New relationships and sex education lessons ‘undermined’ as teachers have said they lack confidence

Almost half of teachers in the North West said they do not feel confident about teaching the new compulsory relationships and sex education lessons in schools, a new survey has revealed.


Children’s charity the NSPCC and the National Education Union (NEU) are now calling on the Government to urgently step up its support and training for schools and teachers to help them deliver the vital lessons.

National findings from a joint NEU and NSPCC survey of 2,175 school leaders and teachers across the country – including 248 in the North West – come just 16 months before lessons are due to be rolled out in September 2020 as a mandatory part of the curriculum in England.

This new curriculum has the potential to ensure all children learn how to develop positive relationships, recognise abusive or controlling behaviour and know where to seek help.  Yet over a quarter of teachers said that their school would not be ready to deliver it.

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Teachers in the survey backed the importance of the new lessons, with three quarters of head teachers surveyed agreeing that the rollout was crucial for creating a culture of safeguarding in the school.  But competing workloads, the cost of training, and difficulty in finding high quality training were identified by teachers as the biggest barriers. Nationally, three quarters of teachers (78%) said face-to-face training would boost their confidence to deliver high quality RSE, and three quarters (74%) said that more funding for staff training would ensure schools were ready.

The survey also highlighted a need to help teachers with lessons on specific subjects in secondary schools:

61% of teachers across England said they do not feel confident about teaching the impact of pornography. The total in the North West was 45%

54% of teachers across England were not confident about teaching lessons on female genital mutilation (FGM). The total in the North West was 41%

Only 10% of respondents felt ‘very confident’ about teaching either of these topics. In the North West, only 5.3% felt very confident teaching about the impact of pornography and only 6.6% felt very confident teaching about FGM

However, the majority of primary school teachers said they were confident about teaching the concept of boundaries and how stereotypes can cause harm, and secondary school teachers felt confident delivering lessons about sexual consent, sexting and grooming.

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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, NEU Joint General Secretary, said: “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 DfE 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.”

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.


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