Many of the more personal aspects of learning and growing, once expected of parents to teach their children naturally from family life like sex education for example, are now taught through schooling and RSE is another which is being revised.
RSE stands for Relationships and Sex Education and is expected to become statutory in all schools by 2020, opening up discussions and promoting understanding of the range of relationships in society today, some of which were once considered taboo.
Some parents feel uncomfortable with this new subject matter and its broad embrace of relationship and gender diversity, which many have no experience of and do not want to acknowledge. Others believe that too much information too young, or too comprehensive with relation to older children, does more harm than good, encouraging sexual or relationship behaviour that would not otherwise have been part of their lives.
But researchers suggest that this is not the case and that children should have this information and understanding. Not only to be able to manage their own sexual and relationship orientations and experiences, but to enable them to make informed and assertive choices, to be better able to understand the wide diversity of relationships that make up contemporary society, consequently to have more empathy towards those who are different from themselves. And to also feel they are supported should they feel different to the mainstream behaviour of the community they frequent.
Pupils will be taught about the many types of relationships, about lesbian and gay relationships, same sex parenting, and about gender identity. And about the harm of gender stereotyping, bigotry and exclusion. The idea is to encourage an open attitude towards the range of relationships across society, to be able to talk about them in a safe and healthy climate, and to promote inclusion.
For there still exists a climate of judgement and discrimination towards those who have relationships that differ from what some consider the norm. And this is mostly due to lack of education; lack of understanding, and an unwillingness to acknowledge the variety of characters which make up society. This can make some feel isolated and alone.
If our our youngsters’ education is going to be complete they need to know about this diversity without judgement.
Just as children learn about different ethnic groups, cultures and communities, it’s also important that they learn about sexual, relationships and gender diversity. Then they’ll have the knowledge and vocabulary to be able to discuss it and create a healthy attitude towards their own, and others’, sexual experiences and preferences without anyone feeling isolated or marginalised, as those with disabilities feel at times.
So however uncomfortable parents’ initial reactions, everyone can get on board, be involved through discussions, supporting RSE as part of their children’s education whether that’s home education or in school.