Sex and relationships education in schools: come tell us what you think

(28 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 23-Aug-13 13:26:07

Hello

A while back we ran this survey on sex education, which gave us quite a lot of detail on what MNers think about when and what children should be taught about, sex-wise, in schools (primary and secondary).

This is an issue that we still get asked about a lot, and as our survey was a while ago - and we didn't go into the relationships side of sex ed very much - we thought we'd open this up again to you.

In particular, we're interested in your thoughts about the 'relationships' side of sex and relationships education (SRE) - and whether you think that more/better SRE could lead to people forming healthier relationships (both intimate 'partner' relationships and other social or work-based relationships) as adults. Or do you think that this sort of emotional/relationships education is more a parental responsibility? Or that it would have little bearing on people's emotional lives as adults?

We'd also love to know what you think about the following topic areas. Should they form part of SRE in schools? If so, how should they be addressed, and at roughly what age?

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with
b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others
c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like
d) porn
e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and girls

Plus of course anything else you think of!

Thanks
MNHQ

hardboiled Fri 23-Aug-13 15:35:30

whether you think that more/better SRE could lead to people forming healthier relationships (both intimate 'partner' relationships and other social or work-based relationships) as adults.
YES
Or do you think that this sort of emotional/relationships education is more a parental responsibility? Or that it would have little bearing on people's emotional lives as adults?
IT IS A SHARED RESPONSABILITY, IT SHOULD BE TAUGHT AT SCHOOL AND AT HOME AT SIMILAR TIMES, COMPLEMENTING EACH OTHER.

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with
AT 11-12 - YEAR 7
b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others
AT 9-10 - YEAR 5
c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like
AT 10-11 - YEAR 6
d) porn
AT 10-11 - YEAR 6
e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and girls
NO, I AM AGAINST THAT. WE NEED OPENESS AND INFORMATION. CHILDREN SHOULD BE TAUGHT THERE IS NOTHING TO HIDE TO THE OTHER SEX. KNOWLEDGE OF EACH OTHER WILL LEAD TO GOOD HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.

samonly Fri 23-Aug-13 18:12:12

whether you think that more/better SRE could lead to people forming healthier relationships (both intimate 'partner' relationships and other social or work-based relationships) as adults.
YES
Or do you think that this sort of emotional/relationships education is more a parental responsibility? Or that it would have little bearing on people's emotional lives as adults?
NO, IT COULD BE ENORMOUSLY INFLUENTIAL TO HAVE LESSONS AT SCHOOL. LOTS OF THINGS ARE PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES THAT SCHOOLS FEEL HAPPY TO HAVE A POP AT TEACHING (E.G. HEALTHY EATING)

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with

AT 10/11 AND AGAIN IN SECONDARY 11/12 AND AGAIN 14/15/16
BOYS GO THROUGH PUBERTY SO MUCH LATER THAT WHILE THESE EARLY LESSONS MAYBE LISTENED TO APPROPRIATELY BY GIRLS, THE BOYS ARE STILL SNIGGERING, AND NEED TO HAVE STUFF REPEATED.

b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others
AT 9-10 - YEAR 5 / YEAR 9/10
c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like
AT 10-11 - YEAR 6 AND AGAIN YEAR 7 AND YEAR 9
d) porn

YEAR 8,9,10

e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and girls
I THINK THAT SEPARATED AND BOTH TOGETHER WOULD BE GOOD.

grassroots Fri 23-Aug-13 18:27:31

More/better SRE could lead to people forming healthier relationships as adults.
Yes
Or do you think that this sort of emotional/relationships education is more a parental responsibility?
Shared responsibility - more effort you put in the better the likely outcome...

Or that it would have little bearing on people's emotional lives as adults?
I think it is the start of a journey which can lead to better emotional health - its never going to be an end in itself is it?

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with
Taught repeatedly in an age-appropriate way. THe basic message of understanding that some parts are private and that its OK to say no to anyone touching you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable - should, IMO, be taught from entry level at primary school.

b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others
From entry level at primary, in an age appropriate way

c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like
Year 6 for sexual - possibly year 5 for emotional

d) porn
Year 7 - briefly!

e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and girls
Taught together - but given opportunity for further discussion/questions in single sex forums

adoptmama Sat 24-Aug-13 06:51:34

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with
b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others
c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like
d) porn
e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and girls

I think the problem with teaching any of this in school is the open-ended and subjective nature of it. As a teacher I know that most of what we teach in 'sex education' tends to simply be contraceptive information. To try to address issues like porn.... well what is porn first of all? That is subjective to a great extent - books, images, film? Legal v. illegal images. It's a huge area (no pun intended smile) Whose moral framework will be used to inform the teacher led content - will it be 'porn neutral' or 'porn is good/bad' - big issues, depending on culture and family beliefs of children involved. Which means you end up sitting on the fence; some people like porn, some don't... pretty pointless really. Since the most active group accessing porn on the internet are teenage boys of around the age of 13 what is needed is teaching internet safety!

I don't think it is necessary in primary school to teach any of this. They are constantly being given opportunities to share, be friends, set boundaries etc in friendship. They do not need it extended to cover adult relationships. Let children have a childhood. There is no getting away from the fact that it is a topic here to stay in secondary but do we really need to give lessons on porn? I don't think so and I don't want my children sitting through a bunch of crap lessons on the topic either. I 100% believe it is my responsibility as a parent to provide my children with this kind of information. And not because I want to limit their information to a narrow, moral view reflecting only 1 set of ideas, but because I know that schools rarely do it well and I think it is going to be a waste of time.

Self respect/self esteen again shouldn't be 'taught' - in a good school it is something which should simply be gained as children are given the opportunities to succeed, fail, learn and face challenges (and again, is not limited to the schools' responsibilty - as a parent we should be striving to instill these qualities in our children from an early age). You can't have 'self respect' and 'self esteem' lessons. You don't give children healthy self respect/self esteem by having a lesson on it, but by giving them opportunities to try and do many different things (academic and 'non-academic').

I personally do not think that sex education and 'relationship advice' should be taught in school. I think it is the family's business. But then I am very open with my kids and quite happy to talk about stuff with them, as and when. For children who do not get information at home, they will seek it out; on the play ground, on the internet etc. so there is a need to provide non-sensational, clear information. The trouble is, everything is becoming the schools' responsibility - sex education, health education, fitness (obesity), applying for university (in my day we did it ourselves, now it is all through the schools), diet/healthy eating. Schools are finite in terms of resources and time. We cannot keep adding things into curriculum time to meet the needs of children and young people when the family/community is failing (in some situations) to do it themselves. You only have to read some of the posts on MN to see how many parents think the most basic of things (from the clothing their children are put into after school accidents (like wetting) to how much of the pack lunch is eaten, to failing to be on time for an exam) is the responsibility of the teacher/school instead of child/family. When teens get pregnant we ask 'what are the schools doing about this' and 'not 'what is the family doing'. Schools are here to educate children - unfortunately we have extended and extented and extended the remit of schools to be about preparing the child/teen for every possible facet of adult life; which is impossible and simply leads to an awful lot of dross and an erosion of time for actually teaching subjects.

Should they form part of SRE in schools? If so, how should they be addressed, and at roughly what age?
Yes, I think it should form part of the school SRE, but I think that specially trained 'teachers' should do this, as it may throw up lots of issues and require the ability to sometimes counsel involve other agencies i.e. health/medical/social services.

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with

Consent, in general terms: as soon as a child is interacting with others. What is important is recognising and respecting that other people have the right to choose what they want to do (or not do) when interacting with others.

Once someone is able to understand that I think that it is not too difficult to apply that to the issue of sexual consent.

Sexual consent: from secondary school.

I feel it is imperative within this context to ensure that young adults/teenagers understand that they may decline/stop/withdraw from any activity that they are unhappy to continue without having to explain or defend their choice.

Sexual assertiveness is crucial. This should be taught in secondary school and needs to be really explored in depth I think.

I am sure that most parents do this at home, but I think that it is so important that it needs to be addressed within education.

b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others

My reply to this would be too long! This is a life long never ending aspect of personal growth. Yes to educators being involved - but that does happen already

c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like
Yet another question which would yield a long long answer from me!

d) porn

The message needs to be given to teens that porn damages intimacy (their real life sex life will be poorer if they watch too much porn!) because porn gives sex out of context and does not depict tender, gentle mutually satisfying sex.

Porn is about the male perspective of sex. Young men need to be educated on the female perspective and on equality in the bedroom.

The realities of the lives of many women 'working' in the porn industry needs to be communicated strongly.

e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and
girls

Yes to enable openess. Especially for young women.

Plus of course anything else you think of!

Also the work of agencies to contact if relationships go wrong, eg Women's aid etc, when to involve the police/legal advice, how to spot the signs and what to do to end a relationship perhaps.

HTH

ffsx2 Sat 24-Aug-13 13:35:25

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with

That's just an extension of saying no to anything you don't feel comfortable with, especially to do with your body. Starts in preschool when mates suggest sticking bead up the nose.

b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others

Ditto.

c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like

Ditto but if putting it in some sexual context, late y5 onwards.

d) porn

early y7

e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and girls

y5 onwards

MN is so not RL, though. So this poll is pointless. I've heard parents having kitten conniptions at the idea that their 7yo should know the biological facts, never mind relationship ones. Somehow ignorance = prevention, they think.

Elibean Mon 26-Aug-13 16:09:42

What grassroots posted.

(sorry, rushing, but as above accurate reflection of opinion!)

Pozzled Sat 31-Aug-13 14:40:43

All of the issues mentioned should be covered in an age-appropriate way from a very early age IMO.

E.g. consent- from pre-school children should be taught that if someone doesn't want to hold hands or be hugged or kissed, then don't do it. And that if you do something and it makes someone else unhappy, you stop doing it. At this age it's mostly incidental teaching, but I'd hope to see explicit teaching of personal boundaries by Y4 (covering hugging/kissing) and sexual boundaries by Y6. Again, in a very age-appropriate way- that your body is your own, and what to do if someone behaves inappropriately.

Self-respect and self-esteem- as above, should be an integral part of education from the very start.

Healthy relationships- as above. Starting with friendships- friends don't make you feel uncomfortable or try to get you to make bad choices. Moving on to cover adult relationships briefly by Y6 and much more fully throughout secondary. Should also cover red flags and abusive behaviour.

Porn- through secondary school. Lots of discussion needed.

Separate sessions for girls and boys- yes, because they will have different experiences/issues and may feel more confident to talk openly in a single-sex group. But these sessions should complement, not replace, good-quality mixed sessions where all children are taught to talk openly, and question/challenge each other's views respectfully.

StitchingMoss Sat 31-Aug-13 14:45:10

I remember a few years ago watching a programme about sex ed where a group of Dutch teenagers came to visit the UK and discussed their views on sex and relationships - the difference in Dutch boys attitudes to girls was astonishing in comparison to their British counterparts. They were far more respectful and caring and saw the whole idea of "notches on a bedpost" as utterly reprehensible.

Obviously this was only a snapshot but I would be fascinated to know how they do things differently in Holland to encourage this attitude.

BuskersCat Mon 02-Sep-13 15:15:17

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with Absolutely, also that no matter what you are doing if someone says no, STOP. Start at year 7

b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others Yes, of course. Probably start that at year 5

c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like YES!!! Year 7 to start. And how to recognise red flags in a relationship, where to go if they were scared and ultimately that they will believed.

d) porn Yes, again year 7. It needs to be taught at the age that kids are discovering it, and they need to be aware that normal and natural sexual relationships are nothing like porn.

e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and girls absolutely NOT, both need to be in the same lessons.

purpleroses Mon 02-Sep-13 19:31:57

'relationships' side of sex and relationships education (SRE) - and whether you think that more/better SRE could lead to people forming healthier relationships (both intimate 'partner' relationships and other social or work-based relationships) as adults.

Yes, it should do.

Or do you think that this sort of emotional/relationships education is more a parental responsibility? Or that it would have little bearing on people's emotional lives as adults?

It is very much for parents too - but it's much better if the children get complementary messages from school too. Their views are very much formed with their peers on issues around relationships - so being taught stuff together in class I think probably has more chance of making it though to their peer group than things you tell your own child in private. Also some parents are rubbish at it, so it's important for these kids to get it covered in school.

We'd also love to know what you think about the following topic areas. Should they form part of SRE in schools? If so, how should they be addressed, and at roughly what age?

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with

Yes, to boys and girls both in separate classes and together. Using scenarios from DVDs is a good way. Not too young for that though - age 14-18.

b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others

Should be a constant theme throughout primary and secondary school. Probably doesn't need separate lessons.

c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like

Yes - age 14-18.

d) porn
Yes - age 12-16 - need to understand early on that it bears little resemblance to real sex

e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and girls
My 10 year old daughter is very firmly of the view that puberty, etc should be taught separately (and in her opinion to girls at a younger age than boys as year 5 boys giggle and mess around when taught it in a mixed sex class!) Physical side of puberty, sex etc is best taught separately. Some of the relationship stuff is better together though, especially in upper end of secondary school when the boys have grown up a bit!

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 03-Sep-13 10:41:13

Hi all

Thanks very much for your thoughts so far.

The Daily Telegraph has today launched a campaign for 'better sex education' concentrating on a call to update the sex ed guidelines, which currently date from 2000 - ie, before most of us had internet connections at home.

You can see more details about their campaign here. We'd be interested to know what you think about it, and whether you think Mumsnet should get behind it.

Thanks

cornflakegirl Tue 03-Sep-13 12:43:03

I agree almost entirely with Pozzled. It should start early and be a gradual building up of content.

The only thing I disagree with is porn - I think this should also start early in terms of internet safety. In secondary school you can start to debate the ethics and effects of porn and let children develop their own moral standpoint on it.

I think it's really important that sex ed is taught in school. Mumsnet is not RL, and some parents just won't talk about these subjects.

cornflakegirl Tue 03-Sep-13 12:51:32

I've just looked at the article, and I'm not really convinced by the campaign. Just because the guidance is old doesn't mean that schools aren't teaching the subject appropriately. Schools' SRE policies will be set by the governors, not by the government guidelines.

JuliaScurr Tue 03-Sep-13 12:52:16

the rush to Academies and Free schools means there is no central or local democratic control over this - hence several schools have introduced Section 28 style rules.

The campaign is good though. Consent needs enthusiastic participation, not 'if you must'; not an obligation to say 'no'.

TheFallenNinja Tue 03-Sep-13 13:58:10

My whole concern is that the state will politicise the whole damn thing and we will see disagreement and lobbying on what and how this is presented to children, moral objections will be heard and it will just end up as a hotch potch of crap.

jellycake Tue 03-Sep-13 21:10:26

Agree with Pozzled definitely.
On a sad note, I lead the SRE in my primary school and every year I invite the parents in to chat about what is covered and to offer advice on how to support their children at home. Bearing in mind that we are two form entry (60 children), the most parents that I have ever had turn up is...10! Even when I offered at two different times, still didn't get the take up.
I feel that parents abdicate responsibility to schools and expect them to do what is essentially a parents' job. I agree that schools need to cover these areas but how do we get parents and carers to do follow up at home. It is so important that the children should be able to discuss these issues with adults that they trust...

purpleroses Tue 03-Sep-13 21:15:49

I obviously can't speak for all parents jellycat - but I've never turned up to those evenings the schools organise to tell parents what they're covering in SRE precisely because I do feel I'm covering it all at home anyway - so assume they won't be learning much at school they don't know already. Wouldn't necessarily assume that all the parents who don't attend don't cover it at home at all. I'd kind of assumed that those evenings were really aimed at the parents who were nervous about it all and wanted to know what the schools were about to tell their DCs because they'd not yet told them anything themselves.

Pachacuti Tue 03-Sep-13 22:48:47

I'd like to see "enthusiastic consent" taught -- if something is supposed to be fun, but the other person isn't enjoying it, you stop. That's not a principle that needs to be confined to sex, so it can be incorporated into classes from nursery/reception age and then explored more specifically in relation to sex later on.

MylinhMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 04-Sep-13 10:20:50

In case you haven't seen it, 17 y/o schoolgirl Yas has started this petition on change.org calling for #bettersexeducation. If you agree, do feel free to sign, share and tweet out using the hashtag.

Thanks
MNHQ

cornflakegirl Wed 04-Sep-13 10:56:08

I don't really get the point of the campaign. The talk is about "better sex education" - but no mention is made of the current standards of sex education, just that the guidelines are out of date. Yes, it would be nice if the guidelines were updated, but would it actually change practice in schools at all? And does practice in schools need to change?

I know that our (primary) school is well aware of the need to include the internet in the SRE curriculum. And I heard a couple of teachers on Radio 4 yesterday talking about how they recognise the effects of porn on what the kids they are teaching talk about in sex ed lessons, and how they handle that. I haven't seen or heard anyone talking about schools teaching sex ed with no reference to the internet. Is there actually a problem?

hardboiled Wed 04-Sep-13 15:46:25

pachacuti just made an excellent point.

adoptmama Wed 04-Sep-13 17:37:11

Schools, IME, teach internet saftey constantly. I personally am rather surprised by the NSPCCs attitude which does not, I think, reflect a very deep understanding of what is taught in schools and how. In PSE lessons we frequently cover topics like grooming, keeping safe online, safe use of social media, sexting and texting etc as part of a myriad of topics like bullying. Safe internet usage is also taught in ICT lessons.

The idea that children will be 'warped by the internet' because of a lack of 'good' sex ed. is a very big leap indeed. Regardless of the quality of the sex education given in schools, children will look for things they are curious about on the internet. They will also look for things getting a lot of news coverage - like videos of Miley Cyrus twerking - which will lead them onto other things. Children need to be taught about interent safety - but so do parents, many of whom I have found are completely oblivous to their child's online life.

If, as according to their survey is the case, almost 1/3 believe that pornography 'dictates how they should behave in a relationship' then the issue does need explored. But so does the question asked (influences how they behave in terms of role play/dress/age of sexucal activity/making them have sex before they were ready/turning them off sex etc.) and there needs to be better information about the responses too. Did more girls than boys answer 'yes' for example. Frankly I suspect a far higher percentage believe they need to act in a sexualised way because they are heavily influenced by videos/mtv etc etc. We have a constant stream of lyrics in music being pumped out which denigrate and demean women. Both boys and girls feel they must look, dress and behave a certain way because they see idealised - and unattainabe - bodies on display on TV constantly. Half of what is shown on MTV would have been banned under pornography laws 25 years ago. Children are exposed to this - and from a much younger age - far more frequently than they are being exposed to 'porn'. And since they are often exposed to it listening to the car radio on the ride to school with their parents, the message they are getting is that it is ok to refer to someone as 'the neighbour whore' as one song I heard frequently over the summer did. And lets not forget that before they the internet they had 'lad mags'. I can still remember the mortification of one lad who I caught in class 'reading' his lad-mag, who insisted he only got it for the articles smile

I'd also be very interested in hearing the NSPCC explain exactly how they think schools can/should teach about pornography because what we do have are very strict legal responsibilities regarding what can be shown in class. I don't think we will be screening 50 Shades any time soon and having a spiritied discussion on the rights and wrongs of bondage!

nameequality Thu 05-Sep-13 11:23:22

<not read the rest of the thread but here are my thoughts:>

I passionately believe that this area is not one to leave as a parental responsibility. Many parents do not have the skill or inclination to talk about this area. Many mothers are in abusive relationships.

I think that the key is to teach about consent.

There are some really inspirational young feminists campaigning for consent to be part of the curriculum - www.campaign4consent.co.uk/.

Then after that talk about assertiveness - but it is massively important that the girls and women are not the gatekeepers the ones who have to "prevent abuse happening". It is key that assertiveness discussions do not wander into victim blaming.

The tone of the education should be on the lines of the "boys and men make sure you don't rape" Some of the Scottish campaigns spring to mind.

Specific topic areas:

a) sexual consent - how to give it, and how to recognise it - and (conversely) how to say 'no' to things you aren't happy with

Start in primary school in reception. About how our bodies belong to us. About how people should not touch us in certain places unless we ask them to. People should stop tickling us as soon as we ask. Age appropriate of course but building up a foundation and then carrying on as they get older.

b) self-respect and self-esteem, and having respectful attitudes to others

Yes this should be included. I am amazed it isn't already.

c) what a healthy sexual/emotional relationship looks like

Yes - along the lines of Reality's "this is what a healthy relationship looks like". Talk about the markers of abuse - emotional/financial as well as physical.

d) porn Yes this should be covered. Along the lines of stoppornculture.org/. Start in reception talking about the good things on the internet and that there are adult things. Develop from there is an age appropriate way

e) separate SRE sessions tailored specifically for boys and girls

Yes definitely should be separate in my opinion.

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