Pupils complain of gaps in the RSE teaching they receive

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Grooming, sexual exploitation, pornography and the signs of abusive relationships – these are among the topics that pupils say they are not being taught about in RSE.

The findings have come from a survey of more than 1,000 pupils published by the Sex Education Forum (SEF) and National Education Union.

It raises concerns that young people have notable gaps in their RSE when it comes to vital safeguarding and wellbeing issues.

The poll of 1,000 16 and 17-year-olds in England found that 20 per cent said they did not receive teaching on the signs of an abusive relationship, with 18 per cent not learning anything about how to find help if they are sexually assaulted.

Furthermore, 23 per cent did not learn anything at school about how to recognise when someone is being groomed for sexual exploitation and a similar number said they didn’t learn anything at all about how to tell if a relationship is healthy.

Considerable numbers said they did not learn about other important subjects, including female genital mutilation (33 per cent), pornography (27 per cent) sexual pleasure (30 per cent), or LGBT issues (22 per cent).

The poll also found that 52 per cent of pupils thought more time should be spent on RSE and 34 per cent want the subject to be treated more seriously.

It comes after another SEF poll last month warned that teachers and school staff charged with delivering PSHE and RSE lessons are doing so with inadequate or no training.

It found that 29 per cent of teachers had received no RSE training at all, while 38 per cent said the training they had received was "inadequate".

Among the topics the respondents found most difficult were contraception, pregnancy options, STIs, accessing sexual health services, and sexually explicit information online.

However, the government has proposed in its draft subject guidance that these topics will all be compulsory from 2020.

In addition, 20 per cent of the 240 teachers surveyed said they lacked confidence in adapting teaching to meet the needs of children with SEND, while 21 per cent said they lacked confidence on making the curriculum LGBT-inclusive.

The results have been published alongside a new roadmap resource offering schools support in preparing for September 2020 when RSE (relationships education in primary schools) and health education will become statutory subjects.

It has been created by the SEF and PSHE Association with support from five education unions.

Lucy Emmerson, director of the SEF, said: "The confidence of schools to address important topics such as abuse, grooming, LGBT issues, pornography, sexual pleasure and FGM will be critical to ensuring that RSE meets the needs of children and young people growing up now, so they are safe and savvy as they mature into adults.

"The vital ingredient in effective RSE are the people who teach it. The guidance on what the statutory curriculum will cover is well underway, but what training and support will be available to schools remains to be seen.

"We hope that the roadmap will help school leaders to start taking steps now. We urge the government to commit money to training in this area so that all staff teaching RSE feel confident and knowledgeable to do so.’


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