New research shows that lack of time and lack of subject status for relationships and sexuality education are significant barriers in New Zealand schools, with many young people not receiving the 12-15 hours of RSE recommended by the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office.
University of Canterbury, Family Planning and the New Zealand Health Education Association collaborated on a nationwide survey of secondary school teachers’ perspectives on teaching RSE in Aotearoa New Zealand.
The findings, in a report released today, make for sober reading. While there are some positive aspects to teachers’ RSE practice, there continue to be gaps, especially when it comes to giving rangatahi access to the 12-15 hours of RSE recommended by the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office. Teachers reported lack of time, access to professional development, subject status, and an inconsistent whole-of-school approach for RSE as major barriers. Many teachers commented that the majority of senior students do not have meaningful RSE.
University of Canterbury health education expert and lead author of the report, Dr Rachael Dixon wasn’t surprised by the findings.
"We knew from past research and evaluation that relationships and sexuality education can be inconsistently delivered in schools. Our research findings have reinforced this; indicating that, despite many teachers wanting to deliver best practice relationships and sexuality education, too many young people do not have access to effective and responsive learning at secondary school in this important part of the curriculum.
"We hope that the report will enable teachers to reflect on their practice and consider how relationships and sexuality education in their schools can be responsive to their learners’ needs," Dr Dixon says.
Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond says we know that high quality RSE is critical to children and young people’s development and wellbeing. We have super passionate teachers asking for more support to teach RSE confidently and knowledgably, and to respond to changing social and cultural norms and influences - and we have students themselves calling for better RSE. We’ve got to do a much better job. It’s vital now more than ever.
"This survey supports the calls from young people for better relationships and sexuality education. It’s unsettling to find through this survey that not much appears to have changed since the last report on RSE, and teachers are telling us they need support.
"We actually have an excellent set of guidelines on how schools should teach this area of the curriculum. But there are too many barriers and challenges to ensure high quality and meaningful RSE that meets the evolving learning needs of our rangatahi."