Sex education turns over a new page in Welsh schools

By Des Mannion

| 25 May 2018

Significant changes are being made into how sex education will be taught in schools in Wales.

The Welsh Government is introducing a new curriculum in 2022 and one of the new areas of learning and experience (AoLE) will be health and wellbeing, which will replace the existing way sex and relationships education is taught as part of the current personal and social education (PSE) framework.

The subject will now be transformed and modernised into relationships and sexuality education (RSE), focusing on children aged from five to 16 years old with a greater focus on forming and maintaining healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships.

This change has been a long time coming and is something NSPCC Wales has campaigned for. It is not just a name change, but an overhaul about how a subject is taught in a changing society.

At present, sex education is compulsory for secondary schools to provide, but how the subject is delivered and what is taught is not prescribed, unlike other national curriculum subjects.

The Welsh Government issued non-statutory guidance in 2010 which lists what should be delivered in PSE, but schools retained discretion over how they teach it. This means there is often a greater focus on the biological aspects of sex rather than healthy relationships.

With these new changes to the subject, students will be taught wider issues such as consent, domestic abuse and respecting diversity. Students will also be given a much broader understanding of sexuality that is fully inclusive of LGBTQI+ learners.

Teachers will be given additional training to carry out the changes to the curriculum, whilst guidance will be provided to schools about the new topics being covered.

Sex education has long been a staple part of a child's education, but its scope has been too narrow and it is increasingly clear that wider issues such as sexuality, gender and healthy relationships must be addressed properly.

The NSPCC has strived to do this in the past with our Speak Out Stay Safe service, which helps young children recognise the signs of abuse and discusses who they can turn to for help, while our Protect and Respect service provides assemblies and workshops in schools for older children.

Videos such as the ‘Consequences' video from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre's ‘Thinkuknow' education programme, which warns about the dangers of sharing personal information online and the risks of sexual exploitation, and the ‘Tea Consent' video, which discusses when consent for sex has and hasn't been given through the analogy of making someone a cup of tea, are shown in these assemblies and are examples of how innovative ways need to be found to teach the next generation about issues they will face growing up.

The changes to the curriculum in Wales should help teach young people about how to stay safe, both physically and sexually, and give them the confidence and awareness to have positive and enriching relationships.

The NSPCC hopes a similar approach will be adopted in schools throughout the UK.

Des Mannion is director of service, NSPCC Cymru

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