What are the benefits of a whole-school approach to Relationships, Sex and Health Education?

Many schools adopt a whole-school approach (WSA) to tackle a variety of issues that without intervention, can lead to educational disadvantages. Common WSA s include literacy, well-being and mental health but they all have similar features to ensure successful implementation. A WSA involves communication with all members of the school community from teachers to school leaders, and students and their families. Schools who have successfully embedded a WSA consider a number of ways to explicitly and implicitly address their WSA focus in order to make school a place for early intervention and prevention.

Implementing a whole-school approach to Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) can offer a range of benefits that extend beyond addressing statutory RSE topics in curriculum time. Here are some key advantages:

1. Supportive Learning Environment:

Embedded Throughout: A whole-school approach ensures that RSE is integrated into all aspects of school life including via cross-curricular links. This provides students with a comprehensive understanding of relationships and sex within a broader context and supports their learning of new topic knowledge whilst avoiding cognitive overload. 

2. Enhanced Student Well-being:

Mental Health: A successful whole-school approach to RSE contributes to positive mental health outcomes by addressing issues related to self-esteem, body image, and emotional well-being, fostering a supportive and inclusive school culture.

3. Improved Relationships

Peer Relationships: RSE promotes healthy peer relationships, communication, and empathy, which can lead to a more positive social environment within the school and a health school culture. 

4. Positive Behavior and Values:

Respect and Consent: A whole-school approach emphasises values such as respect and consent, fostering an environment where students understand and practice healthy relationship dynamics. A whole-school approach also allows for the incorporation of diverse perspectives and ensures that RSE is delivered in a culturally sensitive manner, promoting inclusivity.

5. Increased Attendance:

Engagement: A positive and supportive school culture that includes comprehensive RSE can contribute to increased student engagement within and outside of the subject. This can result in improved attendance rates as students feel confident and happy to attend school. 

6. Staff Confidence and Wellbeing:

Professional Development: A whole-school approach to RSE involves training and support for staff, enhancing their confidence in delivering RSE content and responding to students’ questions and concerns. Improved school culture is positive for staff who have fewer challenges related to behavour and feel able to challenge harmful behaviours in a confident way. 

8. Parental Engagement:

Community Involvement: A whole-school approach includes engaging parents in the RSE curriculum, fostering open communication between the school and families and creating a collaborative approach to supporting students. 

9. Ofsted compliant:

Meeting Curriculum Standards: Adopting a whole-school approach ensures that the school is meeting Ofsted’s statutory requirements for RSE. It also supports evidence of other areas of Ofsted’s framework such as Personal Development and safeguarding.

10. Lifelong Skills:

Empowerment: RSE equips students with lifelong skills, such as communication, decision-making, and critical thinking, that go beyond the classroom and prepare them for adulthood.

11. Safeguarding

Student well-being: A whole-school approach to RSE plays a crucial role in supporting safeguarding efforts through equipping students with the confidence and vocabulary to report issues should they arise by promoting open and honest communication between students, teachers, and support staff. A successful RSE curriculum can empower students to recognise and resist inappropriate behavior, reducing the risk of exploitation and abuse.

In summary, it’s crucial that schools consider the link between keeping children safe in education and a WSA to RSE. The prioritisation of RSE as a subject is a barrier that many schools are still working to address and a WSA to RSE ensures that all members of the school community are working together to embed healthy attitudes towards relationships into the school environment.