ERO visited ten schools that had been identified by external stakeholders as having good practice in sexuality education, and/or doing a good job of including sex-, gender- and sexuality-diverse students.
1. Culturally responsive sexuality education
2. Drawing on student voice
3. Learning how to support inclusion
4. Building trusting classroom environments
5. Balancing tradition and inclusion
6. Sexuality education in Years 7 and 8
7. Sexuality education across the curriculum
8. Empowering student activism
9. Making time for sexuality education
10. Empowering student leadership
11. Students supporting one another
12. Effectively engaging with outside providers
13. Sexuality education at a highly diverse school
In selecting these schools, we consulted with education, health and community youth groups. ERO's outcome indicators for students set out our vision for confident, connected, actively involved lifelong learners. At the end of each narrative, we have noted the student outcome indicators that were evident in these schools.
Common to these narratives is the recognition by leaders, trustees and teachers of the importance of comprehensive sexuality education in supporting student wellbeing. Crucially, leaders and teachers in these schools paid attention to the voices of their communities, and especially their students, around what they knew, and what they wanted to learn more about. The narratives in this report contain several examples of schools engaging in genuine consultation with their students and whanau.
Leaders, trustees and teachers in these schools recognised there were diverse views within their communities about sexuality education, but found most parents and whanau were supportive of comprehensive sexuality education once they were fully consulted and informed. Parents retain the right to withdraw their children from any or all aspects of sexuality education (Section 25AA Education Act 1989). They are entitled to make this decision for their own children, but this should not impede the development of a comprehensive programme for other students in the school.
Additionally, leaders in these schools had established an environment of collective responsibility for inclusion that meant sex-, gender- and sexuality- diverse students got consistent messages around belonging, and were more able to feel safe and accepted at school. These schools were proactive, rather than reactive, and did not simply rely on more general policies and practices around inclusion, but took the time and effort to think about how they could send the positive message for sex-, gender- and sexuality-diverse students that they were welcome and cared for.
ERO recommends that leaders and teachers read the narratives in conjunction with the Ministry of Education's 2015 Sexuality Education guidelines.
We have noted elements of the narratives that illustrate specific sections from the guidelines, to give leaders and teachers a sense of what implementation of the guidelines can look like in practice.
This story highlights how one school is teaching culturally responsive sexuality education in a bilingual context.
This large co-educational secondary school has a unique co-governance model. There is a distinct Māori-medium rumaki onsite, with over 200 Māori students, which operates autonomously. The bilingual component of the college is well regarded for the success Māori students achieve as Māori.
The school draws from a creative local community that supports the student-centred bi-cultural kaupapa of the school. Health education, including sexuality education, for students attending the rumaki is delivered in a culturally responsive context by specifically selected Māori teachers.
The teacher with responsibility for sexuality education told ERO that one of the distinctive aspects of culturally-responsive sexuality education for Māori was the holistic approach, grounded in the notion of hauora. She worked closely with the head of health to adapt the school's strong sexuality education programme to the rumaki context. The teacher told ERO:
The good thing within the rumaki is that, because hauora is such a kaupapa that is a part of everything Māori, that it doesn't matter if it's the science teacher or social studies teacher, they can all impart knowledge around hauora. It's not that the health teacher knows everything, when you put it into Te Ao Māori. I think that's what engages our rumaki students - they're familiar with that comprehensive context.
Students in the rumaki were interested and engaged in sexuality education. The teacher spoke about the importance of establishing a welcoming and safe environment for students to talk about sexuality education issues in a comfortable way. This was underpinned by the strong relationships already established in the rumaki and the teacher's use of humour to help students ease into what could potentially be somewhat awkward conversations. When you sit down with our kids... it's a serious topic but you can laugh about it too. That makes them more open to talk. The kids really engage with it - they understand they're in a safe place to talk.
» Students who are Māori enjoy education success as Māori
» Students are confident in their identity, language and culture
For more on effective and empowering approaches to sexuality education for Māori students, see p. 24 of the guidelines as a starting point
This story shows how inviting genuine student input into the development of the sexuality education programme leads to more relevant and responsive learning for students.
Most things in this school, including learning, start with something raised by students. The school has always listened to student voice, but in recent years they have strengthened this, making sure there are structures in place to ensure students had a voice in what affected them.
After media reported recent incidents (not involving this school), students approached leaders, concerned that consent was being taught too late. Senior health students thought the junior health programme was not strong enough, and did not meet students' needs. They saw that the media portrayed unhealthy stereotypes, and students needed explicit teaching around how to recognise an unhealthy relationship. They said:
It's such a big thing. I don't know why they don't cover it.
Senior students said sexuality education in Years 9 and 10 was heteronormative, focused too heavily on the physical aspects of sexuality education, and missed the deeper issues they needed to address.
We did a lot on sex education, not so much on sexuality education.
They thought junior health should be about being accepting and open minded, and give students skills for getting along with people, not just focused on their own body. Senior students also thought there needed to be a stronger focus on consent, and healthy and unhealthy relationships and were concerned that the strong focus on puberty in Years 9 and 10 was not engaging, and may have put students off taking health as a senior subject. They wanted students to see that health education can give life skills, as well as opportunities to understand others and develop critical thinking.
School leaders and the board of trustees took the students' concerns seriously, and encouraged them to work with health teachers to redesign the junior health programme. Health teachers were receptive of students' feedback and concerns. They consulted students, and considered what they knew about their students and had seen in the media.
The teachers recognised there was wide variety in the knowledge students had when they started in Year 9. They also identified that much of what the junior students knew had been learnt from their peers, and was not always accurate.
Teachers have a strong focus on knowing the needs of each student, including the students with additional learning needs learning in mainstream health classes. They know these students' needs were as individual and diverse as other students', and they have to respond in the best way for each student. For some students with additional learning needs this means sexuality education is best addressed through their Individual Education Plan, rather than with a larger group. Some students with additional learning needs are also supported to participate in the school's support group for gender- and sexuality-diverse students.Health teachers now ask Year 9 and 10 students how they feel about sexuality education, survey them about how health is meeting their needs, and work to break down the heteronormativity of the programme. They explore deeper issues, such as consent and relationships. Senior health students and the health teachers collaborated to redesign the junior health programme; each bringing their knowledge, interests and concerns so they could create a programme that would fit the needs of students.
Senior students told ERO they thought that:
No-one knows what's healthy and unhealthy, and they don't really teach us.
They thought it was important that students be taught about pornography, to help them separate fantasy from reality, and distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
The board supports this as part of their belief that they needed to make sure every student's needs were met. They recognised it was something many parents would want to speak to their children about, however this was not the case for all. They were concerned that if we don't provide it at school, some students won't get it at home.
Teachers and students were pleased with the process and the outcome of redesigning the junior health programme. A senior student praised the responsiveness of the teachers, saying a lot has changed in the five years I've been here.
» Students determine and participate in coherent education pathways
» Students establish and maintain positive relationships, respect others' needs and show empathy
For a sense of the breadth of topics that should be covered at secondary school, see p. 23 of the guidelines as a starting point
Whole school review of the sexuality education programme should be heavily informed by student voice and identified student needs, see pp. 28-29 of the guidelines
This story shows how leaders and teachers can educate themselves in order to understand and improve inclusion for gender-diverse students.
Senior leaders at this school have been accepting of students for who they were, and warmly welcomed all students. They had not realised they needed to make the acceptance and welcome explicit for gender- and sexuality-diverse students to feel comfortable. Students' questioning and challenging led teachers and leaders to greater knowledge and awareness. The deputy principal said:
I thought we were an accepting school, but I realised we need to make that more explicit so sexuality and gender-diverse students and staff felt welcome.
The principal realised the culture of explicit awareness had to come from the top, and made a point of being clear about this in public, such as school assemblies. The deputy principal wanted to continue improving, making the school more welcoming for gender- and sexuality-diverse students. The school had been working with various agencies to support individual students, but knew they could become more inclusive as a whole school.
The deputy principal worked with the mother of a former student to set up a panel of gender- and sexuality-diverse adults from the community to talk to staff. All school staff were included in the session. The panel told stories of their own experiences at school, and what could have been different to make their time at school better. Staff were interested and engaged, asking many questions.
The panel also helped develop a survey for students, and advised the deputy principal about other ways to support students, such as asking students how to keep them safe from harassment. The deputy principal said that seeking to improve and become more inclusive has become part of who we are.
The deputy principal and health teachers attended a course on the Sexuality Education guidelines. They thought it was important that all school staff were on the same page, so invited the course facilitator to present on diversity to all staff. Staff became aware they should look for reasons behind issues.
By digging deeper, they found there were things they could do to make life easier for students. For example, they discovered some students who were persistently late to physical education had difficulty finding somewhere they felt safe and comfortable to change. They could create a space for these students to get changed, so they were on time.
The school began to consider other changes needed. To make gender-diverse students feel safe and enable them to fully access the curriculum, they had to consider toilets, the sick bay, and accommodation on school camps and trips. They had to be careful to manage the students' safety, for example, by considering what name and pronoun they wanted used at public events, or leaving a classroom unlocked so the students had a safe place to go if needed.
The school encountered other barriers to being inclusive. Student management systems did not have a way to change a student's name or gender. As of 2018, the student management system KAMAR has been updated to include diverse gender options, but would not update successfully to the Ministry of Education's ENROL system with the new options selected. It was difficult to find gender- neutral resources for health education. They plan to continue working towards greater inclusivity.
They recognise there will be a variety of practical challenges, as they realise that for both the school and wider education system some of this is new territory.
» Students enjoy a sense of belonging and connection to school
» Students feel included, cared for, and safe and secure
Teachers may need professional development or other support to effectively deliver the sexuality education programme, see p. 26 of the guidelines
This story describes the actions teachers and leaders undertook to create a safe and supportive environment in which students are able to have the open and honest conversations necessary for effective sexuality education to take place.
Respect between all is very important at this large single-sex secondary school, and is modelled from the top. Students told ERO the principal was genuinely open and interested in everyone's ideas, and would respectfully consider their views and opinions. Part of how she showed respect was by following up and feeding back to the students once a decision was made.
School values and the example set by the principal set the expectations for staff behaviour. A board member told ERO teachers are all facing the same direction under [the principal's] leadership. Leaders and teachers work together to make the school a safe place for students to be themselves and explore who they are.
One way they do this is by teaching students to critique opinions, rather than criticise people. They encourage students to express different opinions, so long as they are respectful of other views. They teach that agreeing to disagree is an acceptable option, and a way of honouring where everyone is at in their own journey towards understanding. Teachers explain that:
Everyone's identity is important and we're all in this together.
Before learning about relationships with others, students explored who they were as individuals.
They learnt the importance of being comfortable with who they were, so they could make space for others to be themselves too. This supported the students to be understanding of others, and to reflect on how individual behaviour impacted on the class.
Older students told ERO how Year 9 students often found sexuality education awkward and strange, and would laugh as a defence mechanism in response. They explained that not everyone's expected to be the same level of maturity, but thought it was still important to teach sexuality education in spite of some students' awkwardness, as it meant that students would be less awkward when the topic was taught in later years.
Other students told ERO how the relationships in their Year 9 class made it difficult to be open and have good discussions in sexuality education.
A student said:
People always feel a bit nervous. Some are really confident, others feel quiet. Teachers want everyone to know, learn and have an opinion.
This encouragement from teachers meant that by Year 10, students have learnt to trust each other. They are able to be more open with each other, and everyone in the class is able to contribute to discussions and activities. Students recognised the importance of having these trusting relationships.
Teachers have to know our class is ready.
If we're not, we won't learn.
Students told ERO how their relationship with their teachers was also important for making them feel comfortable to ask questions. They said teachers needed to be warm, personable and knowledgeable, and that some teachers were more approachable than others.
To support students to have an adult to talk to, leaders make sure there was time for all students to visit the Hauora Centre and meet the support team of guidance counsellors and social worker. Adults in the school work together to provide wraparound care from whoever is the best fit for the student, as they know the importance of trusting relationships.
» Students show a clear sense of self in relation to cultural, local, national and global contexts
» Students set personal goals and self-evaluate against required performance levels
For more information on effective programmes and pedagogies, see p. 25 of the guidelines
This story shows how one school has managed diverse views and traditional beliefs by maintaining a focus on student wellbeing and inclusion.
This is a medium-sized state integrated coeducational secondary school in a main urban area. Leaders see themselves as walking a tightrope reconciling traditional church teachings with the reality of current society. When necessary, they point to the church's teachings on acceptance and love for all people. Sexuality is seen as an aspect of hauora. The school has strong relationships with the Catholic community, including priests. They are supportive of school leaders' stance on sexuality education and supporting gender- and sexuality- diverse students.
I needed to know that there was a growing awareness of the change in acceptance within the church.
The board's policies and procedures demonstrated a Catholic perspective and promoted an inclusive environment where all students were safe. For example, the Pastoral Care Policy stated one of its purposes was to nurture and foster growth in the gospel values of reconciliation, respect, care and concerns for all persons.
We need to take our learning from the time we're in and move forward with respect for the past.
A board member saw the school as a non- judgmental accepting community that valued the individual. One way they demonstrated this was their responsiveness to student voice. For example, a transgender student was supported to have their name changed on the school roll. Senior students, including a student leader, were open about their sexuality and said bullying was not an issue at the school.
The board set clear expectations for the teaching of sexuality education in a Catholic curriculum. The director of religious studies and the head of health and physical education both reported regularly to the board on the delivery of sexuality education.
The student council requested private changing facilities, as some students did not feel comfortable changing in front of others. The board provided these facilities, and was considering how they could also provide gender-neutral toilets.
The school consulted regularly with their parent community through a variety of ways, such as whānau hui, Pacific fono, surveys and other parent meetings. The school kept parents informed about opportunities in the community to strengthen their knowledge to better support their children, such as a seminar on pornography. They shared information about upcoming topics in sexuality education through newsletters. This information explained what would be covered, why it was important, and how it would be taught. The school found doing this meant it was rare for a parent to withdraw their child from sexuality education.
Students were consulted about the health programme and their wellbeing at school.
Students were invited to ask questions about sexuality education, and teachers were honest with them if the teacher did not know the answer and had to find out. Student surveys showed students ranked sexuality education highly. Board members rang each student new to the school to get feedback on how they were doing during their first year at the school.
The director of religious studies had the overall responsibility for sexuality education, which was mainly taught through religious education, with some parts being taught through health and physical education. Teachers worked together to coordinate the coverage, with input from the guidance counsellor, public health nurse and Family Planning.
They wanted to make sure their curriculum was comprehensive and responsive to the needs of their students, while ensuring they kept to the values of the Catholic Church.
The teacher responsible for the Years 7-10 programme referred to it as an ongoing draft, as they continually revised the programme based on what was wanted and needed by their students, what was appropriate, and what they saw to work best.
Teachers used a variety of resources and a wide mix of teaching strategies, including role play, choosing what was appropriate to the students' needs and the school's approach to sexuality. Students had the opportunity to submit questions anonymously that were then covered during the course of the unit. Teachers encouraged students to debate and explore different attitudes and values.
While health was not a subject option for Years 11 to 13, senior students covered aspects of sexuality education in external programmes, religious education, and other subjects.
Students told ERO their school was "good about sexual difference", and felt they had had good opportunities to cover sex, consent, and alcohol and drugs as they relate to sex. However, while they appreciated the school's efforts to meet their needs, some students told ERO that comprehensive sexuality education was "too late for some", and the school focused too heavily on "the Bible view rather than what teenagers want to know".
Students spoke to the counsellor about wanting to start a support group for gender and sexuality diverse students. While the group was able to meet and was supported by the school and priests, they wanted official recognition in the school. The school respected the students' wishes, and was in the process of working with the board and school community to do this in a way that respected all views, in keeping with the school values. Students appreciated the approach, and the way the school made space for all students, recognising and valuing who they were. One student particularly appreciated the explicit acceptance, saying I needed to know that there was a growing awareness of the change in acceptance within the church.
» Students value diversity and difference: cultural, linguistic, gender, special needs and abilities
» Students understand, participate and contribute to cultural, local, national and global communities
Consulting with communities is crucial to ensuring that the sexuality education programme is responsive. For further guidance on consultation, see pp. 34-38 of the guidelines
It is important that senior students have ongoing opportunities to engage with sexuality education, even if they're not taking NCEA Health. See p. 26 of the guidelines
This story highlights how schools can design age-appropriate sexuality education programmes that provide the foundation for later learning.
This is a medium sized co-educational secondary school in a main urban area. Leaders and teachers at this school share an overall vision for student wellbeing. They believe their school culture flows from the staff, and they deliberately teach the culture to younger students. They see relationships as a necessary foundation for learning. The Deputy Principal told ERO:
If we don't get wellbeing right, we can't get the learning.
The school teaches three models of wellbeing relevant to their students: Te Whare Tapa Whā; Fonofale; and an American model familiar to their Filipino students. They teach students to notice each other's wellbeing needs, and to support each other. Leaders monitor how well they met their students' wellbeing needs through regular surveys.
Sexuality education is structured so students learn slightly ahead of when they will need the knowledge. Students appreciated this, as it meant they 'wouldn't panic'. In Years 7 and 8, sexuality education is integrated into other parts of their learning, delivered by the class teachers. In Years 9 and 10, sexuality education is mainly in delivered in health, by specialist health teachers. Students also have the option to take health as an NCEA subject
from Year 11 onwards. The specialist health teachers work with the teachers in the Learning Support Centre (for students working within Level 1 of the NZC) to develop social stories and programmes appropriate to their learners.
At the start of each 'kete' the integrated units for Years 7 and 8 students, teachers find out what students already know. They do not want to repeat too much, but deliberately go over some content multiple times, as they recognised students were at different levels of maturity, and may not have picked up everything they needed to know the first time.
Students in Years 7 and 8 spend three to four hours per week, for six or seven weeks, on each kete.
Each year starts with wellbeing and relationships, then other kete follow. Kete topics include hauora, which has a specific focus on sexuality. In the hauora kete, students conduct an inquiry into a topic that interests them, set themselves a goal, and measure their progress towards that goal. Other kete, such as advertising, also look at topics related to sexuality education, such as using sex to sell.
Year 9 teachers commented that students had a better understanding of hauora than previously, and the principal noticed that Year 7 students were much more self-managing and learning focused than in previous years.
» Students develop the ability to reflect on their own thinking and learning processes
» Students collaborate with, learn from, and facilitate the learning of others
For more on these models see pp. 8-11 of the guidelines as a starting point
This story highlights how sexuality education topics can be addressed across the breadth of the curriculum, provided care is taken to make sure teachers are up to date with relevant knowledge.
The school's curriculum is not fixed, but allows flexibility within a framework. Safe, secure environments promote learning. Teachers are supported to include aspects of sexuality education across a variety of learning areas by strong relationships between health and physical education, and other subjects.
Sexuality education and wellbeing are not the sole responsibility of any one department or role. Leaders see that academic achievement and progress and wellbeing are interwoven, and clear distinctions do not make sense. Deans, health teachers and guidance counsellors worked together to design a programme for the ako classes (form classes). This was a way for them to make sure all students had a foundation of health and wellbeing learning that other learning in other classes could build on.
Teachers want programmes to be relevant to their students, so are moving to greater co-construction of learning. At the end of each programme, students provide feedback through online surveys. While they thought it was a good way to keep connected, students sometimes thought there were too many surveys and did not always complete them all.
There were deliberate links to health classes, including sexuality education and they were proactive about keeping the topics relevant and responsive to currrent issues and events.
In addition to being a defined topic in health for Years 9 and 10, sexuality education was woven into other parts of the Year 9 curriculum. For example, Year 9 social studies explored different cultures and their views, such as how a transwoman was treated in Tonga. Students were able to share how she would be treated in other cultures they were familiar with.
Students could take health as a subject for NCEA Level 1 or 2. They appreciated this option, and thought it signalled that health was important. Students thought there was greater coverage of aspects of sexuality education in the arts than sciences, but that there was opportunity in all subjects for teachers to follow their interests and address aspects of sexuality education. Examples included studying STIs in a unit on genetics, and a unit on homosexual law reform in sociology.
Students told ERO that learning about aspects of sexuality education across subjects was "good because it's topical and relevant."
Annual wellbeing days for each year level provide other opportunities to support the health and wellbeing of all students. Students choose the content for wellbeing days, and said guest speakers were experts, informative and open to questions. Students appreciated that the topics and speakers were relevant and respected students' knowledge, experiences and reality. Their passion came through. Students said they wanted more days like these.
» Students achieve success across the learning areas of the New Zealand Curriculum
» Students draw on multiple perspectives and disciplinary knowledge to actively seek, use and create new knowledge and understandings
For more on sexuality education in the wider school see pp. 27-29 of the guidelines
This story shows how leaders and teachers can promote student leadership and activism around sexuality issues.
Leaders and teachers deliberately develop students' leadership skills from Year 9. Student empowerment is a strong theme throughout the school. Older students act as role models and mentors for younger leaders, and create space for the younger students to have opportunities to practise and grow their skills.
Social justice is a common theme across many of the student-led groups in the school. These groups are an opportunity for students to extend their leadership skills and make a stand for what is important to them. Each group had a teacher that acted as a support person for the group, for example the sociology teacher supports the feminist group. These teachers also work to connect the groups' work with what was going on in the wider school.
The guidance team explained that the staff's role is to support students, and act as a safety net to make it safe for students to explore and try new things. The school has a culture of giving things a go, and learning from what did or did not work. This culture was obvious from senior leadership through to junior students.
The feminist group was enraged by the comments on social media, and wanted to protest at the commenters' school gates. Others were concerned that it was not just about the specific comments, but the wider issue of rape culture. They were also concerned about the potential impact on their school's ongoing relationship with the commenters' school. They took their concerns to the principal.
The principal listened to their concerns, and said she would not stop the girls from protesting. The principal suggested, in light of the broader concerns about rape culture, the girls take their protest to a more public stage: the grounds of Parliament.
The principal and other school leaders wanted to support the students, but made sure the protest still belonged to and was led by students. Leaders worked with students to help them with things they had never done before, such as writing press releases. The school valued the learning the girls gained through organising the protest: rights, responsibilities, critical thinking and media management. The students knew many people cared, but were surprised and overwhelmed by the number of people who made the effort to support them, and turn up to the protest: teachers, parents, friends, students from other schools. Parents and the board were proud of the students, and there was no negative feedback about what the girls had done.
» Students promote fairness and social justice and respect human rights
» Students are critical, informed, active and responsible citizens
» Students are ethical decision makers and guardians of the world of the future
Students can undertake social justice actions related to sexuality education. See p.14 of the guidelines
This story highlights the importance of having a comprehensive and well- structured sexuality education programme and valuing the learning by ensuring students had enough time to cover the various aspects.
This very large co-educational secondary school in a main urban area has a very strong and comprehensive sexuality education component to their health curriculum. The head of the health and physical education faculty was involved in the consultation process for the Ministry of Education's 2015 Sexuality Education guidelines, and is on the New Zealand Health Education Association executive. She has used this expertise to develop a robust curriculum that reflects the guidelines and is aligned to achievement objectives at each level.
At this school, health is a compulsory subject in Years 9, 10 and 11. The deliberate timetabling of sexuality education reflects the value leaders place on this learning. Students choosing to take health in Years 12 and 13 critically engage with values, beliefs and perspectives around sexuality at a very high level, and the earlier curriculum is designed to scaffold students toward this. A student said:
As we went through I learned that it was more than male-female-gay-straight....I'm just amazed at how much of my knowledge has come through health.
The school uses different avenues to ensure that parents and whānau understand the sexuality education programme and what will be covered. Students take home a course information leaflet, which is also available via an online parent portal.
Year 12 students contribute to the school's review of the sexuality education curriculum as part of their 'taking action' assessment. They conduct interviews with students, leaders and support services, and analyse the data they collect to report on what aspects students most want to learn about and how well the curriculum is meeting their needs.
Senior health as a subject is growing in popularity, especially for Māori and Pacific students. The head of health felt these students were particularly engaged by having opportunities to working collaboratively on projects to make a difference in their communities. At the time of ERO's visit, there were three health classes each in Years 12 and 13. Students who are not taking senior health still take part in learning about sexuality education through the school's life skills course in Year 13.
» Students are curious and enjoy intellectual engagement
» Students use multiple strategies for learning and problem solving
For guidance on designing an age-appropriate sexuality education programme, see pp. 15-21 of the guidelines
This story shows how teachers and leaders can empower students to take on leadership initiatives.
Opportunities for student leadership were a clear feature of this school. ERO reviewers met with students representing a variety of student- led groups, including the Feminist group, Peer Sexuality Support Programme (PSSP), Safe Schools Committee, and the queer-straight alliance group. Students all spoke of how well supported they felt by school leaders to create and maintain groups for whatever their interest was.
People are encouraged and praised for being involved in things... If you're interested, 99 percent of the cases you'll be able to open it up. The school makes an effort to recognise it. you can take pride in it.
Some of the groups tended more towards being student support groups, creating safe spaces for students to meet, chat and ask questions without fear of judgment. Other groups had a greater profile within the school, putting on awareness-raising events, or participating in wider school events like Pink Shirt Day. Students put up informative posters, give presentations at assemblies, teach peer lessons, raise funds for community groups, and conduct live surveys using Kahoot to get a real-time sense of student attitudes and values. Using Kahoot serves to start conversations between students, and also creates data that can be shared with school staff or the board.
Typically, each group has an interested teacher associated with it, who can help with things like arranging space for group activities, or giving budgeting advice. They are careful to keep the leadership initiative with the students themselves. Other teachers, and support services staff help by publicising the groups, and referring students on to them, where appropriate.
Students in the queer-straight alliance group shared a story of an incident where a student had found another student's email account unlocked on a computer, and sent out an email 'jokingly' coming out as gay. The school instituted a restorative process to address the incident, and as part of that process, the queer-straight alliance invited the student who had sent the email to come along to one of their meetings. The student came away with a better understanding of the impact that their joke had on sexuality-diverse students and an understanding of why it was inappropriate.
» Students promote fairness and social justice and respect human rights
» Students are able to take leadership roles
» Students are critical, informed, active and responsible citizens
Dealing with bullying, see p. 27 of the guidelines
Student leadership groups can be an important feature of the wider school environment in secondary schools, see p. 28 of the guidelines
This story highlights how student leadership groups can greatly contribute to students' sense of wellbeing and belonging.
This very large co-educational secondary school has had a large and active queer-straight alliance group for a number of years. The guidance counsellor, who also has oversight of the Peer Sexuality Support Programme, very capably supports the group, and other teachers from across the school.
Guidance and pastoral care staff said that the school has an explicit focus on retaining gender-diverse students until the end of Year 13. The queer-straight alliance group contributes to achieving this goal.
ERO met with a family member of a student who had transitioned from male to female while at the school. There was initially some bullying from other students, but the school set up a restorative process to address this, and involved the whole whanau.
The school's response and support meant that the student eventually achieved her education goals, and became a role model within the group, for other transitioning students.
Teachers join the group so that they can visibly support the students, while still ensuring the group remains predominantly student-led:
...backed by staff, but not driven by staff... it feels more organic coming from them and as teachers we can just support them.
Teachers in the group identify with a range of sexualities. One social science teacher, who identified as bisexual and has worked at the school for more than fifteen years, noted the level of acceptance for gender and sexuality diversity had greatly increased over her time teaching at the school.
I have noticed that it is not even an issue anymore. I used to always come out to my classes, I saw it very much as a responsibility as a bi woman to say that I'm not straight to provide a model for students. There's been a real shift from 'that's just blown my mind' to 'oh, yeah'.
Another mathematics teacher, who identified as heterosexual, joined explicitly to contribute to this ongoing de-stigmatisation of sexuality and gender- diversity. Both teachers said they tried hard to normalise diversity in their classrooms.
When the students of the group heard that ERO were coming to their school, they were enthusiastic to meet us and speak about what the group meant to them. We ended up meeting with around 30 students, who together represented almost all of the group.
For guidance on creating an inclusive and supportive environment for sex-, gender-, and sexuality-diverse students, see the Inclusive Education guide on TKI
It helped me come out I guess. I'm trans, and I wouldn't have come out if it wasn't for [the group]. I could come into the place without explaining myself, which I have to do everywhere else. I wouldn't be happy without having been able to come out.
It's been a wonderful time, it's like our little nook, our little corner of the school where it's a safe place, filled with allies and rainbow community.
It's about having a sense of community, somewhere to go where you know people share your opinions and experiences, and you can feel safe.
It is this family that's just there, you're not forced to go there, but you're always welcome there. What matters when we come is not the labels that you put on yourself, or that others put on you. Respect each other and you're a good person, that's all you need to say.
At high school, I felt I had to fight the whole world. Did a speech on social justice, that's where it went wrong. Everyone in the class thought that it was odd that I cared about other people. Then I came here and other people were awake! So nice to not be outside of other people.
Honestly, it has personally helped me so much. Knowing there are people that you can identify with, that support is so empowering.
People always say there are no safe spaces in the 'real world', but here we are, in the real world, and it's safe!
While the primary focus of the group is on supporting one another, they have also engaged in a number of awareness raising events. After the Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016, many of the students in the group were upset and wanted to address it within the school.
We knew a lot of people were shaken by the Orlando shooting, to see people we connected with to go through that. We needed to bring it up in front of the school, to let us know that we were there, the wonderful student services counselling we have. It was really empowering (though scary) to get up there and talk about it.
Ultimately, students and their whānau alike appreciate how the group and the broader school help sex-, gender- and sexuality-diverse students to feel that they belong and care for their wellbeing What came through very strongly was the sense of belonging and acceptance the group gave to its members. Even in a broadly supportive school context, having a separate safe space was extremely important to these young people. One whānau member told ERO:
As long as they're happy, I'm happy. I love them for who they are. The key points are support and love, that's what these kids need.
» Students understand, participate in, and contribute to cultural, local, national and global communities
» Students value diversity and difference
» Students represent and advocate for self and others
This story highlights improving inclusion of gender and sexuality diversity in a primary school.
In this medium-sized co-educational full primary school, the principal spoke about having a kaupapa of non-judgment and inclusion. The school has a reputation for tolerance of diversity, which the principal identified as a pull factor for parents who lived in the area, saying it's important to me that we don't have any bullying or prejudice in that area. The school is currently undertaking a rebuild, and the board and principal have discussed using the opportunity to make sure all toilets will be private unisex cubicles. The principal did not feel there would be any issue with this in the school community, saying it just has to be normalised.
The school also has an explicit focus on inclusion within the curriculum. Teachers with responsibility for the sexuality education programme were attending an education conference and attended a workshop run by Rainbow Youth. While there was not a large number of students who identified as gender, or sexuality-diverse, both the principal and senior teachers identified that all of their students could benefit from learning about inclusion. Furthermore, their health consultation had revealed some parents wanted the school to focus more on issues relating to gender and sexuality diversity.
To meet this need, the teachers decided to use Rainbow Youth's Inside Out resource, and bring in a Rainbow Youth educator for their Year 7 and 8 students. Students were able to choose if they wanted to participate, and parents also had to give permission. Inside Out consists of a series of video episodes and a resource pack to facilitate classroom discussions. The programme was usually delivered to students in Year 9 and above, and teachers believed they were the first primary school to trial the programme.
The facilitator asked the students to imagine how they would feel if their own sexual identity or gender identity was in the minority. Students identified that coming out took courage and could be complicated in situations where earlier generations had grown up with something like that being weird going on to say that:
For us it's getting normal.
Teachers identified that the students had really engaged with the material and learned a lot. They considered the trial to be successful and plan to run the programme again in the future, saying children aren't born with homophobia, it's what's around them. They're learning to have their own opinion and this programme supports that. ERO spoke with students who had participated in the programme, which they described as really valuable. Students said they had learned about acceptance and the different views of sexuality in different cultures.
» Students value diversity and difference
» Students promote fairness and social justice and respect human rights
For more information on engaging with outside providers, see p. 28 of the guidelines.
This story shows an effective whole school approach to inclusion and sexuality education, including genuine consultation and responsiveness.
Diversity just is at this large co-educational secondary school. The school had a reputation for accepting and celebrating diversity, and this acceptance and celebration was apparent at all levels. The board chair explained this was not accidental. Diversity was a key consideration in staff appointments, along with feedback from student panels that also interviewed candidates for senior leadership positions.
The board of trustees was proactive in supporting the school. When they noticed an issue, they asked the principal what the school was doing about it, and how the board could help. They requested regular written and verbal reports on programmes, including sexuality education, as they wanted to be well informed.
Leaders and teachers supported diversity in a variety of ways, for example, by asking students if they had a preferred name or pronoun, and using non- gendered terms. The board responded to a request from students for gender-neutral toilets, saying it was a 'no-brainer' to meet this need. Students elected to have a same-sex couple as the main characters in their student-directed Shakespeare production. In 2017 and 2018, the school had gender-neutral events at athletics days.
The school culture supported student wellbeing.
A deputy principal had overall responsibility and oversight for student wellbeing, and used their relationships and connections to benefit students. Teachers and senior leaders had a strong interest in supporting students' mental health, and referred students on to the guidance counsellors when they needed to. There was no stigma in seeing the counsellors.
Students said there was less bullying at this school than others, and they felt that when there was bullying, it was addressed well. They thought students and teachers had a more accepting view of sex and sexuality at this school. The counsellors
confirmed this, saying that other than arranging the logistics of a name change, gender-diverse students saw the counsellors for all the same reasons other students did.
Health teachers wanted parents to have input into the sexuality education programme, to help the programme be relevant to students. They also wanted parents to have a good understanding of sexuality education, so they could talk about the topic with their children. They started with asking parents why is it so difficult to talk about sex?
Teachers responded to common themes from the consultation with parents, and encouraged parents to discuss different viewpoints. Leaders arranged termly whānau hui as a way to build relationships with whānau Māori, and gain their voice. A parent told ERO they were grateful the school taught sexuality education, as they believed students were more likely to listen to their teachers than their parents.
Parents identified they wanted their children to learn more about online relationships and safety. Teachers also wanted to provide better programmes around pornography, but found that there was little PLD in relation to sexuality education available for supporting students to be safe online. Health teachers worked together to develop resources, and plan and evaluate programmes.
Students told ERO they appreciated the work their health teachers did to make sexuality education safe. They said:
The teacher opens the gate for you to feel comfortable.
Teachers did this by using a power-sharing kaupapa where students work together to create a safe learning environment for appropriate sharing.
They recognised students came from a variety of backgrounds, so waited until later in the year, when respect for each other was more strongly established. They taught students they did not have to agree with each other, but did have to respect each other's views. Students were comfortable to share their different viewpoints on topics relating to sexuality education in class.
In addition to sexuality education in Years 9 and 10 health, students could choose to take health as an NCEA subject. In other subjects, students were encouraged to follow their interests with their learning. Teachers did not back down or shy away from challenging topics. For example, geography students were interested in human trafficking,
HIV and AIDS. History students wanted to learn about the history of abortion in New Zealand and homosexual law reform. In media studies, students explored how gender roles were represented.
Students organised and ran a support group for gender- and sexuality-diverse students. This group met weekly, and the meetings were often about educating themselves and each other more deeply around their specific needs. Students said the sexuality education programme in Years 9 and 10 was pretty good, but it did not have the depth of coverage they would like to see for gender- and sexuality-diverse students
» Students establish and maintain positive relationships, respect others' needs and show empathy
» Students develop the ability to reflect on their own thinking and learning processes
» Students value diversity and difference
For assessment for learning in sexuality education, see p. 26 of the guidelines
For consulting with Māori and Pasifika communities on sexuality education, see p. 36 of the guidelines
 Schools consisted of one full primary, two secondary (years 7-15), and seven secondary (years 9-15). There was one low-decile school, four mid-decile schools and five high-decile schools. There were two medium-sized schools, six large schools, and two very large schools. All schools were located in a main urban area.