Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)

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Delivering Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in secondary schools is a compulsory part of the curriculum. It is not just about puberty and sexual health – good RSE helps to equip pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to develop and maintain positive healthy relationships of all kinds and make informed decisions relating to them.  

At primary school, Relationships Education is about teaching the foundations of positive relationships. It should: 

  • Include information on what healthy relationships look like (including friendships, family, and relationships with other children and adults) 
  • Help pupils understand the positive effects relationships have on our wellbeing and how to identify when relationships are not right  
  • Focus on kindness, sharing, consideration, respect, honesty, permission seeking and giving, and privacy 
  • How to manage challenging situations in relationships and recognise their rights 
  • Help build resilience   
  • Consider these within the context of online relationships 

At secondary school, RSE should build upon the teaching in primary school and should: 

  • Provide information on what a range of healthy relationships look like, including intimate relationships  
  • Help pupils learn how to identify when relationships are unhealthy and what behaviours are appropriate/inappropriate 
  • Help build resilience and self-esteem 
  • Help pupils understand that unhealthy relationships can impact health and wellbeing  
  • Teach about relationships and the law, abortion, sexual health, sexual orientation, and gender identity 
  • Include information on contraception options  
  • Teach about consent (including resisting and not applying pressure to have sex), sexual assault, and harassment 
  • Cover grooming, sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, coercive and controlling behaviour, and FGM 
  • Consider these in the context of online relationships  

Content should be delivered in age-appropriate ways, based on the needs of the pupils. Topics should be covered in a compassionate, safe, respectful, and sensitive way and staff delivering sessions on emotive or challenging topics should feel comfortable in doing so to minimise distress.  

Teaching RSE in the most effective and informative way as possible is essential in enabling children and young people to grow up with the knowledge and skills they need to look after themselves in their relationships and make informed decisions.  

In December 2022, a survey conducted by the Sex Education Forum of just over 1000 young people aged 16-17 revealed broken promises in RSE, which leave children and young people unprepared for challenges they may face. Only 40% of young people rated their lessons as ‘good’ or ‘very good’, and nearly 1 in 5 rated the quality of their lessons as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’. Additionally, pupils reported that they don’t learn enough about the most relevant issues today, including pornography, LGBTQ+, and healthy relationships. While 44% of respondents agreed that what they learnt in RSE had helped them and 32% agreed it was relevant, over a quarter felt the lessons were neither relevant nor helpful. 

Some of these findings are similar in Devon. In the pupil wellbeing survey carried out in 2021 with a sample of 6000 pupils, secondary age pupils were asked about their experience of RSE lessons in their school: 

  • 27% said they had not helped to understand sexually transmitted infection  
  • 27% said they had not helped to understand gender identity or expression  
  • 43% said they had not helped to understand about accessing contraception and sexual health services  

 With delivery of RSE in mind, it is helpful to understand the local offer to signpost pupils to appropriate services when needed and to give context when teaching. Devon Sexual Health provide specialist community contraceptive services for all ages across Devon and Torbay and has a virtual ‘one-stop shop’ for advice and information Devon Sexual Health – providing sexual health services that support healthy relationships and sexual well-being – Devon Sexual Health.  

The ‘Doink’ service is the new way for young people 13-24 in Devon and Torbay to get free condoms, dams and lube. ‘Doink’ is run by Preventx, the UK’s largest sexual health testing service, and The Eddystone Trust, a local sexual health and HIV charity Introducing Doink – Free Condoms for Under 25s in Devon & Torbay – The Eddystone Trust

Once they have registered, young people have the option to order via post or collect from any participating distribution site across the County. With either option they are provided with information about condoms, including how to use them. Individuals aged 13 to 15 can use the service following a “check in” with a trained worker, either in person or by phone.

Young people in Devon and Torbay can register by visiting Condoms – Devon And Torbay — SH.UK

Pharmacists who meet required standards can also provide free emergency contraception to anyone aged 13-25, and GPs can prescribe free contraception and if specially trained can offer Long-Acting Reversible Contraception. 

When it comes to sexually transmitted infections, Devon Sexual Health provide specialist community services, and in addition the voluntary sector provide advice, support, signposting, and point of care testing The Eddystone Trust | HIV & Sexual Health Services. 

Free chlamydia screening is available for under 25-year-olds via GPs and self-testing kits via pharmacies, or they can be ordered online Free Chlamydia and STI Test • Freetest.me. 

Essential signposting

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