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Tackling sex and gender issues in the classroom

Campaigners call for sex and relationships education to be gender-aware

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 30, 2015 | Teaching

Campaigners at the Sex Education Forum are calling on schools to promote gender equality by making sex and relationships education (SRE) classes ‘gender-aware’, as they publish new guidance to help teachers get to grips with sex and gender in the classroom. 

‘The Gender Issue’ helps teachers understand how gender inequality underpins the lives of children, adolescents and adults alike. Recent research illustrates one example of how this can be played out, with one in five women being sexually assaulted compared to just 1 in 20 men. 

Unfortunately, boys are missing out on family conversations about sex and relationships, with mothers more likely to talk to their daughters than their sons about sex, and fathers less likely than mothers to speak with their children about these issues. 

Above all, SRE should be inclusive, avoiding a narrow focus on ‘pills, pregnancy and periods’, which while important can be presented in a way that often leaves boys feeling left out. Information should be presented in a way that caters to all genders, including transgender and non-binary children. 

The Sex Education Forum advises that an age-appropriate programme of SRE can counter these trends, beginning in primary school and providing children with accurate information about their bodies and challenging gender stereotypes. 

Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, said: “Gender affects a school community on so many levels; from the curriculum to staff roles, from pupil achievement to behaviour. In fact it is so pervasive that it can sometimes be a struggle for teachers to know how to make a start.

“Getting this right doesn’t happen because of one isolated lesson or assembly, but requires a joined-up approach that builds understanding of gender through the curriculum. A good quality programme of SRE will be gender-aware from the start and will help all pupils to communicate with each other and to develop attitudes of respect and non-violence.” 

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