Teachers’ perspectives on relationships and sex education lessons in England

Cumper, Peter; Adams, Sarah; Onyejekwe, Kerry and O’Reilly, Michelle (2023). Teachers’ perspectives on relationships and sex education lessons in England. Sex Education, 24(2) pp. 238–254.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2023.2171382


Recent changes to the law in England require all primary schools to teach Relationships Education and all secondary schools to teach Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). Our focus in this article is on the voices of teachers and other educational professionals in relation to this change. Discussion in three focus groups held with 16 educational professionals, indicated concerns regarding some of the challenges associated with the implementation of the new legal requirements, as well as recognising fresh opportunities afforded to teachers for engaging with children and young people. Through analysis, it was noted that participants considered how lessons on relationships and sex should cover LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, others) issues, with strategies advanced for building bridges between schools and parents/communities. Our research indicates a difference between the importance of Relationships Education/RSE and the perceptions of those charged with teaching it, as well as the view that the laudable aims underpinning the new provisions in England will only be realised if appropriate support and training is given to teachers.

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