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40% of secondary school teachers surveyed in East of England do not feel confident delivering sex and relationships education

  • Teachers say ‘inadequate’ and ‘outdated’ training stops them delivering sex and relationships education confidently
  • Level of support has been described overwhelmingly as ‘poor’
  • More than 80% of teachers say they would benefit from more resources and training
  • The NSPCC launches ‘Talk Relationships’ to support teachers to deliver sex and relationships education

Two in five secondary school teachers surveyed in the East of England said they do not feel confident about teaching sex and relationships education, a new poll has revealed.

The findings – from a joint NASUWT and NSPCC survey of 1,034 secondary school teachers in the UK, including 72 in the East of England – come just a year after the compulsory curriculum came into effect in England.

The NSPCC has been campaigning for years for children across the UK to have access to high-quality sex and relationships education, and believes these lessons are crucial in safeguarding children.

To support teachers, the NSPCC is today launching its new UK-wide service called Talk Relationships.

The survey also revealed a quarter of teachers in the East of England don’t feel confident answering difficult or sensitive questions in lessons.

In the East of England, 81% felt they needed more resources, 76% felt they needed more training, while 53% felt government support had been poor.

One teacher surveyed said:“I’ve never been trained, and I’ve always delivered this curriculum on personal, social, citizenship and health education (PSCHRE) days with a large group of students, most of whom I do not know. Not having a rapport with these students makes it harder to teach sensitive topics meaningfully.”

The survey highlighted that teachers want better support, and the charity calls on the new Secretary of State for education, MP Kit Malthouse to prioritise guidance and training around sex and relationships education.

The NSPCC has developed Talk Relationships, which includes an online e-learning course which is free for a limited time, and 14 lesson plans developed in partnership with the PSHE Association.

The charity is also launching a dedicated helpline, where NSPCC experts will offer help and advice to any teacher with a question or safeguarding concern.

The lesson plans focus on a wide range of topics that are included in the curriculum such as sexual harassment, healthy relationships and sharing sexual images.

Findings from the survey also revealed that currently quite a few teachers surveyed in the East of England lack confidence when it comes to delivering certain topics covered in sex and relationships education:

  • 33% don’t feel confident delivering lessons on pornography
  • 36% feel very confident delivering lessons on consent
  • Only 22% feel very confident delivering lessons on harmful sexual behaviour and sexual harassment

The Talk Relationships eLearning aims to increase teacher confidence in areas such as responding to safeguarding concerns in a classroom setting, managing challenging questions from young people and leading inclusive discussions.

Maria Neophytou, NSPCC Director of Strategy and Knowledge said: “Sex and relationships education is vital for young people as it helps them understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, and that they have a right to be safe, heard and respected.

“The NSPCC has championed a holistic approach towards sex and relationships education across the UK for many years and following on from the thousands of testimonies off the back of the Everyone’s Invited movement, it’s clear that this education is now more important than ever before.

“Therefore, it’s essential there are resources available to teachers like those provided in Talk Relationships so they can feel confident engaging with pupils and delivering a range of diverse topics, whether consent, sexuality or online safety.”

Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT General Secretary, said: “The provision of high quality SRE should be a core component of the curriculum in every school to enable young people to keep themselves and others safe and to help them make informed choices.

“The NASUWT has campaigned for PSHE and SRE to be key elements within all initial teacher training routes and continuing professional development packages. However, it is evident from the findings of our joint survey that many teachers do not currently feel they are being equipped with the tools or time they need to be able to teach about these sensitive topics confidently.

“Teachers cannot provide pupils with the guidance and information they need if they are not themselves given ongoing access to pedagogical and practical training and advice. The Talk Relationships service will provide a valuable package of support for teachers, but the new Secretary of State must also step up to the plate by ensuring access to comprehensive training for teachers and ensuring that every school can benefit from specialist external sources of direct support and expertise.”

Findings from this survey also highlight that teachers see the value of this education, with 71% across the UK saying that they feel it is extremely important in creating a culture of safeguarding in schools.

The launch of Talk Relationships comes following a pilot of the resources in 101 secondary schools. In the feedback 82% of teachers said the materials had made a difference to their professional practice. The charity found significant increases in teacher confidence among teachers completing the training modules.

The NASUWT and NSPCC worked together to conduct the survey. They surveyed 1,034 teachers and senior leaders between the 11 – 26 August 2022.

Findings for the UK

  • Do you feel confident to deliver Sex and Relationships Education?

Yes 53.77%

No 46.23%

  • When answering difficult or sensitive questions within Sex and Relationships Education lessons, how confident do you feel? (These questions could be about a particular topic, or about your own personal life)

Not confident 26.4%

Slightly confident 28.1%

Confident 29.4%

Very confident 16.05%

education
  • Do you feel the online safety section of Sex and Relationships Education is:

Excellent 2.87%

Good 27.79%

Adequate 50.64%

Poor 18.69%

  • How confident do you feel in recognising and responding to inappropriate sexual behaviours?

Not confident 12.73%

Slightly confident 36.64%

Confident 36.83%

Very Confident 13.80%

  • Do you feel confident that your school is able to recognise and respond to inappropriate sexual behaviours?

Not confident 17.15%

Slightly confident 35.17%

Confident 35.76%

Very confident 11.92%

  • Do you feel the level of support from Government to deliver Sex and Relationships Education has been:

Excellent 0.49%

Good 7.89%

Adequate 34.41 %

Poor 57.21%

  • Would you benefit from access to further resources to help to deliver Sex and Relationships Education?

Yes 86.41%

No 13.59%

  • Would you benefit from further training to help you deliver Sex and Relationships Education?

Yes 85.73%

No 14.27%

  • In your opinion, how necessary is Sex and Relationship Education in creating a culture of safeguarding within schools?

Extremely Important 70.54%

Important 19.48%

Fairly Important 8.04%

Not important at all 1.94%

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