WHAT & WHY
What is Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education?
In the context of school education, ‘Relationships and Sexuality Education’ includes lessons, activities, curricula, or programs that address relationships, sex, sexuality, sexual health, families, puberty, bodies, and reproduction.
However, the Relationships and Sexuality Education Alliance proposes that a comprehensive approach to Relationships and Sexuality Education calls for additional measures.
- Broad community partnerships that are ongoing and include to schools, families, and communities.
- A holistic approach that focuses on improving knowledge, changing attitudes, and building skills.
- Providing information and guidance on:
- bodies and physical development (including puberty) inclusive of diversity in sex characteristics
- the science of human reproduction and the social science of the importance of family
- social/emotional development (friendships/relationships)
- understanding of human sexuality and gender
- expressing and responding to personal boundaries and questions of consent
- supporting informed decision-making and consequential thinking
- health-literacy, health-promoting, and health-seeking behaviours
- understanding and respecting gender diversity
- Being age-appropriate, knowledge building, and consistent that builds appropriately on prior learnings.
- Beginning in early childhood to support an ongoing conversation that is age-appropriate
- Supporting a positive approach to sexuality, relationships, and wellbeing that builds on the right to health and wellbeing and teaches young people to communicate appropriately and openly about themselves and their relationships
- Linking students and families with supports and services that offer information and help in the community
- Supporting diversity and inclusion by providing materials, and resources that represent everyone’s lived experience: including people with disability and from different ethnic and religious communities
- Being appropriate for particular groups’ learning or communication needs such as visual content and using delivery for small groups or one on one or pace of learning
- Including evaluation and protection mechanisms that allow for the measurement of initiatives to ensure effective learning and protection to support the safety of participants.
We believe that it is important that an education strategy is not limited to some aspects of the required material and does not address the critical issues of sexual wellbeing protection and sexualised violence prevention. Limited approaches (and material) are unlikely to build the basis for supporting lifelong sexual wellbeing outcomes.
Why should access to Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education be legislated?
Governments are responsible for the wellbeing of their population. Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education is a fundamental health measure designed to promote sexual wellbeing and prevent sexual violence.
Public policy is not only appropriate, but also necessary. Evidence from overseas makes clear that government buy-in is critical to the success of Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education implementation. The unmatched capacity of government to drive policy initiatives, to resource those initiatives and then ensure they are implemented is key to creating the enabling environment for Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education implementation to succeed.
Developing an effective public policy framework for Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education implementation is a nuanced and sophisticated exercise that cuts across several sectors and demands multiple policy instruments, and Relationships and Sexuality Education Alliance is well placed to advise government on implementation strategy.
A predeterminant to implementation strategy, however, is government commitment. Overseas examples of government commitment to Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education implementation vary, with some jurisdictions (such as the United Kingdom and Germany) legislating to mandate Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education for children and young people.
Another example is election commitment: for example, the former Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, successfully campaigned with an election commitment to reform Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education. Once elected, she made good on that promise and mobilised executive resources to make it happen.