Focus on sexuality and healthy relationships in new curriculum

Written by: Greg Lewis | Published:

​Healthy relationships and sexuality will form the cornerstone of sex education in the new curriculum for Wales, the education secretary has announced.

Sex and relationships education will continue to be a statutory part of Wales’ new curriculum from 2022 for five to 16-year-olds, Kirsty Williams said, but it will be updated and renamed relationships and sexuality education (RSE).

At present, SRE is a statutory part of the basic curriculum in Wales but education officials believe that in some schools pupils are given little information beyond the biological aspects of human relationships.

RSE is being developed following a major review by an expert panel led by Professor Emma Renold of childhood studies at Cardiff University Education, and the Welsh government believes it will represent “a major departure from traditional approaches”.

It states that RSE broadens the area of study and places an emphasis on forming and maintaining healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships.

Learners will also be given a much broader understanding of sexuality that is inclusive of LGBT+ learners and includes wider issues such as consent, domestic abuse and respecting diversity.

To prepare teachers to deliver the new curriculum, £200,000 has been made available to education consortia across Wales so that they can develop more training. A further £50,000 has been awarded to Welsh Women’s Aid to create resources for schools.

Ms Williams said: “Sex should never be taught in isolation for the simple reason that it is about so much more than just sex. It’s also about relationships, rights and respect, and that must go hand-in-hand with a much broader understanding of sexuality. Anything less does a disservice to our learners and our teachers.”

She added: “By creating RSE as a statutory area of study in our new curriculum for Wales, we will support our young people to develop healthy relationships, maintain good mental health and keep physically and sexually safe.”

Commenting on the fact that it was 30 years on from the introduction of Section 28, Ms Williams made it clear that this new curriculum would ensure RSE was fit for the 21st century and that it was fully inclusive of all genders and sexualities.

“Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher denounced local education authorities for teaching children that ‘they have an alienable right to be gay’,” she said. “I want all our learners to know that they have an alienable right to be happy – this is the driving force behind the changes we’re proposing.”

Prof Renold added: “Underpinning the new curriculum with the core principles of rights, equity, inclusivity, protection and empowerment makes for a very promising future for RSE in Wales and takes forward some of the best practice already underway in primary and secondary schools in Wales and internationally.”

While RSE will become statutory as part of the new curriculum when it is rolled out in 2022, the new name will come in next year when fresh guidance is issued for the current curriculum.

The guidance will provide schools with greater support on a range of topics such as education for LGBT+ learners and prevention of violence against women and domestic abuse.


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