Relationships education at risk of being 'undermined' without extra Government support

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As almost half of teachers admit they lack confidence about teaching the new sex and relationships lessons, the NEU and NSPCC warn that without more support, the curriculum is at risk.


School leaders and teachers surveyed said face-to-face training would boost their confidence to deliver the new relationships and sex education lessons

According to the National Education Union (NEU) and NSPCC's survey of 2,175 school leaders and teachers, over a quarter of teachers do not think their school will be ready to deliver the lessons, which will be a mandatory part of the curriculum from September 2020.

Competing workloads and the cost of, and difficulty in finding, high-quality training were mentioned as the biggest barriers to delivering the lessons.

The survey was carried out by the union and children’s charity in May.

Three quarters of teachers (78 per cent) said face-to-face training would boost their confidence to deliver high-quality relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons. A similar number of survey respondents said that more funding for staff training would ensure schools were ready.

However, the majority of primary school teachers said they were confident about teaching the concept of boundaries and how stereotypes can cause harm.

With just 16 months to go before the lessons are due to be rolled out, the union and children’s charity are urging the Government to ‘step up’ its support and training for schools and teachers to help them deliver the new RSE lessons.

The NEU and NSPCC are calling for:

  • Trauma-informed face-to-face training which ensures all teachers can confidently deliver sensitive subject matter and training specifically on how to respond to disclosures.
  • Timetabled lessons supported by the whole school working together to stamp out abuse.
  • Funding for training to ensure all teachers can develop their skills and knowledge.


Almudena Lara, NSPCC head of policy, said, ‘We know teachers up and down the country are doing a fantastic job but delivering RSE without proper training is like asking a German teacher to deliver Mandarin lessons.

‘For the first time ever all schools will be obliged to discuss key issues of consent and coercion, enabling more children to say no to things that make them feel uncomfortable. It is clear teachers need better support which is where the Government must do more or risk undermining the new curriculum.’

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, added, ‘The introduction of statutory RSE is a vital opportunity to broaden the curriculum and connect education to the realities of children’s lives and the questions they are struggling with. Children need an RSE that is inclusive, empowering and protective delivered by confident and equipped teachers. 

‘The Department for Education must show real leadership in removing the barriers that stand in schools’ way. All schools must have access to fully funded face-to-face training to ensure high quality provision by 2020.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said, 'We are working closely with the many schools who are choosing to begin teaching the subjects from September 2019, so that we can support their journey, learn lessons and share good practice. We are setting up a working group – made up of representatives from teaching unions, sector experts, faith and minority groups, parents and young people - who will provide us with evidence and feedback to support the delivery of these subjects from September 2019 and beyond.

'We are investing up to £6 million this financial year in tools, materials and support for training which will equip schools to teach Relationship Education; Relationship and Sex Education and Health Education and increase the confidence and quality of teaching practice.'


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