Andi Cope
RSE Lead for Spectrum

Do you like your job?

Recently, I was asked by a student in a Pupil Referral Unit if I liked my job (as an RSE educator). It was a surreal question, given the context – which was a pretty chaotic scene of destructive behaviour involving the throwing of items ranging from tables to pens.

There was a moment where I sat with a student who had started to show an interest in the resources I had with me. Amidst the noise, the student asked me; ‘do you like your job?’ I do like my job, but sometimes I feel ineffective and as though my brief intervention is the last thing that is needed by that young person at that time.

Let me try to explain. Effective Relationships and Sex Education needs to be evidence-based, trauma-informed and responsive to the needs of the students – which, as part of a visiting team to a new environment, can be difficult to get right. Spectrum’s RSE Team base our interventions on the risk and resilience framework, which means we aim to build resiliency and autonomy by creating a safe space to explore identity, diversity, relationships and a wide range of health-related topics and adopt a skills-based approach to coping with risk.

Some days, the challenge of creating an effective intervention feels unrealistic when young person is coping with so much outside of the classroom – so much that a session on healthy relationships, consent or sexual health is too much for them at that time. Other days are completely different, where that same intervention, lesson or group activity are exactly what was needed and the response was exactly what you had hoped for.

Do I enjoy my job? My answer to him was yes, I do. He looked at me as if to say…’Really?’. I left it at that.

My background is in youth and community work and I think the principles of youth work apply more than ever when faced with a challenging day. You need:

  1. Knowledge of how young people develop during adolescence
  2. Understanding of how to establish boundaries, challenging behaviour and de-escalate conflict.
  3. The importance of safeguarding in providing a safe environment for young people.

Reflective practice is also something I would recommend for all RSE educators – it’s helpful to understand why escalation happened, why tasks failed or why a young person disengaged with the educational process. Here are some reflective practice questions you might want to ask, and some further reading;

  • What happened?
  • What have I learned?
  • How will I make use of what I have learned?

http://educationaltoolsportal.eu/en/printpdf/tools-for-learning/reflective-practice-and-action-learning-youth-work

About the author

Andi Cope leads Spectrum’s RSE provision and has been working in Relationships and Sex Education since 2008. She is passionate about the personal, social and health education of young people, and creating innovative resources that address sensitive topics in an interactive and inclusive way.

Andi has a background in creative arts and youth and community work, and is also a doctoral student focusing on RSE policy and practice. Materials developed by Andi for a prison-based RSE programme were awarded the Pamela Sheridan Sex and Relationship Award in 2015, and in 2016 her resources for the Learning Disability RSE Programme were shortlisted for the HSJ Patient Safety Award. Andi works closely with young people as the co-producers of the RSE materials and supports schools and youth services to deliver RSE in line with Government guidance. To find out more, email PR@spectrum-cic.nhs.uk.

Andi Cope
RSE Lead for Spectrum