Rethinking sex education

How do you teach young people about sex and relationships in a way that won’t make them cringe? We talk to Ruby Stevenson, Education Manager at Brook, about creating fun and engaging programmes and resources for young people – and what the future holds for sex ed

Ask any British adult about their experience of sex education and the chances are, they’ll reference cringe-inducing videos or hands-on demonstrations involving condoms and fruit. Sex education has traditionally focused more on the mechanics of sex and how not to get pregnant (or catch an STI) rather than sexual wellbeing, leaving many students with unanswered questions. A study published by the National Education Union and the Sex Education Forum in 2018 found that over half of 16 to 17-year-olds thought more time should be spent on relationships and sex education (RSE) in schools, while over a third thought it should be taken more seriously.

This is all set to change however, with the introduction of a new RSE curriculum. As of September this year, relationships education will be compulsory in primary schools, while relationships and sex education will be compulsory in secondary schools. Schools will be required to cover a wider range of topics – covering personal relationships as well as issues such as online safety.

While the new guidelines should in theory improve the quality of school curriculums, educators now face another challenge: how to talk about complex and contemporary issues in a way that’s engaging and relevant to young people.