WRITTEN BY work placement and phd student NATASHA RICHARDS
As part of our mission to ensure every young person has access to a complete, inclusive and comprehensive sex education, Sexplain continually sends representatives to events which feature RSE experts in order to remain up to date with relevant research, practice and policy.
I recently attended the Wellbeing Professional Learning Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) event, ran by the Consortiwm Canolbarth y De Central South Consortium. Many of the attendees mentioned how happy they were to see a London based company coming along to an event in the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
The lead speaker was Professor Emma Renold from Cardiff University, who also chaired the expert panel advising the Welsh Government on the needs of learners and teachers in relation to RSE provision. She emphasised the need to put youth voices at the heart of RSE, which she did herself when allowing the young people that she had recently worked with to take centre stage and present their opinions on RSE to the room. One of the young people ardently declared that “gender stereotypes are outrageous”. While filling the faces of the audience with smiles of delight, the young person’s passion also ensured that the adults in the room understood the outrage that young people are feeling with regards to inequalities that exist in the world.
As attendees, we participated in some of the creative exercises that Professor Renold has been using with young people. The activities were great fun and sparked some interesting discussions. By taking part, we were able to understand our own biases and how adults can underestimate young peoples’ knowledge of relationships and sex.
Some of the key messages that were evident throughout different sessions in the day:
Listening to and learning from young people allows educators to respond and develop pedagogy
A whole school approach is the ideal, but it is not always immediately attainable, and therefore schools need to develop the best approach to RSE based on their setting
We cannot assume that we know what is important to young people or what knowledge they possess
Things in the world are changing so quickly. You cannot possibly be an endless fountain of knowledge, so educators need to work together to share ideas
Instead of focusing on risk and consequences, RSE should be about openness
Often the idea of teaching RSE is scarier for teachers than they actually feel when teaching it
I left the event with some of the following questions:
How can outside organisations contribute to a ‘whole school approach’?
How can creative and participatory approaches increase the impact of RSE?
How can young people’s voices be placed at the heart of RSE?
Sexplain already address all of these questions within their work, contributing positively to the development of RSE practice. However, it is essential as educators that we continue to ask questions that challenge and improve our own practice as well as the wider field.
Along with my questions, I left the venue clutching a pipe cleaner representation of my feelings towards the day. The activity, which is part of the AGENDA toolkit for RSE, encouraged me to reflect deeply on my experience of the event, and to consider the best way to communicate my feelings through the artistic medium. Question for you… How do YOU best express your feelings?