Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is foundational in helping young people have positive sexual health outcomes. The Sexual Health Victoria (SHV) Schools and Community team delivers the everyBODY Education program to help school-aged children understand their own bodies, puberty, sex, consent, sexuality and relationships.
Often one of the perceived barriers to delivering RSE in schools is that that parents and carers might object to sexually sensitive content being openly discussed in a school environment. Objections often raised relate to programs taking away a child’s innocence or delivering personal values that differ from their homelife. However, research indicates most parents do support school based RSE.
RSE programs are designed to establish protective behaviours that help keep kids safe and healthy throughout their lives. Schools should be prepared to provide information to families upfront and be ready to answer their questions. Communication is the key to establishing an effective and engaging RSE program into your classrooms.
Here are five ways to garner the support of parents and carers when implementing a RSE program at your school:
- Communicate that teaching RSE is part of the Australian Curriculum
The updated Australian Curriculum 9.0 has included consent across the Health and Physical Education curriculum from f-10. Updated policy and requirements embedded the Resilience Rights and Respectful Relationships initiative and the Sexuality and Consent Education policy mandating that sexuality and consent education is taught in an age-appropriate way from f-12.
- Inform and provide parents and carers with as much information as possible
SHV encourages schools to communicate clearly to their parent community about RSE programs and be prepared to answer questions about what will be involved. Letters home about programs (including translations if required) and offering information evenings reassure families about the appropriateness of the content of sessions. Parents/guardians have the option to opt their young person out of the RSE sessions.
- Implement a holistic whole school approach for best results
RSE that is delivered across a student’s entire schooling with the support of all stakeholders has been proven to be most effective. Research asserts that best practice RSE is part of a whole school approach. This means that school leaders, teachers, parents, carers, and community are integral and RSE lessons are not delivered in isolation or shrouded in secrecy. Discussions about classroom content is encouraged and can be facilitated by including homework tasks to be completed with adults at home.
- Reassure the content taught is age appropriate and not the same for all year levels
RSE includes topics relevant to any age student. All information needs to be delivered using age-appropriate language and delivery. Complex topics can be introduced simply. This can start in the early years with key messages around bodily autonomy, safety, and help seeking.
- Communicate that the content does not direct religious faith or personal values
Parents and carers should be confident that RSE does not replace faith or personal values coming from home. Classes will help a child understand information about their own bodies and the world around them. It also provides an opportunity for adults at home to talk about their own understandings and values relating to family, bodies, safety, and relationships.
SHV has resources to help
Share our podcast Doing ‘IT’ with your staff and parent community. This podcast is created to help parents and carers understand more about RSE and help support conversations at home. See Episode #62 Dr Jacqui Hendriks on parental support of RSE. Dr Hendriks talks about research which demonstrates extremely high levels of support for RSE at school.
SHV have a series of tools and teaching resources to support the planning and delivery of a whole school approach to RSE. This includes an example parent / carer communication letter for schools to use or adapt as required.
For direct delivery of the SHV everyBODY Education program or teacher professional development please enquire though our website or email bookingenquiry@SHVIC.ORG.AU.