Why Relationships Education Matters by Catherine Hine

relationshipsWith half term about to begin, it’s easy to think our children will take a break from learning – but that’s not the case when it comes to relationship skills. A recent poll looked at what influences children most when it comes to learning about these vital skills. The results make interesting reading and highlight why Relationships Education matters. Catherine Hine – the CEO of FASTN, a charity which champions healthy, dependable and nurturing relationships for all – explains more.

This half term I am looking forward to spending some one-on-one time with my daughter. We’ll go for cake and coffee – babychino for her, heavy on the caffeine for me. I like these moments together, it’s a chance to sit and talk.  She may be only five but I want to make sure she’s used to sharing her thoughts with me. In my mind, sharing and listening solve many problems. They are key relationship skills to master.

How my daughter can develop relationship skills is something I think about a lot. The research is clear – if children are equipped with the skills to form healthy relationships then they are likely to be happier, healthier and more successful. With that in mind, I was fascinated by the recent polling which asked parents and teachers what factors influence a child’s understanding of the skills needed for healthy relationships and how relationships work.

In total 500 teachers and 1,000 parents were surveyed. They had a sizeable list of influences to work through but there were three clear winners. 

Teachers scored ‘social media’ highest. With 58% saying it had a big impact. Next came ‘friends’ with 54% saying it was the main influence. In third place was ‘family’ with 51%. When parents were asked, the same factors scored highest but the tables were turned. 

Just over half of parents (51%) said ‘family’ had the biggest influence. ‘Friends’ came some way behind with 38% and ‘social media’ trailed in third at 33%. While there is disagreement, I take from the results a clear theme – we are not alone in teaching our children relationship skills! Their brains are always filing away information about how people should treat each other. 

It highlights what a lottery learning about relationships is. 

If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by nurturing, trusted friends or family you have a good example to follow. If not, life gets a lot harder. It’s the same online too. If your friends reflect their lives honestly, it’s a place to share and learn. If social media feeds are dominated by filtered images that pile on the pressure to look or act a certain way then self-esteem and self-worth plummets.  And that’s why I am glad to see Relationships Education coming to every school. Relationships Education increases the odds for all children. 

They’ll talk about friendship, how to treat people with kindness, hear about the impact of bullying and the difference between online and offline relationships. There is an ambition at the heart of Relationships Education – it aims to help children understand how to develop healthy, nurturing and lasting relationships. This excites me most! It is one of the things I really hope my daughter will benefit from. 

The subject won’t be compulsory until September 2020 but some schools have been quick off the mark – already introducing ‘circle time’ where pupils can talk through achievements or anything worrying them. Others are introducing ‘Ask It Baskets’, where children can drop in a question that they don’t feel confident saying out loud. I’ve heard great things from schools who are introducing a whole-school approach to Relationships Education, where, for example, conflict resolution features in the discipline/behaviour policy, there’s great engagement with parents and where leadership really pays attention to staff welfare. The evidence shows falling exclusion rates and higher staff retention.

Previous polling shows us that the vast majority of teenagers want help to understand relationship skills – Relationships Education gives us the perfect opportunity to do just that. Talk to you school and see how you can support it at home. I’ll certainly be doing that with mine!

Photo above by Jude Beck on Unsplash

Photo below by Randalyn Hill on Unsplash

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