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Consent, gender inclusivity and porn to be included in revised sex education guidelines in NZ

Five years after the last revision, the Education Ministry has released new relationship and sexuality guidelines for primary and high school students.

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But while the revised direction is being welcomed, there’s concern it won’t be adopted at all. Source: 1 NEWS

The guidelines allow schools to meet the health curriculum but with community input on what students learn being a requirement under the Education Act, there’s no guarantee all students will be taught all of the guidelines.

“Because we're not having these conversations with you, well many of you, are getting your information from what is not a realistic portrayal of a healthy relationship,” Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin told Onslow College students at the announcement of the new guidelines today in Wellington.

The Education Review Office stated after a 2017 evaluation that while biology and puberty was well covered, teaching of consent, healthy relationships and the impact of social media and pornography needed be covered in more detail.

The new guidelines have a focus on those areas, as well as gender inclusivity, sexuality guidance for Māori, Pasifika and disabled students and guidance on how to make schools inclusive.

The guidance includes unisex toilets, not separating class activities into groups based on “boys” and “girls” and including gender-neutral uniform options.

In 2018, the Education Review Office reported less than a fifth of schools taught sexuality education very well and the curriculum was being delivered inconsistently.

Onslow College Student Fiona Bogunovic said sexuality classes needed to include more about sexuality for non-heterosexual people.

“It becomes easier to take that sexual education from other sources like the Internet and that can sometimes be unreliable,” she said.

“Issues around transgender people, I think that's an issue that wasn’t really covered in our curriculum,” fellow student Sam Grantham said.

Simon Armstrong said what was taught when he received sexuality education at the college was “very much about how confident the teachers felt at the time”.

Principal Sheena Millar welcomed the new guidelines and said all schools can improve their inclusivity and sexuality education.

“Society changes and students change and we need to be prepared to change with them and grow with them and learn from them,” Millar said.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond also welcomed the guidelines but said without being compulsory, young people will continue to not be well-served.

"My worry is that it's close to 20 years since we first developed guidelines and we've had no meaningful change since then," she said in a statement.

"The guidelines are an important document providing schools with certainty and surety in this curriculum area. However, unless they are fully and nationally implemented and teachers and school leaders are provided with professional development and other support, we won’t see progress."

Association of Proprietors of Integrated Schools chief executive Paul Ferris said it's important the community has input with the guidelines.

"If you want people to engage in something, they need to have some part in fleshing it out and making it work, but they mustn't be able to diminish the message which is to make young people safe," he said.

Ferris said separating students by gender during sexuality classes should always be a decision for the community, and is one that Pasifika and some Christian communities agree with.

"I don't think the Government expects this to be adopted tomorrow. I think what the Government is saying is, 'Here's the blueprint for where we go from'... I'd say four to five years before this becomes absolutely embedded through teacher training and support," he said.

Hard copies will be sent to schools next term and Education Ministry curriculum lead staff members will be available from Term 2, 2021 to support schools with making changes and consulting with the community.