Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE)
Training and Professional Development
In this section of the RSE Hub, you’ll find links to organisations that offer training and support for teachers and other educators, as well as parents/carers and the Board of Governors.
We have provided a description of the types of RSE training each organisation offers and the different audiences they support. These organisations often have specialist knowledge of and experience in different areas of RSE. Some can provide a generic form of training that’s applicable to all schools, or bespoke training specifically tailored to individual school needs relating to ethos, location, size or prior experience and learning. Organisations use different modes of delivering training and support, including face-to-face sessions, online training, blended learning approaches and telephone support.
Before accessing training, it’s important to identify the area of RSE to be developed in your school or organisation and the appropriate members of staff to receive training. While many types of training and support are provided free of charge, others do incur a cost, and it could be that only some members of staff need or are able to receive training. In these cases, groups can decide for themselves how best to share knowledge with the wider school if necessary and how to carry out the ongoing follow-up or evaluation of training.
With the important place RSE holds in the curriculum, both in terms of Department of Education priorities and young people’s learning, we will continue to update this page. Please check the organisations’ websites for the most current details about their training and support.
The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) Report of an Evaluation of Relationships and Sexuality Education in Post-Primary Schools concluded that, to improve the quality of RSE, there is a need to:
- develop a clear understanding of the importance of RSE in promoting pupils’ personal growth and development and in supporting their academic achievement;
- provide additional in-service training on RSE with particular reference to sensitive topics and to the teaching approaches which are most effective in engaging pupils in learning and promoting their personal development and capacity for decision-making; and
- make whole-school staff development in RSE a key priority in the School Development Plan.
In an ETI report on Relationships and Sexuality Education in Primary and Special Schools, a majority of schools identified that teachers lack confidence and/or are uncomfortable in delivering the sensitive aspects of RSE and require specific training on teaching sexuality. This includes sexual identity, puberty, appropriate language for body parts, inappropriate behaviour, touching and abuse, and the online exposure of children to material that is not age appropriate.
Staff training and development in RSE should be included in both the school RSE policy and School Development Plan.
RSE-specific training for teachers is important because it:
- increases their subject knowledge and keeps it up to date;
- enhances their capacity and confidence to deliver the more sensitive elements of RSE;
- enables them to use participative and inclusive approaches in delivery of high-quality RSE;
- develops coping strategies to deal with challenging scenarios, including domestic violence and child abuse;
- helps them know how to deal with difficult situations regarding disclosures on issues such as sexual activity, pregnancy or sexual orientation; and
- ensures their teaching is:
- age and developmentally appropriate; and
- delivered with appropriate and correct reference to Northern Ireland legislation, for example the age of consent.
Information on organisations providing RSE Training and Support
Barnardo’s NI offers two main programmes for teachers to help pupils develop social and emotional learning skills. The training for these programmes is delivered face-to-face in schools. There is a fee for the training; please see How Can I Learn More and the contact details below for further information.
PATHS® is a manualised programme for primary school teachers. It includes a variety of lessons, posters and other materials that reinforce the key components of social and emotional learning. Evidence from the programme shows that pupils benefit greatly in developing self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making skills, all of which are crucial to RSE. Barnardo’s NI works with individual schools on request to develop social and emotional learning that reflects their ethos.
LifeSkills is a universal early intervention and prevention programme, designed for whole-class, in-school delivery for 8–14 year olds. It concentrates on a preventative approach that shares age-appropriate information with children and young people, providing them with the skills, knowledge and attitudes to make healthy choices. The LifeSkills programme builds capacity by equipping teachers with the skills to prevent risky behaviours.
Contact for PATHS®: Elaine Britton [email protected]
Contact for LifeSkills: Lauren Spiers [email protected]
Website: PATHS® Childhood Development Programme for Schools
Belfast Health and Social Care Trust
RSE Areas: ConsentDevelopments in ContraceptionDomestic and Sexual Violence and AbuseHealthy, Positive Sexual Expression and RelationshipsInternet SafetyLGBTQ+ MattersSocial Media and Its Effects on Relationships and Self-Esteem
The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust’s Sexual Health Training Team provides training and professional learning opportunities for principals, vice-principals, teachers with a lead role in co-ordinating RSE, and teachers involved in the delivery of RSE programmes.
The training is modular and delivered through online platforms, with an extensive range of content to choose from, covering all aspects of RSE. Access is free of charge for primary, post-primary and special education settings within the Belfast and South Eastern Trust areas.
The RSE training programmes aim to support teachers, enhancing awareness and improving confidence and competence to co-ordinate, deliver and evaluate valuable, comprehensive, high-quality RSE within the school setting. This ensures RSE plays a key role in supporting young people’s physical, social and emotional wellbeing.
The programmes available cover an extensive range of RSE issues spanning the key stages, including:
- the context for RSE in Northern Ireland;
- sexual health in Northern Ireland;
- healthy relationships;
- Destination Adolescence (puberty resource);
- gender identity and sexual orientation;
- sexual health;
- prevention of STIs and HIV;
- sex and the law;
- attitudes and values;
- sex and sexuality;
- child sexual exploitation;
- emotional intelligence, resilience and personal development;
- sexting and social media;
- co-producing a curriculum of RSE across different subject areas;
- school RSE policy development; and
- services, signposting and external organisations.
The programmes provide support and guidance on a range of relevant, current and emerging issues. They equip teachers with practical strategies and resources to help positively engage young people in meaningful ways that can improve their relationships and sexual health.
Contact: Joe Harris [email protected]
Contact: Admin Team [email protected]
Website: Belfast Health and Social Care Trust – Sexual Health Training Team Information
RSE Areas: LGBTQ+ Matters
Cara-Friend provides LGBTQ+ awareness training to teachers and staff from post-primary schools and further education colleges. They also offer one-to-one professional support and guidance to teachers and school staff.
The training aims to make teachers and staff more responsive to the needs of pupils they work with and promotes a greater understanding of LGBTQ+ issues within a school environment. Approximate training time required is 2.5 hours.
Cara-Friend delivers the All Out anti-bullying workshop to pupils, which aims to combat bullying by increasing pupils’ awareness of the LGBTQ+ community. They also discuss terminology and issues that LGBTQ+ pupils must often tackle within a school environment. Approximate training time required is 1 hour.
Cara-Friend provides one-to-one support for LGBTQ+ young people and facilitates a family support group for parents/carers.
Common Youth is funded by the Public Health Agency. The charity offers training for teachers to builds skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver effective RSE to pupils. Common Youth’s training can be delivered through face-to-face sessions or online platforms. The training is bespoke to each organisation’s specific needs, covering topics such as consent, safeguarding, sexual behaviours and pornography.
Trained staff, including doctors, nurses, counsellors, information workers and education workers, can also provide support and information to professionals. They can be contacted by telephone or email, seven days a week during clinic hours.
Common Youth also offers the following types of support:
- guidance with developing RSE policies, curriculum and resources;
- programmes and resources for primary schools, covering topics like puberty and menstrual wellbeing;
- post-primary content, covering topics like staying safe online, consent, relationships and contraception; and
- free, confidential sexual health clinics, with suitably qualified staff, seven days a week for young people under the age of 24.
Education Authority Child Protection Support Service
The Education Authority offers the following training through its Child Protection Support Service, with specific programmes designed for school leaders and teachers with key areas of responsibility. There are also whole-staff programmes and specialist training for school governors.
Introduction to Safeguarding and Child Protection – a two-day course for newly appointed Designated Teachers and Deputy Designated Teachers. Participants learn about the key policies and legislation in relation to safeguarding. They become familiar with the signs and symptoms of the various forms of abuse, as well as increasing their awareness of specific safeguarding issues such as domestic violence, child sexual exploitation and online safety.
Refresher Training in Safeguarding and Child Protection – Designated Teachers and Deputy Designated Teachers revisit the key aspects of safeguarding covered in the previous training. They also consider the key trends and developments in this area. This training takes place within three years of the initial safeguarding training.
Safeguarding and Child Protection Training for First Time Principals – newly appointed principals have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of their role in relation to safeguarding and child protection in their school.
Refresher Training in Safeguarding and Child Protection for School Principals – this course builds on the knowledge and understanding of the school principal and their role in managing safeguarding and child protection in their school.
Whole-School Training in Safeguarding and Child Protection – for all staff to build knowledge and understanding of safeguarding and child protection matters and to provide information about what to do when faced with concerns regarding children that relate to safeguarding and child protection.
Safeguarding and Child Protection Signs of Safety Workshop – a one-off training workshop for Designated Teachers and Deputy Designated Teachers to increase their awareness of what is involved in a Signs of Safety Case Conference/Social Services Meeting.
The Safeguarding Role of School Governors – this training is for Chairs of Governors and Designated Governors to provide them with an understanding of their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding and child protection.
Contact: Elaine Craig [email protected]
Website: Education Authority – The EA Child Protection Support Service (CPSS)
If I Were Jack
If I Were Jack from Queen’s University Belfast is a resource that explores the issue of unintended teenage pregnancy and positive sexual expression and relationships. An online instructional video supports post-primary teachers in using the resource.
The instructional video provides an overview of the resource, the interactive video drama, accompanying activities and classroom materials, as well as important advice on how to access and deliver the programme. There’s also a recorded FAQ section where teachers and pupils provide questions and insights based on their experience of the programme during its pilot phase.
Informing Choices NI
RSE Areas: SEN Consent Developments in Contraception Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Healthy, Positive Sexual Expression and Relationships Internet Safety LGBTQ+ Matters Social Media and Its Effects on Relationships and Self-Esteem
Informing Choices NI offers training and support to all professionals working in a community setting.
With a specific focus on people with learning difficulties and disabilities, including autism spectrum disorder, their programmes range from introductory courses to training accredited by the Open College Network.
All of the courses are one-day events. During COVID-19, courses are available over two half days or one full day on Zoom. You can find detailed information on each course on the Informing Choices NI website.
Love for Life
RSE Areas: Consent Developments in Contraception Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Healthy, Positive Sexual Expression and Relationships Internet Safety LGBTQ+ Matters Social Media and Its Effects on Relationships and Self-Esteem Teen Parenting SEN
Love for Life delivers programmes to pupils in Key Stages 1–4 and provides training to teachers, parents/carers and school governors. Training can be tailored to meet particular school needs, according to age or area of RSE.
In partnership with schools, Love for Life can provide information evenings for parents/carers and offers two workshops focusing on communicating with children about relationships and sex, and staying safe online. Governor training covers guidance for schools on how to deliver RSE in line with the school ethos, aims and values.
Provision for learners with special educational needs includes a range of RSE programmes specifically designed for young people in moderate learning difficulties or severe learning difficulties settings or those in mainstream schools. Bespoke training for teachers is also available on how to deliver any of these programmes.
Middletown Centre for Autism
Middletown Centre for Autism provides the following courses for education professionals, parents/carers and family members of autistic young people aged 11–18.
Autism and Life Skills, Including Relationships and Sexuality Education
This course consists of a 1-hour webinar and supplementary materials, which make up the 2-hour programme. With issues specifically relating to autistic students as its focus, the content of this training includes:
- the cognitive theories of autism and how these impact on students’ ability to form friendships, moving on to relationships and eventually intimate relationships;
- sensory issues autistic people experience;
- consent – both obtaining consent and giving consent;
- LGBTQ+ matters, with appropriate links; and
- internet safety.
Full Day Training: Relationships and Sexuality Education for Autistic Students
This course explores how adolescence affects autistic students. Participants learn strategies and interventions to help students cope with issues arising during this phase of their development. Topics include:
- adolescence and autism – how adolescence impacts on the autistic student;
- how to prepare students for physical changes; and
- some strategies for developing RSE.
There are normally online and face-to-face delivery options for this course. However, while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place, only the online format will be available.
RSE Areas: Consent Developments in Contraception Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Healthy, Positive Sexual Expression and Relationships Internet Safety LGBTQ+ Matters Social Media and Its Effects on Relationships and Self-Esteem
Nexus NI provides general training for professionals working with young people, covering all areas of RSE. Potential audiences include teachers, youth and community workers, parents/carers, school governors and education support bodies. The training can be delivered online or face-to-face and consists of three 2-hour sessions.
More specialised training in the following areas is also available. This can be tailored to meet the needs of individual schools, teachers of learners with special educational needs, and newcomer families. Some courses are funded, depending on area, while others may have a small charge. Please contact Nexus NI for more information.
Talking About Consent – a 90-minute session for post-primary professionals and parents/carers in the Belfast area.
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) – Levels 1 and 2 – for healthcare professionals and those in the education sector. This training addresses the key elements of CSE, including grooming, types of exploitation and recognising vulnerabilities, and explores the impact of CSE on victims and carers and effective interventions to support those affected. Level 1 is a half-day programme, and Level 2 lasts a full day.
Rape and Sexual Violence Awareness – for professionals and volunteers working with those affected by sexual violence or those who have a safeguarding responsibility.
Domestic and Sexual Violence Awareness Training – can be delivered to post-primary pupils and professionals and covers topics like defining domestic and sexual violence, signs of symptoms of sexual violence, its effects and where to seek help.
Online Safeguarding – for professionals and parents/carers. This training aims to allow participants to learn more about the online world and how to stay safe.
The NSPCC offers a range of online and face-to-face training.
Online courses include:
- child protection training for school governors and those working in schools;
- safer recruitment in education;
- managing sexualised behaviour in schools; and
- keeping children safe online.
There are also specialised courses for safeguarding children with additional educational needs and disabilities.
Face-to-face courses include:
- general training on safeguarding;
- the roles and responsibilities of the designated officer;
- safer recruitment; and
- managing allegations of abuse.
The NSPCC also provides free teaching resources and lesson plans that can be used with children across the key stages.
You can access information about online and face-to-face training, curriculum resources and more at NSPCC Learning – Safeguarding and child protection in schools. On this page, you can also access a brochure that identifies a range of NSPCC products and services, all designed to help support school staff, parents/carers and children in Northern Ireland.
Contact for training and consultancy enquiries: [email protected] or call 0116 234 7246
Contact for for other education-related enquiries: [email protected]
Website: NSPCC Learning – Training in safeguarding and child protection
Thrive Academy offers training for teachers and staff who would like to learn about the impact of social media on young people’s wellbeing. The training explains recent research findings. Participants explore ways in which the school can encourage positive social media use and work to promote positive mental health, including cultivating a kindness culture and the benefits of digital resilience.
Thrive Academy’s teacher training can be delivered for staff development days, twilight sessions or staff meetings and can be facilitated either in person or online.
As a social enterprise, Thrive Academy invites local businesses to sponsor its services. If your school is interested in inviting Thrive Academy to be part of its wellbeing programme but doesn’t have the funds, then please do not let that put you off getting in touch.
Women’s Aid Federation NI
Women’s Aid Federation NI provides training to primary school teachers on how to use their Helping Hands programme. This programme includes fun and creative ideas for teachers to develop pupils’ emotional literacy, help them understand and identify when they do not feel safe, and know who they can turn to for support in these situations. The training takes the form of a two-day course funded by the Education Authority.
For the post-primary sector, Women’s Aid Federation NI is currently developing a programme focusing on healthy relationships. This training will emphasise respect, equality and trust, so that young people may develop a strong sense of rights in relationships. Featuring six key areas, the training will be explicitly linked to the Northern Ireland Curriculum and will be accompanied by a dedicated, interactive website.