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Position statement: comprehensive sexuality education

Monday, September 12, 2016

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Family Planning supports comprehensive sexuality education for all young people. 

Comprehensive sexuality education is learning that helps people gain knowledge and skills, and be clear about their attitudes and values, so they can make informed decisions about their sexuality, relationships, sexual activity and health.

Comprehensive sexuality education topics include: healthy relationships, emotions, consent, communication, media, identity and beliefs. Research shows that encouraging young people to think about personal relationships, rights and responsibilities, as well as future dreams and goals, are important parts of effective sexuality education. Comprehensive sexuality education also covers physical and emotional development, sexual and gender diversity, reproduction, delaying or abstaining from sexual activity, and how to reduce infection and unplanned pregnancy when choosing to be sexually active.

Comprehensive sexuality education should be provided in a way that meets the needs of people from a range of ages, developmental stages and cultures. It should make sense and relate to a person’s view of the world and life experiences.  Comprehensive sexuality education should include traditional and modern Māori understandings of sexual and reproductive health and strengthen Māori identity, language and culture. It should be provided in a safe environment, over years and before it is needed.

Comprehensive sexuality education is a partnership and shared responsibility between parents, whānau, teachers, schools and the community. Young people benefit from having open, positive conversations with their caregivers about sexuality, together with the formal sexuality education they get at school.

Research shows that when people have access to comprehensive sexuality education, and health services, they are more likely to delay having sex, have fewer sexual partners and use condoms or contraception.

While sexuality education is required in the New Zealand Curriculum from Year 1 to Year 10, it is taught differently across schools with no requirement for topics covered. An Education Review Office (ERO) report found most schools would benefit from support to improve the way they teach sexuality education and ensure that young people are prepared for life-changing decisions.

Family Planning advocates for teachers, school leaders and community organisations to have the resources and support they need to teach effective, culturally relevant comprehensive sexuality education and to develop partnerships with parents and whānau. We encourage open, and constructive conversations at home and in the community about healthy relationships, and sexual and reproductive health and well-being.

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