RSE during COVID: a research study
Are you a teacher involved in the delivery of sex education to secondary school students in the UK? We're interested in hearing about your experiences of delivering the updated 2020 sex education curriculum and the impact of COVID-19 when doing so. For more information and to take part please email A.Alderson3@newcastle.ac.uk
Last year on the 23rd March Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a ‘stay at home’ order which included the closure of non-essential shops as well as schools. Teachers were impacted massively, having to deal with the ‘new normal’ of online learning as well as the stressors of the pandemic including the mental load of working from home, caring responsibilities, and the emotional toll of this.
Arguably, teachers involved in the delivery of sex education suffered a double blow as 2020 saw the introduction of an updated RSE curriculum. Not only was this new and unfamiliar, but it was also to be delivered virtually with children in their own homes potentially with siblings and parents listening. Unsurprisingly teachers struggled with this and as such the RSE updates were postponed to 2021. But teachers, and students, are still readjusting. Many teachers face long, stressful days thinking about coronavirus testing, social distancing, and the uncertainties of easing restrictions. Others may have been thrown into new roles following the early retirement of longstanding staff, members with little to no training, and little access and support to do so. The burden of catching up on missed lessons, delivering the updated curriculum, and the addition of the ‘recovery’ curriculum sounds like a mammoth task.
With the attention focused on COVID, it’s easy to forget the needs of young people who are in a crucial stage of identity and sexual development. While restrictions prevented face-to-face interactions, many young people turned to online platforms to fulfill their needs for social connections and sexual relationships. We mustn’t forget that this current period of lockdowns/restrictions and (hopefully) post-COVID England will be undoubtedly different from pre-COVID. Are the issues that young people face concerning RSE still the same? Is this new curriculum outdated before it has even begun?
I’m a Ph.D. student at Newcastle University looking to explore secondary school teachers’ experiences of delivering the updated curriculum in the current climate. The research involves individual interviews on Zoom that are confidential. I hope to hear from anyone involved in sex education, from form teachers to dedicated sex education teachers and everyone in between. I would like to hear about your experience and your thoughts moving forward. For more information and to take part email A.Alderson3@newcastle.ac.uk