Teachers not adequately trained to deliver sex education

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Parents, teachers and school governors are all calling for better teacher training on delivering Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).

The call comes in the wake of a survey of parents, teachers and governors which shows that although more than nine in 10 parents feel it is very important that children receive information on practising safer sex and using contraception, teachers don’t have the training to be able to deliver these lessons confidently.

The survey is the first of its kind to ask the views of parents, teachers and governors on SRE in England. It was carried out by the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, National Association of Head Teachers and National Governors Association in partnership with Durex.

The results show a high level of agreement between the three groups about SRE, with 91% of parents, 83% of governors and 83% of teachers believing it is very important that young people have information on practising safer sex. The results are similar for information on always using contraception, where 92% of parents, 82% of governors and 76% of teachers feel it is very important that young people have information.

Despite this, 80% of teachers do not feel trained and confident to talk about SRE. And the teaching materials available to them could be improved - only 9% of teachers rated them as very useful. More than one in four teachers and a fifth of governors also believe that current sex education in schools is failing children by preparing them for the future ‘not well’ or ‘not at all well’.

All three groups are in broad agreement about the age at which different SRE topics could be introduced, and some, such as respect, behaving responsibly and protecting yourself from harm were thought suitable to be taught to Key Stage 1 pupils aged 4-7 years. Puberty was felt to be suitable for children in Key Stage 2 (9-11 years-old) while contraception choices were felt to be more suitable for children in Key Stage 3 (12-14 years-old).

Parents also felt that SRE lessons should not end at school, with 84% saying they should also be followed up in the home.

Sion Humphreys, of the education management department of the National Association of Headteachers, said: “The survey made fascinating reading as it highlighted that parents, teachers and governors all agree about the importance of SRE for children. However, teachers have not been adequately trained to deliver it and have not had access to the range of resources they need. This is an urgent need that must be addressed if we are to be able to prepare young people for their future lives.”

Gillian Allcroft, NGA Policy Manager, said: “It is vital that teachers receive adequate training if they are to deliver high quality sex and relationships education.  Parents have an important role to play and they must be encouraged and supported to help with the delivery of SRE at home.” 

David Butler, chief executive of NCPTA said: “We owe it to children to get this right.  If SRE lessons aren’t preparing children properly for life as adults, then they need to be improved.  More needs to be done to ensure teachers are trained in how to deliver sex education.  It was particularly interesting to see that parents want to become more involved in this so that lessons could continue in the home.  To do this effectively, parents need more information about what children are learning and specific resources to use with their children.”