30th June 2022

Why teaching RSE well is so important

When I became Children’s Commissioner, I conducted the largest-ever survey of children The Big Ask. I received over half-a-million responses from children telling me what they thought and felt about their daily lives, their hopes for the future, and their worries too.

The Big Ask and what children told me in it has shaped the pillars of work that I am focusing on. One of these pillars is school. Children spoke about how they love school, value it, like learning, doing activities, and seeing their friends. However, some of children also spoke about wanting more out of their relationship and sex education (RSE) and PSHE lessons and for these subjects to be taught well.

That is why it is great that the Secretary of State for Education asked me to look at children’s views of RSE and suggest how we can improve the consistency and quality of teaching.

And importantly today, a cross party Westminster Hall debate is being held by Miriam Cates MP, Rosie Duffield MP and Jackie Doyle-Price MP looking at ‘Relationship and sex education materials in schools’. It is welcome that these MPs are highlighting how crucial this subject is to children and young people.

Children have spoken to me about how much they want these subjects to be taught and well and how crucial they are to them. As the following children said in The Big Ask:

“We are not taught about healthy relationships when we grow up” – Girl, aged 14.

“I feel scared and unprepared. We are not learning what we need for life like how to manage finances, relationships or how to choose who to vote for” – Girl, aged 15

“It will probably be Instagram, Snapchat and Tik Tok because people get bullied really badly on there.” – Girl, aged 13.

“Lack of future preparation and life skills. Pressure to take certain paths in life.” – Boy, aged 16.

These children’s words show how these children need to be supported in difficult topics in their lives, both online and offline. Everyone’s Invited and the Ofsted’s Review of sexual abuse in schools, has shone a light on children needing more assistance in schools on these issues. RSE is taught fantastically by many teachers in schools across the country. But, it is vital that it is taught consistently and well for all children. I am glad that the important issue of RSE is getting more attention.