Students welcome inclusive sexuality education

Improved, inclusive education resources on topics like consent, pornography, relationships and gender diversity have been released by the Education Ministry for schools.

The resources have been released after feedback from the public that schools needs to take greater action to address bullying, violence and child abuse, as well as being more inclusive of diverse genders.

The Education Review Office (ERO) reported in 2018 that many schools have significant gaps in teaching the health education curriculum.

Wellington High School gave feedback for ERO’s report after being identified as a school that taught sexuality education well.

“Having a lot of friends that are part of the community, I know that in general there’s a lot of misinformation about not just sex but relationships,” student Josh Toumu’a told 1News.

“As a young woman it becomes a very taboo topic especially around consent of like, when am I allowed to say no, what actually qualifies as full consent under the law and under what your personal boundaries are,” student Sophia Barclay said.

The education resources are voluntary for schools to implement in health classes.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti says whether the relationships and sexuality guidelines the resources are linked to should be compulsory for schools to implement will be looked at when health education is reviewed in 2024.

In Australia, age-appropriate consent education will be mandatory for all students from Year 1 to Year 10 from next year.

“It’s giving us that next opportunity to strengthen it even more and that’s what the refresh will do, so it’s a little bit of a staged approach,” Tinetti said.

“I would hate that we instantly went somewhere and said, ‘this is got to be done like this’ and that we got this wrong – this gives us the opportunity to see this working in action and then gives us that opportunity to say this is what the curriculum can look like cause it really is a super important part of the curriculum,” she said.

Views on whether schools should be required to use the resources are split, with some religious education leaders not in favour of compulsion.

“Schools know their tamariki best, they’re the ones that are aware of what’s going on in their individual context, they need to have the right to make decisions themselves,” Te Kupenga National Centre for Religious Studies director Colin MacLeod said.

“I think that needs to be set at least set to a minimum standard that’s enforced across all school boards just so that everyone can have a baseline equal opportunity to learn about their rights and their wellbeing,” student Violet Nolan said.

School leaders and the public are being urged not to underestimate the impact of quality health education by students.

“I think people forget how important this is and how getting this early in our education is going to mean that going later in life, that we’re going to have much more healthy relationships with people platonically and romantically,” student Anika Green said.