Relationships and Sexuality Education

Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE)

Healthy, Positive Sexual Expression and Relationships

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The NSPCC’s Head of Policy, Almudena Lara, has commented: ‘The NSPCC firmly believes that every child should be taught from an early age about consent, different relationships, and what abuse and harassment is, so that they learn they have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.’ (BBC News – School pupils to be taught about relationships)

How we interact with others can have a significant impact on our well-being and mental health. In a healthy relationship, we can feel supported and confident. In an unhealthy relationship, we can lack confidence and self-esteem.

Children and young people should learn about healthy relationships in an inclusive and safe school environment. Schools must ensure that all pupils, and their family relationships, are treated with respect. Pupils who are, for example, from same-sex families or looked after by grandparents or carers, must not be discriminated against or stigmatised.

This area of the RSE Hub signposts to resources and guidance information that can help teachers, parents/carers, and children and young people explore how to build positive relationships, and recognise and respond to age-appropriate behaviours.

Primary

Relationships education in primary schools should focus on exploring positive, respectful relationships with family and friends. It should also explore keeping safe, making appropriate decisions, and developing resilience and self-worth to meet the challenges of today’s world.

Children should be able to recognise and distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships (both online and offline) and who to go to for support if they need it. They should learn:

  • what a relationship is;
  • what friendship is;
  • about establishing boundaries and appropriate and inappropriate touch; and
  • how to recognise risk, responding safely and appropriately when they encounter adults that they may not know.

Post-Primary

Learning about healthy, positive relationships at Key Stages 3 and 4 should build on the RSE covered at primary school. It should go further in exploring issues around risk-taking, sexuality and intimate relationships, both online and offline. It should teach young people how to recognise healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviour, recognise and manage risk, and respect themselves and others.

They should understand that healthy relationships have a positive effect on their mental health and well-being, and recognise the negative and potentially long-lasting impact of unhealthy relationships. Teachers should deal with issues around healthy relationships in a sensitive way.

Young people should explore the range, qualities and behavioural aspects of different relationships, including families, friends and romantic relationships, and the positive qualities people bring to healthy relationships. They should also be able to:

  • identify the features of a positive, healthy relationship (such as good communication and mutual respect) and contrast them with the features of an unhealthy relationship (such as coercion and manipulation);
  • start to explore the meaning of romantic relationships and sexual attraction;
  • relate the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, and recognise how power inequality can negatively affect romantic and sexual relationships;
  • recognise risk and risk-taking behaviours; and
  • develop skills and strategies to mitigate risk for themselves or to help others to manage risk.

Young people should also demonstrate what it means to treat others in a relationship with fairness, dignity and respect. They should be aware of who to go to if they need help and the range of specialised support services available to them in their local communities.