Sexuality education guidelines

04 June 2015
Katie Fitzpatrick
Associate Professor Katie Fitzpatrick

Last week the Ministry of Education released new sexuality education guidelines for all schools in New Zealand. In a first for New Zealand, the Guidelines directly address issues of sexual consent, coercion, and cultural differences.

Faculty of Education and Social Work Associate Professor Katie Fitzpatrick was the lead writer of the policy guideline: Sexuality education: a guide for principals, boards of trustees, and teachers (2015).

These guidelines are an update of a document last published in 2002 and reflect changes in New Zealand society, as well as the latest research, some of which was conducted by Associate Professor Louisa Allen and the University of Auckland’s adolescent health research group.

Dr Fitzpatrick says the policy guideline is world leading and will have a significant impact on sexuality education nationally.

“These guidelines are the first step in a rethink of sexuality education. All schools will need to increase time dedicated to health education in order to meet the requirements of the new policy” Dr Fitzpatrick says.

“We want our young people to be safe, to have positive experiences, to be able to stand up for themselves and to be informed about key political and social issues. This is why we need quality sexuality education in all our schools: to help young people to think critically about social messages and to have the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their bodies and about relationships.”

While the main focus of the document is to provide guidelines for schools to help equip students with the right skills to navigate relationships with others, and to keep themselves safe, it has also opened up the opportunity, and highlighted the need, for greater professional development in sexuality education for teachers.

While there is much work to be done in this area, Team Solutions, a leading provider of professional development services for schools, will be facilitating a series of Ministry-funded workshops to support middle leaders in schools with the initial implementation of the sexuality education guidelines.

Director of Professional Learning and Development, Camilla Highfield says the aim of these workshops is to explore issues relating to effective teaching of sexuality education, share ideas and increase teachers’ confidence in developing teaching and learning programmes that reflect the New Zealand Curriculum and best practice in sexuality education. 

“The content that will be covered includes ideas on being responsive to learners’ needs, sexuality education learning progressions as well as resources to support the teaching of sexuality education. In addition to this there will be information and discussion about legal obligations, community consultation, use of outside providers and other key aspects of the guides.”