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All schools in England will be required to teach sex ed classes from September 2019


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The government has announced that all schools in England will be required to have relationship and sexual education classes starting in September 2019. 


Barnardo’s, a charity that supports children and young people, has worked to ensure that schools have effective RSE classes. 


The charity has outlined nine recommendations to help the government and educators create effective RSE curriculum. Barnardo's worked with more than 50 young people to come to the conclusions outlined in these recommendations. 


One student who was involved with this research said: "When I was in school I was never taught about the warning signs of grooming, nor was I ever taught the importance of healthy relationships. I just went with whatever the TV or other aspects in life took me. I was never taught about the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship -- if I was, I wouldn't have gone down the dark path like I did. These lessons are just as important as Maths and English."


Another student raised concerns about the importance of teaching about online safety and relationships. The student said: "I used to speak to someone online, and I was convinced it was my boyfriend. And I have no idea who they were. I was in year 7. Because I hadn't been taught anything, I thought he was a friend, and at that age you just think 'yeah he can be my boyfriend.' Now obviously I realise and think 'what was I doing?'" 


The Barnardo's recommendations focus on several different areas that are important for RSE topics. The first area the research focuses on is RSE timing. 


The first recommendation from Barnardo’s is to teach a wide-ranging curriculum to all young people and not to assume certain topics should not be taught just because they aren’t explicitly relevant at the time.


Another guideline is to teach topics early enough so students feel prepared and so that their knowledge can build. Also, the research recommends spending enough time on topics so that they can be explained in detail. Students also said they wanted time to debate and discuss RSE topics among their peers. 


The idea that RSE educators should be sensitive to the way particular topics may affect certain students is a highlighted guideline. For example, several of the young people surveyed said educators should be more sensitive about the needs and feelings of LGBT youth. 


Additionally, if students have concerns about topics that will be taught, educators should talk to them beforehand and reinforce the idea that subjects will be taught in age-appropriate and sensitive ways. This approach could help alleviate student concerns.


The third recommendations address the logistical aspects of RSE. 


Educators should organise classes to discuss mixed-gender classes with students. Decisions about whether to separate or combine classes by gender can then be made based on student input.  


Additionally, the question of who will teach RSE subjects was discussed by students in the research. While there was a debate on whether a teacher or an outside professional would be preferable to students, they generally agreed on some basic qualities this person should have. 


The educator should be open-minded, relatable, knowledgeable and sex-positive, particularly when teaching about LGBT and gender identity issues. 


Despite these recommendations, Barnardo’s reiterated the need to be student-focused within this education process. The report said, “We need to understand what children and young people want in order to design RSE that they will engage with.” 


These recommendations were reached through research based on the views of several young people who are supported by Barnardo’s. Additionally, the charity conducted a survey, which also contributed to these recommendations. 

Feature image courtesy of Dankarl

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