Persbericht: Relational and sexual education for young children

Providing lessons on relationships and sexuality in primary schools not only promotes knowledge, but also enhances pupils' assertiveness. This has been proven in an effect evaluation performed under the authority of Rutgers WPF and CPS [Educational Advice Centre] of two teaching packages used in upper primary school. It was noted that teachers and pupils also found the lessons enjoyable and worthwhile.

The evaluation study

The study gives insight into the effect and the assessment of the two most often used teaching packages for relational and sexual education: ‘Relationships and sexuality’ (Rutgers WPF) and ‘[‘Feel good’ [Lekker in je vel’ ] (CPS). The study was carried out by ResCon, an independent research bureau. Twenty-eight schools that had used one of the teaching packages and 16 schools that had used neither took part (control schools). In total more than 1,400 children participated in the research.

Effects

At the start of grade 7 (pre-evaluation) pupils know little about bodily changes in adolescence and their knowledge on reproduction, in particular, is limited. If pupils have received any information on sexuality at all, the parents will be the one to have provided this. Apart from gaining more knowledge from the lessons on adolescence, relationships and sexuality, pupils are also more aware of what sexual intimidation or sexual abuse entails. Acceptance of homosexuality also increased in certain groups. Pupils' communication ability and assertiveness appeared to have improved compared to the control schools. Teachers observed that the children's knowledge, attitude and skills improved. hey were better able to deal with unwanted behaviour and to discuss sexuality itself. At the start of the programme pupils were giggly or tense but later took the issue more seriously and became interested.  Structurally addressing this subject by using a specific teaching package was more effective than any other ad hoc attention given to the subject of relational and sexual education.

Timing of the lessons

More than three quarters of the pupils felt that the lessons were given at the right time. In particular pupils in grade 7 (the last but one year in primary school) believed the lessons regarding changes experienced during adolescence and relational skills to be important subjects. Pupils from grade 8 (the final year of primary school) were also interested in contraceptives and safe sex.
The study found that  most pupils in grade 7 had fallen in love at least once and more than half had been “courting” at some time. A third of the pupils in grades 7 and 8 had experience with kissing. A quarter of the pupils would have preferred to wait with kissing or were not ready for this experience. A few pupils in grade 7 had experience with French kissing and/or fondling a girlfriend/boyfriend.

The information on adolescence, relationships and sexuality had greater impact if the pupils still had little experience in kissing and courting. This argues for timely relational and sexual education. Teachers, pupils and parents believe grade 7 to be the most suitable time to address these subjects.

Assessment

Two thirds of the pupils found the lessons (very) enjoyable and (very) interesting. The pupils graded the lessons on average an A or a B. The pupils found the information both from their parents and their teachers very useful. The majority of the pupils had no problem discussing relationships and sexuality in class. A good atmosphere in the classroom and a feeling of trust among the pupils were important preconditions. In grades 7 and 8 75% to 80% of the pupils had discussed the lessons at home. Children were also requested to ask their parents’ opinion on certain subjects referred to in the teaching package Relationships and Sexuality.

Motivation of teachers

The reasons for focusing on relational and sexual education were diverse. Teachers themselves found this subject very important and believe it to be very much a part of their pupils’ development. Demands from parents, management, area health authorities, and/or school policy played a role too.  Teachers and management expected more negative reactions from parents but none followed. Teachers presumed that some parents were glad that relational and sexual education was offered at school because then they themselves did not have to discuss the subject themselves.


Editorial note:

For further details on this research please contact the Communications Department of Rutgers WPF via 030-231 34 31 or communicatie@rutgerswpf.nl.