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Relationships and Sexuality Education


This resource is a revision of Sexuality Education: A guide for principals, boards of trustees, and teachers (2015). They have been refreshed in response to the 2018 Education Review Office report into sexuality education in schools, Promoting Wellbeing through Sexuality Education. 

Printed copies of this resource will be distributed to schools in Term 4, and subsequent printed copies may be ordered from Down the Back of the Chair. Please note in the coming weeks we will release web versions of these guides that are more accessible to individuals who use assistive technologies.

Our vision for relationships and sexuality education

  • Relationships and sexuality education cannot be left to chance in schools. When this education begins from early childhood and builds consistently, year after year, it prepares young people for navigating a range of relationships throughout their childhood, teen years, and adult life. 
  • All young people equally deserve an education that enables them to develop healthy relationships, to become positive in their own identities, and to develop competencies for promoting and sustaining their own wellbeing and that of others. 
  • These refreshed guidelines are designed to support teachers, school leaders, and boards of trustees as they implement the New Zealand Curriculum in ways that are effective, safe, and inclusive. 

A changing world

Today the world is changing rapidly, in multiple ways, and Aotearoa New Zealand is more diverse than ever before. There are growing concerns about climate change and the impact of the recent global pandemic, COVID-19. This update is informed by an awareness of changing family structures, shifting social norms in relation to gender and sexuality, the rise of social media, and the increased use of digital communications and devices. It acknowledges the increased calls for social inclusion and for the prevention of bullying, violence, and child abuse. It recognises the importance of social and emotional learning for healthy relationships. 

What’s new?

This resource is a revision of Sexuality Education: A guide for principals, boards of trustees, and teachers (2015). They make explicit the key learning at each curriculum level. This key learning includes ideas for building a young person’s life skills – emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental. The revised title reflects the Ministry’s focus on relationships as an essential part of sexuality education. This resource is intended for all state and state integrated English-medium schools in Aotearoa New Zealand with ākonga (students) in years 1–8 and 9–13. 

The guidance inside this resource continues to draw on Hutchison’s (2013) core recommendations and also incorporate the latest research on relationships, gender, sexuality, and wellbeing. It takes into account the cultural and social changes noted above and the related interagency work to prevent violence. They also reflect Aotearoa New Zealand’s ongoing commitments to national and international legislation, including Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Human Rights Act (1993). 

How does this fit into the New Zealand Curriculum?

Learning about relationships and sexuality is part of the New Zealand Curriculum and is one aspect of health education (within health and physical education). Other learning in health education includes mental health education, drug and alcohol education, safety and violence-prevention education, and food and nutrition studies. Learning about health more broadly is essential for the ongoing wellbeing of all the communities in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

What is the aim of the new resource, Relationships and Sexuality Education: A guide for teachers, leaders, and boards of trustees?
The overall aim is to enable these schools to deliver effective, quality programmes covering relationships and sexuality education (RSE) to their ākonga. It describes a school-wide approach to RSE focused on the idea of wellbeing. When planning RSE programmes, policies, and procedures, it is essential that schools:

  1. consult with their community, as required by the Education and Training Act 2020, on how to implement the relevant parts of the health education curriculum 
  2. explicitly recognise Te Tiriti o Waitangi and develop the partnership between Māori and other treaty partners in the context of RSE
  3. uphold the human rights of all people, as set out in key national and international statements. Dedicated and significant curriculum time for health education, planned professional learning opportunities for teachers, strong policies and procedures, and safe and supportive school environments are all critical to ensuring the overall success of RSE. 

The Glossary of terms (years 1­–8, pages 48–50 and years 9–13, pages 54–56) defines words and terms relevant to RSE, including many used in the resource.

References, useful links, and support (years 1­–8, pages 52–55 and years 9–13, pages 58–62) lists the references cited in the resource and provides links to other relevant resources and useful organisations.          

Please note in the coming weeks we will release web versions of these guides that are more accessible to individuals who use assistive technologies.