From September 2019, schools will be required to deliver relationships’ education (RSE). This is the result of years of work by the PSHE Association, the Sex Education Forum and others - including young people themselves - to ensure that all children have access to good, age appropriate education in personal, social, health and economic matters.
Alongside this, there has been a flurry of information in the media about the outcomes for children who have adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). These outcomes can include life-long impacts on their physical, mental, emotional health, their economic chances and their ability to build and maintain healthy relationships.
With the current recruitment and retention crisis in our schools, relationships for children and young people with their teachers and support staff are already suffering. Added to this we have the parlous state of our world leaders, who are failing to provide a model of emotionally healthy adulthood or leadership, muddled further by behaviour on social media.
It is all the more important therefore that our next generation is given the opportunity, whilst growing up, to experience responsive adults who can help them to develop the core life skills which will over time enable them to develop and maintain healthy relationships in their lives. This can happen through the capacity of key adults to engage in responsive relationships, thus supporting the development of a healthy brain architecture
We know that for all children and young people, these responsive relationships at school help to build their core life skills, (such as self-regulation, self and social awareness, a sense of self-agency) and can also provide the protective factors to counterbalance any adverse experiences in their past, present or future lives.
The fact is, we are all relationship teachers, for good or for ill. Children learn about relationships through their lived experiences. For the future of our children and young people, and for the future of our society, we need them to be learning about positive, healthy habits of relating.
It does take a village to raise a child, as the African proverb states.
I believe we need to support all parents/carers, all staff in education settings, and all children’s workforce practitioners so that they:
understand their role in developing a child’s healthy brain development and internal model for relating
have practical training in how to be a responsive adult for all children and young people
are given the time needed for building those relationships
are offered chances to reflect with others
understand and can put into practice their own strategies for looking after themselves
can feel psychologically safe in their own working environments
Head of Programmes