If you think back to sex education at school, you’ll probably remember an awkward run-through of the body’s reproductive bits by a red-faced teacher, followed perhaps by an even more embarrassing activity involving a condom and a banana. If these were your early experiences, like us, you’ll be thrilled to hear that these lessons are getting a total overhaul for the next generation.
Until now, sex education guidance for schools hasn’t been updated for almost 20 years – pretty shocking when you think about what’s changed in the world since then. This major shake-up of the subject is hoping to reflect the modern issues and challenges facing children and teens today by covering topics such as mental health, cyber-bullying, sexting and online safety.
What are the new sex education plans?
Under the new proposals – that were shaped from the views of over 23,000 parents, young people, schools and experts – for the first time it will be compulsory for relationships education to be covered in both primary and secondary schools, as well as sex education being offered to older students. A new topic of health education – with a focus on mental wellbeing and physical health – will also be obligatory for all state-funded schools.
Primary school children will learn about building healthy, respectful relationships, focusing on family and on and offline friendships – as well as understanding how to be healthy.
For pre-teens and teens in secondary schools, they’ll be a focus on understanding health as well as gaining knowledge on intimate relationships and sex. Risk areas such as drugs and alcohol will also be covered.
These revamped sex ed plans include some highly relevant topics such as: body image – to help children cope with the pressures of comparison in the age of the selfie; consent and harassment – discussing in an age-appropriate way the rights of your own body, both online and offline; sexting and staying safe online – with the benefits of balancing time spent on and offline; fertility facts on both men and women; and mental health.
The new sex education topics are due to enter a consultation period with the aim of developing them further and pinning down how they’ll be taught in schools. The guidance will then become compulsory in schools from September 2020.
Why is sex education important?
The proposals have been praised and supported by charities, campaigners and the general public, with many thinking that the teaching of these important subjects is way overdue. In 2016, the Women and Equalities Committee recommended that every child at primary and secondary school must have access to high quality, age-appropriate relationships and sex education through making sex and relationships education (SRE) a statutory subject.
And of course arming the next generation with empowering, positive knowledge about the body and emotions is a topic that’s close to Pink Parcel’s heart too.
The curriculum-linked lessons provided by betty for schools for 8-12 year olds, have been developed by young people and education experts to encourage open, respectful and honest conversations about periods and the way they affect girls.
The betty for schools resources are PSHE Association accredited and created so that teachers can deliver the sessions with zero embarrassment and awkwardness, through a mix of film-led animations, quizzes and interactive activities. Schools also have the opportunity to welcome the betty bus and experience experiential, innovative sessions on periods – all delivered onboard the big yellow bus by trained facilitators.
This mission to break period taboos, along with the new proposed learnings in schools on sex and relationships, means we can hopefully look forward to future generations that are happy, confident and empowered about their bodies and their feelings.