In September 2020, RSE became mandatory in schools across England – a change that has spurred new discussions about the way we approach Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) nationally.

In the transition period before RSE became statutory, Spectrum consulted with schools and with parents in our commissioned areas to help them understand the changes. Yet there are still many misconceptions about what RSE is, why it’s necessary and most importantly, how it can protect and support young people.

Why is RSE is important?

Our RSE lessons equip young people with knowledge, skills and resilience they need to make safer choices as they grow to adulthood – including learning how to recognise and manage risk, how to spot signs of healthy and unhealthy behaviours in relationships and how to find support services which can help them protect their sexual health. RSE supports young people to prepare for the challenges they may face in the future, and covers age-appropriate topics as they progress through school.

RSE does:

  • Give young people the opportunity to discuss what to expect from relationships
  • Encourage positive self-esteem and self-worth
  • Explore consent in relationships and the importance of understanding the law around young people and sex
  • Give factual information on risks, STIs, pregnancy and prevention
  • Encourage young people to talk to parents and carers about relationships and sex education

RSE does not:

  • Just talk about sex!
  • Promote sex, at any age
  • Presume all young people are sexually active or experimenting
  • Undermine different cultures and religions
  • Take away the responsibility of parents and carers

Challenging myths around sex education

We often find that talking about RSE can cause a level of worry or anxiety for parents and carers.  Our RSE sessions cover a variety of topics and provide young people with information as well as the opportunity to explore in an age appropriate and safe way. The information below can offer guidance on how to support your child as they learn more about Relationships and Sex Education.

We’ve developed some blogs to help equip you with the confidence to have meaningful conversations with your children.

How to answer questions your child may have after an RSE lesson

You may find that following an RSE session in your child’s school they come home and decide to talk to you about the day- or the lessons, or perhaps something pops up on a TV show that shows sexual behaviour or risk – you could use this as an opportunity to initiate a conversation around healthy relationships or staying safe within a relationship.

Try not to lecture your child, we were all teenagers once! Try to listen to them and be prepared for questions (a lot of them) remember- scare tactics often don’t work! A huge fear of young people not talking to parents is fear that parents will be disappointed, angry or upset. A parent’s reaction is really important.

Once your child knows that you are comfortable discussing these topics they may ask your opinion or even questions that you don’t have the answers to.  Always praise your child for feeling like they can talk to you about this topic, acknowledging that you are always there for advice and support can go a long way, especially through adolescence and teenage years.

As a parent you are not expected to have all of the answers, but you can always support your child in accessing a sexual health service where they can have access to professional sexual health advice from doctors, nurses and health care advisers.

Click the tabs below for guidance on how to answer common question asked by young people.

What we encourage you to talk to your child about

Whenever we work with young people around RSE we always promote parental involvement and discussion when covering these topics.  Not all young people want to discuss with parents as they may feel parents won’t understand or listen, and it may turn into a lecture.  If parents are open to discussion with their child and feel confident and comfortable discussing this topic, the more likely the child is, to open up in the future.

  • Positive and Healthy relationships – what qualities we value in relationships, like respect, trust, communication and fun- feeling pressure from a partner is not the sign of a healthy relationship
  • Peer Pressures – explain that the biggest misconception with teenagers is they think everyone is ‘doing it’ when in reality they aren’t!
  • Staying Safe online– How do you know that a person you are talking to, is who they say they are? Are privacy settings on? What are they for?
  • Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) – Are they at risk of being persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status.

Links to further support for parents