RSE Day: Relationships Matter

For RSE Day, Chief Executive of fastn, Catherine Hine, highlights why Relationships Education is so essential for children right from the start, both in and out of school.

Relationships matter. That statement is such a truism that we can too easily forget just how important are dependable, healthy, nurturing relationships that help us thrive throughout our lives.

Indeed, in these strange times, our relationships feel more important than ever.

Just like the air that we breathe, relationships are all around us. So, getting those relationships right – and right from the start – is incredibly Important.

That is why Relationships Education – the ‘R’ in ‘RSE’ – needs to find its place in the fabric of our education system.  It must underpin good age-appropriate sex education, and be recognised as foundational to supporting the healthy, dependable relationships that help us thrive throughout life.

Given the pressures and uncertainties created by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is no surprise that the Department for Education has recently written to all schools to allow the new curriculum to be implemented ‘no later than the start of the summer term 2021.’

However, from September this year Relationships Education formally becomes a compulsory part of the curriculum in all primary schools in England.  Relationships and Sex Education will be mandatory in all English secondary schools.

In reality of course, relationships education is happening all around us everyday as we interact with each other. That is no less true for children in or out of school.

According to the DfE, the statutory requirements for Relationships Education remain even though the timetable has been extended. The DfE points out that 1,500 ‘early adapters’ are ready now and many more schools have been working hard to be ready for this September.

So the new curriculum will be rolling out across schools between September and summer term next year, and that is very much to be welcomed.

It matters that our children and young people – who learn about relationships from what they see and experience around them all the time –  get the conscious and high quality relationships education that they want and need to support them throughout their lives.

Catch-up summer schools can prevent children being left behind on maths and science, reading and history.

However, because children learn from us about relationships all the time, and especially in times like these, it is one of the few aspects of our children’s education that cannot be put on hold to be caught up later.

Relationships are being formed everyday, and for those without access to positive examples, experiences and role models, making up for lost time can actually take a lifetime.

Parents and carers understand this. A poll of 250,000 parents carried out by Parentkind during the intense period of the lockdown found that 48 per cent were concerned about the impact of ‘My child not seeing their friends or socialising.’

Parents and carers understand the importance of relationships and by extension the risk children are running by being denied the positive in school interactions now that will prove so useful in developing life and social skills later.

Relationships matter, and getting to work now on opportunities for children to experience positive relationships in schools that they carry into families and the wider community is crucial.

Parentkind are one of the broad range of partners who, alongside fastn, pooled their research and experience to develop the 12 Principles of Relationships Excellence.

The principles aim to support and contextualise the statutory guidance coming from the Department for Education. They emphasise the role of Relationships Education in supporting the whole school to achieve the best education for all children, the vital role of school leaders in modelling relationships, why an age-appropriate curriculum must reflect the community it serves and reflect diverse family needs, circumstances and structures.

The principles also underline the need for teachers, governors – and indeed parents, carers, and the wider school community – to be properly supported and resourced to champion a commitment to Relationships Education.

Today, June 25, fastn and Parentkind publish the results of a new in-depth survey carried out for RSE Day by Survation of over 1,000 parents.

The results show again that there is a real desire amongst parents for children to be supported in school to develop positive relationships with family and friends, and to develop the kind of relationships that will support them in the workplace in later life.

They also indicate that parents are recognising through their experience of Covid-19, including disrupted schooling and new pressures on home life, that they have an important part to play in the Relationships Education.

Fastn believes that this creates a positive foundation for schools and parents to come together as partners in this vital work.

Relationships Education was never about a single new school lesson. It is about recognising the powerful scientific evidence that shows how we learn everyday about relationships by experiencing and witnessing them, and putting that into practice across the whole school community.

We need good news just now and it feels like the developing story of Relationships Education is one.

Relationships matter, and the good news is that parents and schools recognise it.

It is good news that from September this year, children across England will start to benefit from Relationships Education being woven in to the whole school curriculum and that by next summer all schools will be offering children the space and the resources to develop their own positive relationships ambitions. The conversation is well underway and this week, fastn has been encouraging it to develop on Twitter by posing three questions a day in the run up to today’s RSE Day. You can join the conversation on Twitter.

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