The Gender Issue

Campaigners call for sex and relationships education to be gender-aware

Media release - 24 September 2015

Campaigners at the Sex Education Forum are calling on schools to promote gender equality by making sex and relationships education (SRE) classes ‘gender-aware’, as they publish new guidance to help teachers get to grips with sex and gender in the classroom.

‘The Gender Issue’ helps teachers understand how gender inequality underpins the lives of children, adolescents and adults alike. Recent research illustrates one example of how this can be played out, with 1 in 5 women being sexually assaulted compared to just 1 in 20 men[1].

Unfortunately, boys are missing out on family conversations about sex and relationships, with mothers more likely to talk to their daughters than their sons about sex, and fathers less likely than mothers to speak with their children about these issues[2].

Above all SRE should be inclusive, avoiding a narrow focus on ‘pills, pregnancy and periods’, which while important can be presented in a way that often leaves boys feeling left out. Information should be presented in a way that caters to all genders, including transgender and non-binary children.

The Sex Education Forum advises that an age-appropriate programme of SRE can counter these trends, beginning in primary school and providing children with accurate information about their bodies and challenging gender stereotypes.

Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, said:

‘Gender affects a school community on so many levels; from the curriculum to staff roles, from pupil achievement to behaviour. In fact it is so pervasive that it can sometimes be a struggle for teachers to know how to make a start. Getting this right doesn’t happen because of one isolated lesson or assembly, but requires a joined-up approach that builds understanding of gender through the curriculum. A good quality programme of SRE will be gender-aware from the start and will help all pupils to communicate with each other and to develop attitudes of respect and non-violence.’

The Gender Issue provides a range of teaching resources and shows how these can be applied in the classroom with pupils ranging from Key Stage 1 – 4. Find out more and get a copy from the Sex Education Forum website.   



For more information, or to receive a copy of ‘The Gender Issue’, please contact the National Children's Bureau's media office on 0207 843 6045 / 47 or email For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.


Notes to editors 

About the Sex Education Forum
The Sex Education Forum is the national authority on sex and relationships education (SRE). We believe that good quality SRE is an entitlement for all children and young people and we are working with our core members, who all support statutory SRE and include local authorities, children’s, religious, health and family organisations, to achieve this. The Sex Education Forum is based at the National Children’s Bureau (NCB). For further information visit:    

About the National Children's Bureau
The National Children's Bureau (NCB) is a leading charity that for 50 years has been improving the lives of children and young people, especially the most vulnerable. We work with children and for children, to influence government policy, be a strong voice for young people and practitioners, and provide creative solutions on a range of social issues. For more information visit  

[1] Macdowall et al, (2013) Lifetime prevalence, associated factors, and circumstances of non-volitional sex in women and men in Britain: findings from the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3), Lancet 2013; 382: 1845-55

The research refers to ‘attempted non-volitional sex’, which we have summarized as ‘sexual assault’.

[2] Tanton, C et al (2015) Patterns and trends in sources of information about sex among young people in Britain: evidence from three National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, BMJ Open; 5:e007834 doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2015- 007834