School sex-ed update tackles consent, inclusion and online porn

Photo: File / Getty Images
Photo: File / Getty Images
An emphasis on informed, enthusiastic and ongoing consent, inclusion and shifting social norms in relation to gender will be some of the things teachers share with students when teaching sexuality and relationships in schools.

Possibly the biggest change in the Ministry of Education's updated guidelines is that they've been split in two, with separate sets for primary and secondary school students.

The announcement was made yesterday by Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin, who said that relationships and sexuality education would "no longer be left to chance".

"For the last decade, Education Review Office (ERO) reports on this area have shown that some schools teach this subject very well, but that the majority struggle," she said.

Tracey Martin. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas
Tracey Martin. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas
Dr Katie Fitzpatrick was the lead author of the newly reviewed guidelines, which take into account the impact of social media and online pornography, as well as shifting social norms around sexuality and gender diversity.

She said it was not a new policy, rather an update to strengthen schools on the subject matter.

While the previous guidelines from 2015 covered all students, splitting them into primary and secondary recognised the different way the schools operated.

"One of the main changes is that the minister is now calling this 'learning that can't be left to chance', which I think is a really important message for the sector," Fitzpatrick said.

Education around online pornography, which has become increasingly available, was highlighted by Martin during her announcement yesterday.

Fitzpatrick said research from the chief censor showed that one in four children had used pornography by the age of 12.

"We know that kids are accessing all kinds of things online and there's a role for schools in terms of helping them understand that, in terms of creating safety," she said.

"There's a role for schools in terms of putting in place digital safety measures in primary schools, and then in secondary schools ... unpacking some of the messages around gender and sexuality in all kinds of media actually, not just explicit media."

Issues around diversity and inclusion were also highlighted and the guidelines were written to align with the Human Rights Commission.

The guidelines state that schools must "ensure inclusive environments for all young people", including content on the diversity of sex characteristics, sexuality, and gender identities in their curriculum programmes.

It also states that students must be allowed "their ākonga freedom of expression in relation to their gender identities and sexual orientation, including the right to determine their own identity and name".

The Ministry of Education planned to send copies of the new resource to schools in term four this year, with online modules for teachers provided, showing examples of the new resource in practice.

"This resource will help promote student wellbeing by increasing their ability to make well-informed and confident choices about relationships, and will support educators in their teaching practice," Martin said.

"They are also designed to give clearer guidance to school boards to work with their communities, as they are required to do, on the design and delivery of relationships and sexuality teaching and learning in our schools."

 

 

 

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