Integrated schools are being encouraged to discuss with their proprietors updated guidelines from the Ministry of Education for relationship management and sexuality education in schools.
An October Lighting New Fires newsletter, sent out from the New Zealand Catholic Education Office, noted that the latest guidelines, intended for all state and state-integrated schools with students in years 1-8 and years 9-13, were released in September.
According to the Ministry of Education’s website, the update 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”.
The notice on the website also stated that the updated guidelines are “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”.
Among the things the updated guidelines do is acknowledging “the increased calls for social inclusion and for the prevention of bullying, violence, and child abuse”.
A school-wide approach to relationships and sexuality education focused on the idea of “well-being” is envisaged.
The Lighting New Fires newsletter noted that there was publicity about the updated guidelines when they were released, “ but because we didn’t enter into a debate about some of the more challenging aspects of the programme, the media was less interested in our response”.
“Any programme that seeks to keep people safe is welcome,” the newsletter continued.
“The programme asks schools to consult with their community and determine how this material can be shared. It recognises that there are both cultural and religious challenges to be met before schools attempt to implement any change.
The newsletter added that: “Faith-based schools that work to give life to the full will not be afraid of reviewing their programme and determining what can or should change with this new approach.”
“Proprietors have the right to determine a school’s special character, and continue to influence what is consistent with the faith base of the school.
The Association of Proprietors of Integrated Schools “encourages schools to review the documents and talk with proprietors to ensure they have a process of consultation that can help support the school to be a safe place, without compromising the tenets of their faith”.