Almost no sex education for some school students - health educators

August 26, 2019

Almost no sex education for some school students - health educators

A health teacher explains processes in reproductive health. Photo: Faith Cleverley

Some students are leaving secondary schooling with “almost zero” sexuality education due to no enforcement of health education timetabling.

Inconsistent timetabling means some schools will allow for three or four hours of health a week, while others may have one hour a fortnight, said leading health educator Hayley McGlashan.

The Ministry of Education stressed sex education is compulsory until Year 10 and recommends 12-15 hours per year, although it says the curriculum is "focused on learning rather than the hours put into the learning" and schools determine their own programme.

But health educators said this approach allowed for health to be taught inconsistently across schools and they wanted Ministry support.

“We need to increase curriculum time, and I think that comes from an increased value on health education, which ultimately we need the Ministry to support us with. We need more money and more time,” said Ms McGlashan, professional teaching fellow at University of Auckland.

Some students may get health education but leave school with "almost zero" sexuality education, depending on a school's priorities, she said.

Executive of the New Zealand Health Education Association, Jenny Robertson, said timetabling is a “persisting problem” with some health teachers feeling ineffectual due to the small hours they are timetabled.

“The Ministry of Education does not stipulate how many hours any one subject has to have, and they won’t go down that pathway for any subject matter. It’s a can of worms.”

The Ministry of Education said schools in consultation with their communities are in the best position to make decisions about the health curriculum for their students.

“Schools determine their own curriculum programme that reflects the character of the school, community aspirations and the needs of their learners, in consultation with their school community,” said Pauline Cleaver, acting deputy secretary early learning and student achievement.

Under this system Ms McGlashan said health teachers have to be advocates for the subject within their schools to encourage consistent and efficient health education for their students.

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