Faith, Values & SRE

The Sex Education Forum have published practice examples that show how schools and local communities are developing SRE programmes that respond to particular faith and values contexts.

Links to the practice examples are below together with some background on understanding faith, values and SRE.

 

The practice examples

Faith Considerations: Primary School SRE Policy and Programme
A primary school was looking to develop its SRE policy.  After meetings between the LA SRE Coordinator, the Headteacher, the deputy head and the school nurse they arrived at the stage where they wanted to involve parents. The school has a high Somalian community and so had to consider the cultural implications.

SRE training within Jewish youth movements
During the summer months JAT is invited to run SRE sessions at many of the Jewish youth movement camps. SRE sessions at camp have some unique qualities, which are explored in this case-study. 

Faith considerations: primary school parents meeting
The Tower Hamlets Healthy Schools Team supported a primary school developing its SRE policy hold a meeting for parents, the majority of which come from the Bangladeshi Muslim community.

Faith considerations - writing SRE guidance
Tower Hamlets local authority decided to produce local guidelines for schools on the teaching of sex and relationships including information about the attitudes of the major faith groups represented in the borough.

Building relationships between secular and faith-based organisations; a case-study in sexual health promotion
This case-study describes how voluntary sector organisation Naz Project London is building and sustaining links with Muslim communities.

A working strategy for SRE; from faith-based organisation JAT

By working with existing cultural and faith structures and institutions such as youth movements and Sunday schools JAT (Jewish Action and Training for sexual health) has helped a wide range of adults working with Jewish young people to address SRE confidently, competently and appropriately.

Thurrock SRE Review and the role of faith
Thurrock Children's Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee carried out a Review of SRE. The Review Panel started from the position that faith can have a positive role to play in reducing teenage pregnancies and supporting young people.

Meeting the SRE needs of Asian young people in Nottingham

This case-study describes a consultation process with Asian young people in Nottingham about their views on SRE.

Partnership working between the Diocese and local authority in Stockton
Though working with a cluster of Roman Catholic primary schools the local authority SRE Coordinator in Stockton and the Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle has established an effective working relationship which is supporting the provision of SRE.

 

Understanding faith, values and SRE

Values are key to sex and relationships education (SRE) because of the personal and social nature of the issues covered. There are clear core values that run through good quality SRE, including:

  • Mutual respect
  • Loving and happy relationships
  • Rights to information, safety and health
  • Equality; particularly on the basis of gender and sexual orientation
  • Responsibility for oneself and others


Good quality SRE should provide a safe space for children and young people to identify and reflect on their own values and those of others including their peers.  There is also a place in SRE for learning about the values of different faiths and cultures. It is important that there is clarity about when a faith or belief-based view is being presented and discussed and when information is medical or legal facts, for example.

Some young people have described tensions that they experience between sexual norms and values in their home and community and those in wider society (Testa et al, 2006). Young people have also said that they want to discuss a range of views including cultural and religious perspectives in school SRE (Healthy Schools Nottingham, 2008 and Sex Education Forum 2004).  Competent teachers are able to facilitate discussion while maintaining the core values outlined above and challenging discrimination.

In some schools; including faith-based and non-faith schools, SRE has been lacking because of misunderstandings about what is included in SRE and what the core values are, fear about the reaction of parents and carers, and a lack of training and support for teachers.  Many parents and carers are supportive of SRE but may be unclear about how to broach these issues with their children and therefore will appreciate any support that is offered by their child's school.

Schools have flexibility to deliver an SRE programme that is consistent with their values. They also have a responsibility to uphold children and young people's rights to accurate information, safety, health and well-being and anti-discriminatory practice.

The examples of practice presented on our web-site show how schools and local communities are developing SRE programmes that respond to particular faith and values contexts. Collectively these examples aim to demonstrate that:

  • Quality SRE promotes positive values and is a safe space for children and young people to explore and reflect on values
  • Faith perspectives can be included in SRE and can enrich teaching and learning
  • Faith and values are important dimensions of SRE in and out of school and also of sexual health promotion
  • Faith and values dimensions of SRE are relevant in all schools including faith and non-faith schools


Success factors and key learning are identified from each example. There are a number of key themes that emerge:

  • There is potential to involve children and young people and hear their views about SRE, faith and values.
  • Building effective partnerships is essential and requires time to develop trust.
  • Open dialogue is needed with a wide range of partners including parents and carers, faith leaders, schools and children and young people.
  • There will sometimes be tensions in values between people and also within individuals -it is helpful to acknowledge these and to explore areas of common ground
  • There is often a lot of common ground and some core shared values between people of different faiths and beliefs.
  • There is not one 'right way' to do SRE - there is a need to tailor SRE to the context and needs of children and young people as an ongoing process throughout their physical and emotional development.

Values are central to the Sex Education Forum's identity. Our statement of values and principles has been created and agreed by our member organisations and is a central reference point in our work. 

We have also produced a factsheet on faith, values and SRE, which is free to download, and a book that is available to purchase. 

If you have an example to share of faith, values and SRE in practice we would like to hear from you. Please contact the Sex Education Forum

 

References

Healthy Schools Nottingham (2008) Sex and relationships education and Asian pupils in Nottingham

Sex Education Forum (2004) Faith, values and sex and relationships education

Testa, A., and Coleman, L. (2006) Sexual health knowledge, attitudes and behaviours among black and minority ethnic youth in London. A summary of findings. Trust for the Study of Adolescence/Naz Project London.