Survey findings on healthy relationships in early primary education published

Date: 6th September 2016
Category: Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities

New report by Zero Tolerance shows a growing need for relationship education in early primary and the early years.

The survey asked parents, teachers and support staff their thoughts on the landscape of healthy relationships education in early primary in Scotland (aged 5-8). They were also asked whether they felt the education that children did receive had introduced an awareness of important issues such as challenging gender stereotypes and understanding consent.

  • 80% of respondents reported that they were not aware of any specific materials available for children aged 5-8 on navigating social relationships, but 97.5% of respondents agreed that they should;
  • Respondents highlighted that where resources were available, these were limited in being able to provide a sense of how gender affects understanding of healthy relationships;
  • 57% of parents reported seeing a marked change in attitudes towards gender roles displayed by their children when making the transition from nursery to primary school suggesting this is a key time for intervention;
  • Respondents felt that leadership from Education Scotland and local authorities was important in taking this issue forward.

The findings come at a time of increased awareness around the needs of young people growing up in a world that is fraught with a variety of conflicting messages around relationships. These can have long lasting effects, including sexual problems. Previously thought to be confined to older generations, a recent survey showed that young women are more likely to be affected by this, with 44.4% of sexually active young women experiencing at least one problem with their ability to enjoy sex in the past year, compared with 33.8% of young men.

Of particular concern, is a lack of understanding around gender stereotypes and their relationship to violence against women. Young women still experience gender inequality in schools as well as growing pressure in their personal relationships from a 'pornified' culture. The evidence of increasing coercion in teen relationships shows the undeniable need for strategic leadership to foster healthy attitudes at the earliest possible opportunity.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recently expressed concern in its 2016 Concluding Observation recommendations that relationship education is not mandatory in all schools and that its contents and quality varies depending on the school.

The report 'healthy relationships in early primary settings' provides a summary of the key findings, discussion of key themes and makes recommendations for policy makers and education professionals in this field.