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  • Writer's pictureLeah Jewett

Lessons from 4 winning sex ed teachers

Do you know a relationships & sex education (RSE) teacher who’s confident, knowledgeable and creative?

That’s what the Sex Education Forum asked parents, students and educators in seeking nominations for its RSE Teaching Awards 2020.

Here is a glimpse into what this year’s 4 winners do so well…

1) Best secondary-school RSE teacher 2020

Jo Morgan at Portsmouth Grammar School in Hampshire

Why she won… for her honesty and transparency. She creates a safety bubble, says a student, and because of her the atmosphere of positivity around sex and relationships has spread across the majority of the faculty and school

“Teaching RSE has always been my favourite thing to do. It’s fun, hilarious and so important.

A brilliant ice breaker to start an RSE course is the good/bad sex task in which groups write ideas on Post-its which they add to a laminated card (see image below).

In that first lesson so much ground is covered, silliness is overcome and students become comfortable speaking about sex. Throughout the term they begin to form their own values around relationships and sex. We make it clear that good sex (whatever that means to them) can contribute positively to wellbeing, physical health, self-esteem, identity etc. Bad sex can do the opposite.

The lessons are designed to be empowering. We explore sexual pleasure, consent, attitudes around porn, first-time sex and more. We are inclusive about different bodies, genders and sexualities and help students acquire the knowledge and skills they need to ensure that relationships and sex enrich their lives”

Jo runs EnGendering Change. Listen to her brilliant Sex Ed Diaries podcast interview here

2) Best special-school RSE teacher 2020

Claire Burton at Charlton Park Academy in southeast London

Why she won… for making sure each child stays safe and enjoys positive relationships

“It’s a huge task to figure out how to teach relationships & sex education to students aged 11 to 19 with SEN (special educational needs) including autism, cognitive-learning issues and physical needs. These young people are vulnerable, tending to trust everyone. So I designed a new RSE programme to ensure that learning in RSE could be applied in their real lives.

One challenge is how to support students in communicating feelings. So we said, for example: ‘It’s OK to b embarrassed. That might feel like butterflies in your tummy.’ One day a student with low-level verbal skills came in very upset – all she could say was: ‘Butterflies!’ We gave her this drawing (right) so she could express herself, and when we asked why she’d used the colour red, she said: ‘Blood.’ It turned out that her period had come while she was on the bus. Giving her this tool and that language meant she could communicate that she was uncomfortable and needed help”

3) Best primary-school RSE teacher 2020

Helen Merel at Lyndhurst Junior School in Portsmouth

Why she won… for succcessfully challenging the use of homophobic language

“Over the past four years we have worked to create a more inclusive ethos and curriculum that celebrates diversity. This has included working on tackling HBT [homophobic, biphobic and transphobic] bullying and supporting the LGBT+ members of our school family.

We have challenged – and dramatically reduced – non-inclusive language at school, and we work together to educate the children about phrases and attitudes they may hear outside school. This year we have been including the students in the planning of whole-school events that challenge stereotypes based on age, gender, sexuality, race or disability”

4) Best RSE teacher adapting to remote education during the Covid-19 pandemic

Kayleigh Fisher at Robert Blake Science College in Somerset

Why she won… for creating virtual lessons during lockdown that challenged students to create monologues exploring healthy relationships

Kayleigh is both head of PSHE (personal social health economic education) and a drama teacher.

She came up with the idea of year 9 and 10 students interviewing people they know well, like family members or loved ones, about relationships they’d had in the past. The students then created verbatim monologues and recorded them on video – these can be a resource for other year groups.

Kayleigh’s project was a great way to promote safe, equal, caring, enjoyable, comfortable relationships. At the same time, the students also developed a closer relationship with people they know and care about…

RSE Teaching Awards 2020 winners were announced on 26 June 2020, the day after RSE Day

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