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Integrated approach best for sexuality education

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Media Release

We welcome the petition presented to Parliament today which focuses attention on the need for better sexuality education in every school.

“It’s great to see young people advocating for better sexuality education,” says our chief executive Jackie Edmond.

“In New Zealand, sexuality education is mandated as part of our health and physical education curriculum, which includes relationships, consent and sexuality. Unfortunately the quantity and quality of the education delivered as part of the curriculum is patchy.”

Today, sexuality education strives to address the complex array of issues that young people face. There is a much more holistic approach to sexuality and relationships education today and a far wider range of topics to cover. The integration of sexuality education with weighty social issues – diversity, culture, gender and power – is key. These issues underpin not just individual relationships, but larger social issues impacting health and wellbeing like discrimination and violence.

“It is important that New Zealand develops an integrated approach to sexuality and healthy relationships education which reflects its breadth. This sort of cohesive approach from everyone working in the sector is not yet evident,” Ms Edmond says.  

For example, a number of initiatives are moving forward to address sexual violence in New Zealand, including the development of a primary prevention strategy lead by ACC. We applaud the focus of government agencies like ACC on issues like consent and pornography and appreciate the opportunity to work with them but we believe that this ad hoc approach is not best practice, is not an efficient use of resources and is an unfair demand on teachers and schools.

What works? The evidence shows that the most effective sexuality education programmes: 

  • Engage, empower and inform rather than focus on risk
  • Are comprehensive and include information on contraception
  • Emphasise gender, power and rights in human relationships and interactions
  • Use trained educators to teach sexuality education
  • Acknowledge that both school and home environments contribute to sexuality education
  • Use participatory learning methods and small group work to address psychosocial factors which affect behaviour, including values, norms and self-efficacy
  • Begin from an early age, e.g. from Year 1 in schools, with age-appropriate content and delivery
  • Allow sufficient time – e.g. sustained programmes with multiple booster sessions are more effective than single sessions

Sexuality education is one of seven key areas of learning in Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum, reflecting the significance of these issues to the lives of young people and to their educational outcomes. Since 2001, it has been a requirement for sexuality education, including consent, to be taught in schools from Year 1 up to and including Year 10.

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