Learning Disability Wales has welcomed today’s announcement by the Welsh Government to overhaul sex and relationships education in schools.
Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams announced the reforms in light of recommendations by an expert panel led by Prof Emma Renold, Professor of Childhood Studies at Cardiff University.
The new curriculum will become a statutory part of education in Wales for children aged 5 to 16 from 2022 and will be known as Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE).
At present, Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is a statutory part of the basic curriculum in Wales but it is down to schools to decide their approach to the subject and this sometimes doesn’t stretch beyond the biological aspects of human relationships.
RSE represents a major departure from these traditional approaches because it broadens this area of study and places an emphasis on forming and maintaining healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships.
Learners will also be given a much broader understanding of sexuality that is fully inclusive of LGBTQI+ learners and includes wider issues such as consent, domestic abuse and respecting diversity.
Ensuring a fully inclusive curriculum
Learning Disability Wales was invited to be part of the expert panel and contributed to the recommendations to ensure that children and young people with learning disabilities would be included in the new curriculum.
Zoe Richards, Children Young People and Carers Manager, and Samantha Williams, Policy and Network Coordinator, both participated in the work of the expert panel and took the opportunity to express the need for the new curriculum to be fully inclusive, enabling all children and young people to engage with it, including those with learning disabilities.
Zoe Richards said: “For too long, people with learning disabilities have often not had access to good quality sex and relationships education and this can lead to serious problems in their lives. Lack of understanding and awareness in this area can make people more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, unplanned pregnancies, and abuse.”
Samantha Williams said: “People with learning disabilities, especially women, are more likely to be in unhealthy or abusive relationships. Through our partnership with the Working Together with Parents Network I have seen first-hand the impact that this can have on parents with learning disabilities as it increases the likelihood of having their children taken into care.”
The expert panel concluded that current law and guidance on SRE is outdated. Current provision is limited with not enough attention given to rights, gender, sexual equalities, emotions and relationships. It is often poorly resourced, given low priority in schools and does not reflect children and young people’s lives experiences.
The new RSE curriculum will represent a major departure from current practice, enabling learners to engage with a broader curriculum that is fully inclusive and respectful of all genders and sexualities. It will also address core issues, including consent and relationship abuse.