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Sexuality education: a guide for principals, boards of trustees, and teachers

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PDF icon. Sexuality Education Guide (PDF, 5 MB)


This guide is a revision of Sexuality Education: A guide for principals, boards of trustees, and teachers (2002). The guide will assist boards of trustees, principals, and teachers in all New Zealand state and state-integrated schools to comply with the requirements of the Education Act 1989 (as amended in 2001) to consult with the school community on the way in which the health curriculum should be implemented.

The Health Select Committee report, Inquiry into improving child health outcomes and preventing child abuse with
a focus from preconception until three years of age (November 2013) highlighted the importance of quality sexuality education programmes for all young people and the need for access to health services. This revision takes into account that report, along with other interagency work to prevent violence.

The revision also takes account of changing social climates, recent youth health research, and broader understandings about sexuality and sexuality education.

Many schools have made good progress in implementing sexuality education programmes. Their advice, and the advice of wider sector groups, has been invaluable in developing this revision.

Sexuality education is part of Health and Physical Education in The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) and is based on the values, principles, and concepts of the learning area. It is underpinned by the four underlying and interdependent concepts of health and physical education: hauora; a socio-ecological perspective; health promotion; and attitudes and values (see section 3 for details).

"Sex education" and "sexuality education" are different. The New Zealand Curriculum supports a holistic approach to sexuality education as defined by the hauora model, which includes physical, social, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects. This is much broader than "sex education" which relates only to the physical aspects of sexual and reproductive knowledge.

The majority of Māori students attend English-medium schools. Research indicates that Māori students can thrive when “being Māori” is affirmed by the school, Māori culture is valued, and teachers are supported to challenge their attitudes, skills, and practices in relation to Māori students (Tuuta et al, 2004; Bishop et al, 2003). The revised guide aims to help schools to plan and deliver sexuality education and affirm the strengths and contributions of Māori students, whānau Māori, and Māori communities. The guide also recognises the diverse needs and strengths of students from Pākehā, Pasifika, Asian, and other communities within New Zealand.

Boards of trustees play an important strategic role when they support principals to create the conditions in which effective implementation can occur (for specific details on roles and responsibilities, see section 5). Dedicated and significant health education curriculum time and safe and supportive school environments are equally essential to the overall success of sexuality education.

The overall aim of the revised guide is to support school boards, principals, and teachers to deliver effective, quality sexuality education programmes and, through them, to support the positive and holistic development and health of all students in New Zealand primary, intermediate, and secondary schools.

A glossary of terms used in this guide is included in section 7. 

1. Why sexuality education is important

2. The place of sexuality education in schools

3. Sexuality education in The New Zealand Curriculum 

4. Sexuality education in the wider school 

5. What are schools required to do? 

6. Consulting with communities 

7. Glossary of terms 

8. References, links, and support 

9. Acknowledgments