There is strong evidence that a comprehensive programme of SRE which starts early and is taught by trained educators will contribute to a reduction in teenage pregnancy and result in young people having sex for the first time at an older age.3 The standards required for outstanding SRE are set out in Not Yet Good Enough and Ofsted’s recently updated grade descriptors for PSHE. High up the list is the need for teachers to have excellent subject knowledge and skills. So, how can schools design a modern SRE programme that is fit for the 21st century? There are three things that all school leaders can do to get started. Firstly, find out what the needs of your pupils really are. Asking them, for example, who they learn from about growing up, sex and relationships or simply to prioritise what they want to learn in SRE is a very powerful exercise. When shared with staff and parents this information can help build support for further investment in SRE. Communicating with parents and carers about the SRE the school provides is vital too. It may feel like a daunting task, but remember that the vast majority of parents support school SRE, and many welcome support in how they can better fulfil their role as educators at home too. The Sex Education Forum offers specialist resources to support schools to involve parents in SRE and in assessing pupil needs. Finally, the quality of SRE really depends on the training and support provided for teachers.
Recognising that the government’s SRE guidance is now 14 years’ old and that schools remain challenged by the subject, the PSHE Association, the Sex Education Forum and Brook have worked together to produce supplementary advice to help bring SRE into the 21st century. The advice provides information to teachers on topics that are missing from the current guidance including pornography, technology, consent and violence in relationships. It also provides numerous links for further support and resources, and gives clear information about how to teach topics such as ‘sexting’ and how to make SRE inclusive. The supplementary advice is freely available to all schools via the PSHE Association at www.pshe-association.org.uk/ news_detail.aspx?ID=1383, Brook and SEF website at www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/ resources/sre-advice-for-schools.aspx. Getting your SRE fit for the 21st century is not an impossible task, and we are here to help. The Sex Education Forum’s Network+ membership offers schools regular updates on SRE and ongoing support (visit them at www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/ membership.aspx for more information) and the PSHE Association are offering AMiE members a special discount on their membership via www.pshe-association.org.uk/atl. Help may also come from surprising sources within the school community once senior leaders start the conversation. Good luck! ATL is a member of both the SEF and the PSHE Association. ATL members receive a discounted rate for joining the PSHE Association.
1 Ofsted. 2013. Not Yet Good Enough: Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education in Schools. Available from www.ofsted.gov.uk. 2 NAHT. 2013. Research was commissioned by the NAHT and conducted in April 2013 by Research Now. It was press released by the NAHT in May 2013. 3 Sex Education Forum. 2010. Does Sex and Relationships Education Work? Available from www.ncb.org.uk/ media/494585/ sef_doessrework_ 2010.pdf.