What does good SRE look like?
Good SRE is firmly rooted in the whole school approach that is at the core of Healthy Schools itself. This takes in the wider school context; leadership, management and managing change; policy development; curriculum planning and resourcing (including working with external agencies); teaching and learning; school culture and environment; giving pupils a voice; provision of pupils' support services; staff professional development needs, health and welfare; partnerships with parents/carers and local communities; and assessing, recording and reporting pupil's achievement.
Good SRE involves all members of the school community and is 'owned' by them. It is neither contentious nor embarrassing. Rather, because of the ethos of the school, it is a subject staff, governors, parents and pupils are comfortable with and proud of and it is delivered by confident, skilled teachers who want to be teaching it, in a safe learning environment and inclusive of the needs of all pupils.
Good SRE centres on relationships but also recognises the importance of clear, factual, non-judgemental information delieved in an age-appropriate, planned programme of PSHE and science (the sex and the biology).
Good SRE starts from the moment children start school and is planned and progressive throughout school life. It isn't an ad hoc provision that just covers puberty from the school nurse in Year 6 or a few tutor-led sessions at secondary school.
Good SRE is clearly laid out in a policy that meets the needs of the school and its pupils. This is a policy that is fit for purpose, in practice and known throughout the school; not one in a dusty file on a high shelf, there in case anyone asks but otherwise ignored. Good SRE is frequently reflected on and reviewed by the governors, parents and carers, teachers and school staff and pupils.
Good comprehensive SRE does not make young people more likely to start sex. Indeed, overall studies have shown that it can help them delay starting sexual activity and make them more likely to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) when they do.
Good SRE is essential if young people are to make responsible and well-informed decisions about their lives. It will help them learn to respect themselves and others and move with confidence from childhood through adolescence into adulthood.
Good SRE will help schools meet the Every Child Matters outcomes and provide excellent support and evidence for the new Ofsted pupil wellbeing indicators being introduced in 2009.
We have written these guidelines to offer support for SRE for school in Swindon working towards or consoliating the National Healthy School Standard. They are intended to be of use to teachers, governors, parents and other health professionals as they develop and implement policies for sex and relationship education in all phases of education. They cover both primary and secondary schools.
SRE in the context of PSHE
Although these guidelines focus on specific sex and relationships programmes, their overarching premise is that SRE should be firmly rooted in the framework for Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), so that sex and relationships are linked to other lifestyle issues such as alcohol and drugs, and seen as an integral element of an holistic approach to young people's personal and social development.
We are very clear in Swindon Healthy Schools that an effective approach goes beyond the provision of biological information; it focuses on clarifying attitudes and values and developing self-esteem and the skills to manage relationships.
What's in a name?
In Northern Ireland it's called RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) and in some faith schools it's called EPR (Education for Personal Relationships), both of which put the emphasis on what it is all about: helping children and young people develop the skills, attitudes and knowledge that will enable them to develop strong, healthy personal relationships now and in the future. Of course this includes, in context, information about growing up, puberty and sex.
So often when talking about sex and relationship education, audiences (from parents to governors to the media) concentrate on the word 'sex' and miss the rest of the sentence.
So, although we'll be following the current convention of calling it SRE, it might be worth keeping the other titles in mind, as a reminder that we are putting relationships at the heart of what we do...
The government has accepted, in principle, the following recommendations made by the SRE working group:
- Improve the skills and confidence of those who deliver SRE
- Encourage the use of external contributors in supporting schools' delivery of SRE
- Provide further guidance and support for schools
- Involve young people in the design of SRE programmes
- Maximise the impact of wider programmes and initiatives
- Improve school leadership on SRE.