sex education
The standards aim to allow young people to grow up to lead happy and successful romantic and sexual relationships. Source:

It has been a long and weary battle for many MPs in the United Kingdom to update and implement clear guidelines for sex education. But finally change is on the horizon.

In light of the government’s announcement that the sex and relationships curriculum will be updated for the first time in nearly 20 years, the Sex Education Forum (SEF) has published what it considers the 12 key principles of effective sex education.

SEF’s points are supported by both the National Education Union (NEU) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) in the UK.

The 12 principles which make up successful sex education

1. It should form a clear part of Personal, Social, Health and Economics (PSHE) education, and have timetabled lessons dedicated to it in all levels of study.

2. Staff who teach relationships and sex education should be regularly trained. Schools should also encourage experts to visit and speak to students as well.

3. The school must work together with parents and carers to ensure they are aware what students are learning and how they can add to their learning outside of school should they so wish.

4. Students should feel safe during the lessons and have the opportunity to discuss any issues.

5. Teachers should be clear about what is fact and what is opinion and all material should come from reliable sources.

6. Material should be age-appropriate and discuss real-life issues and situations as well as promoting safe, equal, caring and enjoyable relationships.

7. It should show human sexuality as a natural part of life. Children should be taught honestly but with medically-accurate content to enable them to understand their bodies and take precautions and care to maintain their sexual health.

8. Students should be given opportunity to reflect on influences and moral values which have or will shape their attitudes to relationships and sex. However, they should also be encouraged to see things from other students’ perspectives and have respect for them and their views.

9. Teachers should inform pupils where they can go for help or treatment relating to sex and relationships should they need it. Students should also be made aware of where to find reliable information online.

10. The lessons should promote equality and challenge all forms of discrimination and prejudice. They should discuss lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) sex and relationships.

11. Sex education should be inclusive for all students, including those with special education needs and disabilities.

12. Students’ backgrounds and viewpoints should be taken into account. The classroom should allow students to discuss should they feel comfortable. Teaching can then be adapted to be relevant to the students’ lives.

“It’s so important for all pupils in all schools to be taught about appropriate relationships, and for that teaching to be effective,” NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman told Tes.

“The government must be prepared to invest in what is needed for the potentially positive impact of sex and relationship education to be a reality for pupils.”

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