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 Pandora Pound et al., Bristol University
- What is best practice in sex and relationship education? A synthesis of evidence, including stakeholders’ views (BMJ)
- How should mandatory sex education be taught? (BMJ)
- 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
Sexplain has also run its own focus groups with young people across the UK to find out their thoughts about sex, relationships and SRE.
Their answers to some of our questions have been turned into 'wordclouds', pictured below. For the full documentation of our findings, see here.