations, including online. This is also about knowing how and when to ask for help”
 Read more

  • Lib Dem spokesperson for education Lalya Moran asked Nick Gibb: what additional funding he plans to allocate to schools to support training and investment required to deliver (a) Relationships Education, (b) Relationships and Sex Education and (c) Health Education
    • In response, he highlighted the departments commitment to supoporting schools to deliver these new standards. He referenced the consultation as part of this effort — to help develop curriculum design, training programmes and teaching materials which complement the content set out in the draft guidance. Read in full
  • Home Secretary Sajid Javid, referenced the new guidlines in a speech about online sexual exploitation.
  • Ian Bauckham CBE (official government PSHE & RSE advisor) noted the importance of parents controlling their children’s technology use in a piece for the Telegraph, noting that today’s young people “are probably more fragile than they have been for many generations [sic] because of unregulated exposure to the internet: porn, social media, all the risky aspects of the internet.”

August 2018

  • The Guardian published: Sex and special needs: Why new schools guidance must embrace pupils with learning difficulties. The article used a case study to explore the various obstacles to teaching effective RSE in SEN schools and the new level of government commitment required.
  • Laura Bates from the Everyday Sexism project drew attention to the issue of classroom rape at the Edinburgh International Book festival and noted that the continuing absence of sex and relationship lessons in schools meant there was no corrective to the impact of pornography.
  • Sex Education Forum published: 5 ways to get ready for statutory RSE which signposts many of their free resources schools can use to help bring them in line with the new guidelines.
  • Stonewall released their response to the Consultation highlight[ing] key questions and the main areas of the guidance [they] want to see strengthened. Stonewall expressed concern that there are still areas where the new guidance risks failing to meet the needs of LGBT young people, LGBT families and teachers.
  • Mr Will Kerr, Director of Vulnerabilities, National Crime Agency referenced sex education in a House of Lords debate on Internet regulation — as a way of addressing the new challenges of the internet such as online streaming.
  • The NSPCC published the survey results from their Wild West Web campaign — petitioning government to enforce higher levels of regulation for social media sites etc.
    • an average of 1 child per primary school class surveyed has been sent or shown a naked or semi-naked image online from an adult.
    • 1 in 50 school children surveyed sent a nude or semi-nude image to an adult.

July 2018

On the 19th July the Government (DfE) published draft guidance on relationships and sex education (‘relationships education’ in primary) and health education. These aspects of PSHE education will be mandatory in all schools from September 2020 and the guidance is open for consultation until 7th November.

Of the four documents released, the draft statutory ‘Relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education’ guidance will be of greatest interest to schools as it outlines government proposals for what should be included in each strand. This and the following documents can be downloaded from the consultation web page along with the response form, which needs to be completed by 7th November:

  • Draft Regulations: The document notes that the regulations come into effect from 1st September 2020.
  • Draft Regulatory Impact Assessment: This outlines the potential impact of the new guidelines & sets out the funding infrastructure.
  • Consultation and Governement response to call for evidence: outlines how the initial consultation was handled and summarises the key findings.

The PSHE Association released a Key Questions document in response to this draft guidance — outlining the key aspects and some potential areas for concern, and Lucy Emmerson from the Sex Education Forum wrote for Schools Week on the implications of the RSE proposals.

  • The government also released an LGBT Action Plan which aims to improve the lives of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender people. The plan was published in response to the National LGBT survey and outlines commitments to tackle some of the biggest issues facing LGBT people.

January 2018

Damian Hinds takes up his new role as Education Secretary

Damian Hinds has previously been a member of the Education Select Committee and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility.

Women and Equalities Select Committee opens inquiry

On January 15 the Women and Equalities Select Committee opened an inquiry on sexual harassment of women and girls in public places. This follows the Committee’s report Sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools, which called for statutory Relationships and Sex Education.

Written questions

  • Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked how the Government will ensure that relationships and sex education will be LGBT inclusive, and which stakeholders are consulted in respect of the placing of (1) PSHE and (2) RSE on statutory footing, and when it is expected that the draft regulations for both will be laid before the Parliament. Lord Agnew of Oulton answered that the Government has a begun an engagement process with a wide range of stakeholders, including those representing the interests of LGBT groups. It has also launched a call for evidence to gather the views of teachers, parents and young people. Draft regulations and guidance will be published in 2018.
  • Justine Greening asked Amber Rudd, minister for Women and Equalities, if she could confirm that the Government will push ahead with updating relationships and sex education guidance. Amber Rudd answered that this is the case.
  • Darren Jones asked what steps the Department is taking to ensure that the relationship and sex education curriculum is designed to prevent sexism and sexual harassment among children and young people in all key stages. Nick Gibb answered that the Department has launched a call for evidence for both adults and children to seek views on curriculum content for Relationships and Sex Education. Following this, it will create draft regulations that shall be laid in Parliament.
  • Julian Knight asked what steps the Secretary of State will take to improve and strengthen the teaching of consent during Sex and Relationships Education in schools. Nick Gibb answered that the Department has launched a call for evidence for both adults and children to seek views on curriculum content for Relationships and Sex Education. Following this, it will create draft regulations that shall be laid in Parliament.

December 2017

Department for Education launches call for evidence on PSHE and RSE

On December 19th the Department for Education (DfE) launched an 8 week call for evidence on PSHE and Relationships & Sex Education (RSE). This followed Government commitments in this year’s Children and Social Work Act to make RSE statutory in all secondary schools from 2019, make ‘relationships education’ statutory in all primaries, and to consider statutory status for PSHE education in its entirety.

The DfE is very keen to get young people’s input. The PSHE Association has created free resources for teachers to run a feedback-gathering session with students including instructions on how to submit this feedback by the 12 February deadline. Materials are available for both KS2 and for KS3&4.

DfE launches advice on dealing with sexual violence and harassment between children

On December 15th the Department for Education published advice on how to identify sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges, and on how to minimise risks and deal with incidents that occur. The guidance document elaborates on the role of education in prevention and emphasises the role that PSHE education and RSE plays in school efforts to embed this through the curriculum – including a featured case study school that planned their work using the PSHE Association programme of study for PSHE.

Brook and CEOP launch Digital Romance report

On December 12, Brook and CEOP published a joint report on how digital technology shapes the ways in which young people relate to each other in romance, sex and relationships. The research looks at both the positives and negatives of using technology. Many of the 2,000 surveyed young people described benefits to using technology – for instance meeting someone online they later start seeing – but responses also showed that technology adds new pressures and risks to young people’s relationships, particularly for girls. Around 36% of girls have come under the pressure to send nude photos of themselves for example, whilst 14% of girls have experienced verbal abuse or threats online from partners during a relationship.

Written questions

  • Heidi Allen asked what progress the Department is making on updating relationships and sex guidance. Nick Gibb answered that the Department wants to help all schools deliver high quality Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and PSHE so that all young people are equipped with the skills to have healthy and respectful relationships. He added that it is “currently conducting a thorough and wide-ranging engagement with stakeholders, which will help us reach an evidence-based decision on PSHE, as well as determine the content of the regulations and statutory guidance”.
  • Lisa Cameron asked what steps the Department is taking to include mental wellbeing in the national curriculum. Nick Gibb answered that there are no plans to make changes to the national curriculum, but the Department is considering how it can build on the strong existing base of what schools already do to promote good mental health and wellbeing. In particular, it is working on developing regulations and guidance for mandatory Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools. The role of physical and mental well-being in forming and maintaining healthy relationship will be a part of this.
  • Layla Moran asked what discussions the Secretary of State for Education has had with students and young people on improving relationships and sex education in schools. Nick Gibb answered that it’s the part of the Government’s duty to introduce mandatory Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools. The Department has begun a wide-ranging, thorough engagement with stakeholders to make decisions on the content of the regulations and the statutory guidance for both subject, and to consider the status of PSHE education further. It also plans to consult young people as part of this engagement process.
  • Sir Henry Bellingham asked what progress is being made on the implementation of the curriculum elements required by provisions of the Children and Social Work Act 2017. Nick Gibb answered that the Children and Social Work Act requires the Government to make provisions for statutory Relationships Education in primary schools and Sex and Relationships in secondary schools. It also gives the power to make PSHE education mandatory in all schools. The Department has begun an engagement process with stakeholders to help draft guidance and the content of the regulations, as well as further consideration of the status of PSHE.
  • Vicky Foxcroft asked what steps the Department for Education is taking to ensure all schools teach awareness of violence against women and girls. Nick Gibb answered that following the Government response to the Women and Equalities select committee report into sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools, the Department is considering how to ensure that pupils learn about healthy and respectful relationships as part of Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in secondary schools. The engagement process with stakeholders to help reach evidence-based decisions on the content of regulations and guidance for both subjects as well as further considerations on the status of PSHE has commenced.

November 2017

Anti-Bullying Week debated in House of Commons

On 23 November the House of Commons held a debate about Anti-Bullying Week. Opening the debate, Gavin Newlands MP reminded the House that there are many different forms of bullying and that the effects of childhood bullying on adult mental health remains significant. He said that "Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is also widespread in UK schools" and that “young women are also far more likely to experience bullying, especially sexist bullying, than other students”. He concluded that we should “take a whole-school approach that tackles the gender inequalities in schools”.

Minister for school standards Nick Gibb responded that the Government is trying to do all it can to support schools and colleges in tackling bullying, and that it will be publishing interim advice this term specifically on peer-to-peer abuse. He added that the Department for Education has begun a process of engagement with stakeholders to develop the regulations and guidance for relationships education and RSE, and to ensure that subject content will be age-appropriate and inclusive for all stages.

Written questions

  • Lord Stoddart Of Swindon asked what steps the Government is taking to ensure that LGBT issues are taught well in English schools and at what age such lessons will be aimed. Lord Agnew of Oulton answered that all schools should make provisions for high quality, age appropriate PSHE, which includes RSE.
  • Lord Greaves asked what steps are taken to educate young people on the potential dangers of social media and the potentially socially beneficial use of social media. Lord Agnew of Oulton answered that the new computing curriculum, which was introduced in September 2014, sets out the expectation that children in England are taught how to use technology safely, securely and responsibly. Additionally, the new guidance for Relationships Education for primary schools, and Relationships and Sex Education for all secondary schools, will consider safe online relationships.
  • Andrew Gwynne asked what cross-departmental initiatives are undertaken to tackle cyberbullying and to protect young people from abuse online. Matt Hancock answered that the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper sets out the Government’s expectation for social media and technology companies to protect young internet users from online harms. The Strategy also outlines the crucial role education plays in improving online safety. Both the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Department for Education are keen to ensure that Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and PSHE (if made compulsory) address the challenges experienced by young people online.