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Working together to deliver quality education

Parents, teachers and boards of trustees must work together to ensure delivery of quality relationship and sexuality education (RSE).

That was the message from Family Planning National Health Promotion Advisor Amanda Hargreaves to the New Zealand Primary Teachers Conference in Wellington this afternoon.

While her workshop was focussed on ensuring that teachers at her workshop left with increased confidence and comfort in teaching RSE, Ms Hargreaves says teachers cannot do this work alone - parents and school management and governance are critical partners to the success of programme implementation within their schools.

Boards of Trustees are reponsible for the delivery of sexuality education programmes, consulting with their community about the school’s wider health curriculum every two years, and adopting a statement on its delivery based on feedback and comments as a result of the consultation process.

Ms Hargreaves noted that parents or caregivers have the right to withdraw their child from any particular element of sexuality education in a health programme. "This is why," she says, "it is crucial that parents/caregivers understand the programme content, then they can make informed decisions."

Sexuality education is one of the seven key areas of learning in the Health and Physical Education area of The New Zealand Curriculum. It is a requirement to teach sexuality education from Years 1 to 10.

"Relationship and sexuality education programmes must be allocated space within the school timetable. Twelve to 15 hours per year, every year, from years 1 to 10," Ms Hargreaves says.

Sexuality education in The New Zealand Curriculum is underpinned by four underlying concepts.

In her presentation, Ms Hargreaves used an exercise from Navigating the Journey written for Year 1-2 students to illustrate the concept of attitudes and values.

In this activity, young people are learning about how to be a good friend. They’re asked to imagine if someone new came to their school or class. What could they say or do to make someone feel welcome? If they wanted to be friends with the new person, what might they say or do?

"While it seems simple - and many might be surprised to think about an exercise like this as part of the relationship and sexuality education programme, it is this developing attitudes of care and concern for other people by applying manaakitanga that is important. This is foundational skill learning that young people can apply as they get older and their relationships become more complex," Ms Hargreaves says.

"At this level, relationship and sexuality education focuses on positive identity, celebrating diversity, friendships and whānau relationships, interpersonal skills, dealing with bullying and harassment, and identifying supporters."

She closed by challenging teachers to think about where relationship and sexuality education sat within their school - what resourcing did they have and what needs to be done? When was the last time consultation was completed?

"The challenge returning to your schools is to think about how relationship and sexuality education can be progressed - the curriculum and supporting resources provide a great foundation, but your parents and your Boards of Trustees need to be on board too."

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