Sex

Sex Education Forum Summer Members Event

WRITTEN BY WORK PLACEMENT AND PHD STUDENT NATASHA RICHARDS

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The Sex Education Forum (SEF) is a group of partners working together to achieve quality relationships and sex education (RSE) for all children and young people. At Sexplain, we are proud to be a part of the SEF membership of schools and other educators.

Recently, I attended the Summer Members Event, which aims to share best practice, research and policy information. The theme of the event was ‘Parents & RSE’, an important topic which has become a point of mainstream discussion over recent months.

It was fantastic to hear from a representative from the Department for Education (DfE), who emphasised the long journey that has been undertaken to reach the point of statutory RSE. There was a huge breadth of views expressed in the consultation stages and the DfE representative said that “it was difficult to please everyone”. Sexplain have previously acknowledged the pros and cons of the statutory guidance, and so welcome the DfE recognising that the guidance is far from perfect. At Sexplain, we hope that the support provided by the DfE in meeting the statutory requirements will reflect the need for continuing consultation around content and delivery.

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There were some excellent examples of best practice shared throughout the event. One of the standout presentations came from Cathy Murphy, who discussed engaging Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) parents in RSE. GRT encompasses both cultural and ethnic identities. Cathy was speaking predominantly about GRT parents in Cambridgeshire, but the findings can be useful when applying to other areas. Cathy emphasised that dialogue is crucial. She acknowledged that there are cultural differences within the GRT community, as well as with outside communities. However, though some of the values may seem alien to others, it is important to remember that culture and identity is linked to time and space, and that differences need to be respected. Something that can be seen to build a bridge between parents from different communities, is a desire to keep their children safe. Focusing on that shared desire can help to ensure that dialogues are productive.

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Here are a few of the key messages from the event:

  • We need to challenge damaging myths around RSE/SRE

  • We need to build trust between parents and educators

  • There must be a process of compromise between parents and schools

  • Be open about information so that parents can make informed decisions

  • Potential barriers to parent engagement: fear, lack of knowledge, logistics

  • Potential barriers to educators providing comprehensive and positive RSE: space, funding, capacity, lack of case studies, media campaigns

  • Flagging the impact of gender stereotyping on careers and aspirations can be useful for engaging parents in other areas of RSE

  • The online world is constantly evolving at an increasingly fast pace. We need to listen to young people to make sure our work is relevant to them at all points

One of the great parts of attending events such as these, are the wealth of questions you leave the room pondering.

Here are some of the questions I went away considering:

  • How do we continually communicate and talk collectively about what we are doing for RSE? 

  • What are the current myths being circulated and how do we dispel them?

  • When is the best time and approach to engaging with parents?

Sexplain are looking forward to further developing our relationship with the SEF membership, and continuing to contribute to the developing RSE field.

Question for you……How can YOU contribute to relationship and sex education?