These narratives contain many examples of schools using sexuality education well to support and promote the wellbeing of their students.
It is encouraging to see leaders, trustees and teachers in these schools displaying their commitment to implementing comprehensive sexuality education, well informed by genuine community consultation, and regularly updated through cycles of internal evaluation. One of the common themes is that students consistently say they want more coverage of issues like consent, pornography, and the dynamics of respectful relationships. When students have opportunities to engage critically with sexuality education they are capable of thinking through these issues with a high degree of sophistication. They display a strong ethical commitment to social justice, and care for one another.
These schools have taken many steps to provide an inclusive and welcoming environment for sex-, gender- and sexuality-diverse students, beginning with a firm belief that such diversity should pose no barrier to full participation in school. It is clear that homophobic and transphobic attitudes persist to some extent in broader society, but there is cause for optimism in the way that young people show an increasing acceptance and celebration of diversity. Schools cannot change every heart and mind, but they can ensure that when students walk through their doors, they hear an explicit message of welcome and inclusion. They can demonstrate that they will challenge regressive attitudes, model inclusive language, and listen to and respond to the concerns that their students raise.
The schools featured in these narratives tend to be large or very large, and are predominantly located in main urban areas. In these contexts, there are often relatively larger numbers of sex-, gender- and sexuality-diverse students. However, every student in every school in New Zealand has the right to be welcomed and included, regardless of where they live. While students in the featured schools are largely experiencing high quality sexuality education and inclusion, ERO's evaluation findings show this is not the case for all students. All schools have a role in challenging discrimination, and ERO would like to see far more schools across the country taking the wellbeing and safety of their sex-, gender- and sexuality-diverse students seriously.