Sexuality education is part of the Health and Physical Education and Hauora wāhanga ako learning area within The New Zealand Curriculum (2007). The curriculum promotes a holistic approach to sexuality education including physical, social, cultural, emotional and spiritual considerations, and must be included in teaching programmes in both primary and secondary schools. At the heart of the curriculum is young people learning about themselves, developing skills and confidence to interact with others in a positive and respectful way, and knowing how to seek help and support when it is needed.
High quality sexuality education is critical to children and young people's development and wellbeing.
The changing social context has profound implications for effective sexuality education. The ubiquity of smartphones, online and digital content, and the growing influence of social media means that a wide range of sexualised content, including exploitative and negative stereotypes, is readily accessible. Quality sexuality education must be more than teaching about biology. It must give our children and young people the skills to discriminate this barrage of media messages, and to keep themselves safe.
The cultural conversation is moving fast. There is an increasing awareness of issues around sexual harassment, the fundamental importance of positive consent, and much greater visibility and celebration of diversity. Affirming and inclusive learning environments combine effective teaching and learning with the conditions within a school to also promote wellbeing. Schools need to challenge discrimination, and to actively support all students to participate and succeed while positively expressing their identities within inclusive and welcoming school environments
We know sexuality education can be a challenging area for school trustees, leaders and teachers, and that the issue can be divisive in school communities. A whole of school approach is about the ethos, structures and processes, organisational models and partnerships across the school community that supports both the sexuality education programme and a positive school culture. Strong leadership is needed at the school, community and system level. The pace of social change also requires our schools to continue to grow, evaluate and adapt their teaching and learning programmes.
ERO's national evaluation paints a picture of where our schools are at today in responding to the current context, and showcases the practices of a group of schools effectively meeting the challenges of our current context. To those who have given their time and support to make this important evaluation a reality - thank you.
Chief Review Officer Education Review Office