Our approach is informed by the latest evidence-based research.

Key sources on RSE best practice:

International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education - UNESCO (2018)

  • Read the latest UNESCO Technical Guidance here. It is "designed to assist education policy makers in all countries design accurate and age-appropriate curricula for children and young people aged 5 – 18+".

The Guidance recommends CSE (Comprehensive Sexuality Education) that:

  • Is scientifically accurate

  • Is incremental, age-appropriate and curriculum-based: "a continuing educational process that starts at an early age, and where new information builds upon previous learning, using a spiral-curriculum approach.

  • Is comprehensive: "covers the full range of topics that are important for all learners to know, including those that may be challenging in some social and cultural contexts"

  • Is transformative: "provides learners with opportunities to explore and nurture positive values and attitudes towards SRH, and to develop self-esteem and respect for human rights and gender equality"

  • Is based on a human rights approach, including "encouraging [young people] to recognize their own rights, acknowledge and respect the rights of others, and advocate for those whose rights are violated"

  • Is based on gender equality: "The integration of a gender perspective throughout CSE curricula is integral to the effectiveness of CSE programmes"

Evidence cited for CSE includes:

  • 'The update of the Guidance echoes research from the original Guidance [...] in emphasizing that sexuality education – in or out of schools – does not increase sexual activity, sexual risk-taking behaviour or STI/HIV infection rates.' 1, 2

  • 'Gender-focused programmes are substantially more effective than ‘gender-blind’ programmes at achieving health outcomes such as reducing rates of unintended pregnancy or STIs. This is as a result of the inclusion of transformative content and teaching methods that support students to question social and cultural norms around gender and to develop gender equitable attitudes.' 3

  • 'Using an explicit rights-based approach in CSE programmes leads to short-term positive effects on knowledge and attitudes, including increased knowledge of one’s rights within a sexual relationship; increased communication with parents about sex and relationships; and greater self-efficacy to manage risky situations.' 4

Research by Professor Jessica Ringrose et al., UCL Institute of Education

Key findings:

  • 'Importantly, unlike bullying, it cannot simply be generalised that all sexting is a problem. Thus any teacher must encompass within the discussion the recognition that young people are legitimately interested in their developing sexuality; thus exploring or playing with sexual ideas or relationships should not be ignored or rejected but issues of respect, consent and reciprocity in sexual relationships, including digital sexual communications should be discussed. When issues of power and coercion arise – in the form of peer or individual pressure, stereotyping or other hostilities (from either boys or girls, directed to either boys or girls) – then sexting may become problematic.' 1

  • 'Young people greatly prefer such issues addressed through the viewing and discussion of up to date, realistic filmed scenarios that provoke them to think, whether through the use of humour, shock/surprise or portrayed suffering of others. Seeing another young person dealing with daily practices familiar to them, scenarios like munch screens or exposing others, or being asked for a naked photo, or for a ‘blow job’ by text or Facebook message, seems particularly powerful, certainly more influential than advice pages, top tips or negatively worded advice (don’t do this, don’t do that).' 2

  • '[T]eachers must find a way to acknowledge (as presumably they are managing with bullying) that sexual harassment may not come from a stranger but rather from another child in the same class. They may, in short, be addressing both perpetrator and victim in the same lesson.' 3

  • '[A]dults who want to make changes towards practices which create and support inclusive gender cultures and address gender equity and gender justice can expect to find allies amongst the young people with whom they work. In fact, the challenge maybe in keeping pace with young people’s new modes of expression and sites for learning. [...] Such conducive contexts might also shift the adult-teacher, student-learner subject positions of traditional teaching and learning encounters, so that learning becomes a potentially reciprocal and co-productive process.' 4

  • 'Despite pockets of vibrant experimentation and self-crafting that showed young people’s awareness and understanding of gender diversity in variously assembled gender relations, we also found striking differences in young people’s experiences of gender, both within and across peer groups, age groups, schools and regions.' 5

  • 'Throughout our research, young people’s narratives suggested they were working hard to educate and inform themselves, each other, and indeed us as interviewers, about contemporary gender cultures.' 6

  • 'Researchers, policy makers and pressure groups alike should take stock and evaluate what schools, teachers and students are already doing to challenge sexism and gendered and sexual violence.' 7


Sex Education Forum

The Sex Education Forum has developed a 12-point statement which explains what is needed for good quality RSE, all based on research evidence.

You can download copies of the poster (featured left) here.

Research by Pandora Pound et al., Bristol University

Findings include:

  • 'Staff delivering SRE should be trained educators, have expertise in sexual health, be sex-positive and enthusiastic about delivering SRE.' 1

  • 'One of [secondary school pupils'] key messages is that they would prefer not to have SRE delivered by familiar teachers. This is not just because they believe their teachers will be embarrassed or lack expertise, but also because they feel that it could blur boundaries and introduce awkwardness into the teacher-pupil relationship.' 2

  • 'Schools appear to have difficulty accepting that some young people are sexually active, leading to SRE that is out of touch with many young people’s lives. Young people report that SRE can be negative, gendered and heterosexist.' 3