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Community consultation and health education

Thursday, January 28, 2021

SRHR in Focus

All schools in New Zealand are required to consult with their school community on their health education programme every two years. Health education is part of the Health and Physical Education (HPE) learning area, and learning is guided by the underlying concepts, key areas of learning and achievement objectives of HPE. Relationships and Sexuality education (RSE) is a key area of learning within which aspects of relationships, sexuality and sexual health are explored. 

While schools are expected to deliver RSE within the framework of health and physical education The New Zealand Curriculum and guided by the guidance Relationships and Sexuality Education: A guide for teachers, leaders, and boards of trustees, they are also required to inform their school community about programme components, consult about the way in which health education will be delivered, and describe the learning needs of the students within this context.

Parents and caregivers want what's best for their children.

This does not need to be a daunting exercise. In fact, consulting with your school community should make delivering a programme easier because community members will be more informed and will have had opportunity to provide input.

Here are some tips to plan your community consultation for health education:

Here are the rules

Relationships and sexuality education consultation has no universal requirements as to form or duration (the Education and Training Act 2020).

The board of trustees can adopt any method of consultation that it considers will best achieve the purposes outlined in Section 91(3) of the Act.

Schools should, however, provide a draft statement so that those being consulted know what is being proposed. Provide a reasonable period of time for people to respond.

The process should be undertaken in good faith, with a genuine willingness to take account of feedback received.

It does not necessarily involve negotiation, and does not require that there be agreement. But it does require more than just a notification of what is to happen.

All in all, the key is to remove any fear and meet concerns head on. Parents/caregivers, whānau and teachers want the best for their children and young people, and we know that they need comprehensive relationships and sexuality education.

Identify who you need to consult with

The Education and Training Act defines the school community as:

  • in the case of a state-integrated school, the parents of students enrolled at the school and the school’s proprietors
  • in the case of any other state school, the parents of students enrolled at the school
  • in every case, any other person who the board considers is part of the school community for the purpose of this section.

Some parents/caregivers, whānau and students will want to be more involved than others. Not everyone will feel comfortable being involved, and that’s OK. The goal is to provide opportunities for feedback on the health education programme that will be listened to and considered.

Parent-teacher associations, college associations, whānau, hapū, iwi, and aiga support groups, church groups, home and school committees, and parent/caregiver groups at local early childhood centres are some important sources of community opinion.

Students should also be consulted as part of the formal process. Sometimes it’s a good idea to do this first so you can feed back anonymously what students perceive to be their relationships and sexuality education requirements. This consultation can be done through the peer mediators, student council, rainbow groups etc.

Ways to consult

The Education and Training Act 2020 states that the board of trustees may adopt any method of consultation. In many cases an existing framework for consultation can be used, as long as it caters for the diversity of the school community and provides an effective vehicle for parents/caregivers and whānau, as well as students, to have genuine input.

Consultation that engages the community in convenient and in timely ways could include:

  • Surveys
  • Email responses.
  • Talking to parents/caregivers and whānau at other events – prize giving, kapa haka, athletics tournaments, parent/teacher interviews etc.
  • Engaging local community leaders to hold meetings with their groups (iwi leaders, church leaders, matai and other community leaders).
  • A “test run” of the programme content for parents/caregivers and whānau where teachers deliver content as they might in a classroom. In this way parents/caregivers and whanau can contextualise the content their children will receive, with opportunity for discussion and feedback afterwards.
  • A special newsletter for parents/caregivers and whānau inviting them to a meeting about the draft programme and delivery statement.

Sharing a draft of the school’s health education programme and delivery statement, including relationships and sexuality education, before consultation provides parents/caregivers and whānau with a starting point for discussion.

The diverse needs of all of your community must be understood and provided for. It is important to use appropriate tikanga and protocols when engaging with Māori, Pasifika, Asian, and other communities. 

In any consultation it is important to not assume that the school is the best venue to hold the meeting. Your school may choose to consult at different venues and using different models after which all feedback is collated.

Keep it simple!

Remember that schools are required to consult on the delivery of their entire health education programme, not just relationships and sexuality education. Focusing on The New Zealand Curriculum’s holistic model of hauora will reassure parents/caregivers and whānau that it is so much more than sex and managing sexual relationships. Avoid jargon wherever you can and show the relevance the programme has to students’ everyday lives and the knowledge and life skills required to enjoy happy and healthy lives.

Support available

The New Zealand Health Education Association provides excellent consultation support to schools and have a free resource specifically about school community consultation.

The Ministry of Education also has some supporting material

Family Planning has health promoters who are available to come to your school and work with your teachers, board and staff to support you in planning to consult your community on the relationships and sexuality education component of health education. Sometimes health promoters attend consultation gatherings to be available to answer any questions that arise in this context. Feel free to email national@familyplanning.org.nz for more info.

 

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.