Tributes to Hilary Dixon SRE pioneer

'She was splendid' - memories of Hilary Dixon, SRE pioneer


I'm sad to report that Hilary Dixon died on 2nd May 2017. She was a Life Member of the Sex Education Forum and one of the pioneers of modern Sex and Relationships Education. 

Many of you will know Hilary personally through the Forum or may have collaborated with her on SRE projects or training. Even more of the SRE community will know her many publications, especially 'Taught Not Caught'. She edited the British edition of this classic 1980s compendium of strategies for sex education. It's notable because its cornerstones are group work, values clarification and a focus on feelings. It was the antidote to the 'give them the facts and let them make up their own minds' approach and supported the educator's role as a facilitator. I still regularly start training events with activity 9 Name Game and use Graffiti sheets (90) or I Feel (66) to gauge participants' responses. It broadened the idea of sex education to include gender and sexuality, assertiveness, and exploitation in relationships and showed us how to teach them. 'Taught Not Caught' is still out there if you look for it - a great primer for SRE today.

Hilary also helped teachers to introduce HIV/AIDS lessons in the classroom. Who remembers 'Car Park' and 'Who gets the treatment?'? A major project was the development of PSHE and SRE resources for children and young people with learning disabilities, Me-and-Us, still available from Jane Fraser.

Hilary was a leader in that great community of SRE trainers that emerged in the 1970s, when training was developmental, immersive, principled, collaborative and long-term. Want to know more? Ask any of that generation before they all retire! Hilary herself trained many of us.

I glad that Hilary lived long enough for statutory SRE to be given royal assent last week. It's part of her legacy to us all.

Jane Lees - Chair, Sex Education Forum


Hilary was persistently & expertly committed to the best SRE for all children & young people. Her particular focus on the needs of people with special educational needs & disabilities served as a national resource for colleagues wanting advice & practical resources. As a Life Member of the Sex Education Forum Hilary always offered moral support to me as Coordinator & her belief that our shared goals would be reached. With SRE becoming statutory this Spring, Hilary's commitment, as a key member of the SRE movement  has bloomed into real change for the next generation. She will be remembered fondly by many in the SRE community. 
Lucy Emmerson - National Coordinator, Sex Education Forum


Hilary was one of a small group of us who, in the late 70s, were concerned that the needs of young people with learning disabilities for education in SRE was being neglected. Ann Craft was already engaged in pioneering work in this area but, in particular, was badly let down by poor artistic support. Ann and Hilary worked on the first collection of 'Picture Yourself' illustrations and Ann gave me valuable advice and support for the 'Not A Child Anymore' teaching programme with illustrations and 3D models. Both of these resources were published in the same year. Meanwhile, Hilary embarked on writing 'Chance to Choose', using a similar format and teaching principles as those used so successfully in 'Taught not Caught' but adapted to the particular needs of people with learning disabilities.

One of Hilary's many strengths has been her ability to recognise potential schemes and then encourage and develop them into resources of real and lasting value. One such example is 'The Period Pack' and its purse book 'I change my Pad', written by a group of learning disability nurses in Conwy & Denbighshire. This is now widely used in schools and by parents of girls with special needs. Hilary's editing skills and network of contacts came to the fore in the production of my 'Sexual Knowledge & Behaviour' assessment tool.

Together with her partner, Dave Collier, Hilary set up her own publishing unit, 'Me-and-Us' and continued to create innovative resources for use by and with people with learning disabilities. When she retired due to her failing health, she was concerned that with so few organisations still publishing SRE resources, 'Me-and-Us' products might no longer be available. This led to the generous arrangement by which distribution was handed to Bodysense as the only other organisation exclusively devoted to developing and promoting SRE for people with learning disabilities. Dave has continued to give invaluable advice and support to Bodysense, in particular on IT issues, design and production ensuring that Hilary's legacy will not be lost.

Jane Fraser - Manager, Bodysense


Hilary was a pioneering, trailblazer in her work with people with learning disabilities. She was extremely generous in the way she shared her learning and credited fellow colleagues in any joint work. 

As a Honorary Life Member of the Sex Education Forum, Hilary's warm, beaming smile immediately put you at ease when discussing RSE issues and she always had a creative approach to potentially contentious issues. I will never forget the meetings and sessions where we worked together and her ability to put everyone at ease despite gently challenging us to keep improving the quality of RSE in whichever environment we were working in. 

I hope the work Hilary and other colleagues have developed will continue to benefit future generations of people with learning disabilities. 

Thinking of you all as we share fond memories of a remarkable friend and colleague.

Hansa Patel-Kanwal - Honorary Life Member of Sex Education Forum


She was splendid,  very much of the old school and had a real presence- a typical fair but firm teacher but also amazingly modern and insightful. I worked with her at the the FPA. She was one of the very first people to identify that children and adults with learning difficulties needed SRE. She wrote the first training manual to train their teachers and carers. She also adored her family and the countryside  and loved having fun. I would have liked to have had a last glass of wine with her  

Gill Frances – Honorary Life Member of Sex Education Forum


Hilary was an icon and mentor for all of us involved with the development of S1E especially those working with children and young people with additional needs. The resources she produced for this challenging aspect of the curriculum were groundbreaking then and still relevant and used today. A Chance To Choose enabled many special school staff to help their pupils come to terms with emerging s1x2al3ity and gain an understanding of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour and boundaries. I learnt loads from Hilary and know she will be much missed.

Ruth Hilton - Advisory Group member, Sex Education Forum


Hilary was a dedicated campaigner for the rights of people with disabilities and especially for their right to the information and understanding necessary to fulfil all their potential, including sexuality.The materials she created and produced were powerful, and influential in forwarding the cause of sex and relationships education for young people and adults with learning disabilities.

Lorna Scott - Honorary Life Member of Sex Education Forum