Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE)

What is RSE?

RSE encompasses the knowledge, skills, dispositions and values that will empower learners to:

  • support their health and well-being
  • develop healthy, safe and fulfilling relationships of all kinds, including those with family and friends, and in time, romantic and sexual relationships
  • navigate and make sense of how relationships, sex, gender and sexuality shape their own and other people’s identities and lives
  • understand and support their rights and those of others to enjoy equitable, safe, healthy and fulfilling relationships throughout their lives and advocate for these

RSE provision helps to ensure learners develop a positive understanding of relationships and sexuality and to recognise misconceptions. RSE aims to empower learners in line with their needs, experiences and wider development. Through discussion and by responding to learners’ questions and needs, it can provide safe and empowering environments that enable learners to reflect on and express their views and feelings on a range of issues.

RSE in the curriculum focuses on three broad strands:

  • Relationships and identity: helping learners develop the skills they need to develop healthy, safe, and fulfilling relationships with others and helping them to make sense of their thoughts and feelings.
  • Sexual health and well-being: helping learners to draw on factual sources regarding their sexual and reproductive health and well-being, allowing them to make informed decisions throughout their lives.
  • Empowerment, safety and respect: helping to protect learners from all forms of discrimination, violence, abuse and neglect and enabling them to recognise unsafe or harmful relationships and situations, supporting them to recognise when, how and where to seek support and advice.

Why is RSE so important?

The world around us is evolving rapidly and significantly. As a society we are becoming ever more aware of:

  • changing family structures and relationships
  • shifting social, cultural and religious norms in relation to sex, gender and sexuality
  • advances in technology including the rising influence of social media and increased use of digital communications and devices
  • changing laws and rights around relationships, sex, gender and sexuality

In this context, RSE is an important support in enabling learners to navigate these changes. Understanding how relationships are formed, developed and maintained enables children and young people to develop skills and attitudes to support them in their own relationships throughout their lives. These may include family relationships, friendships, professional relationships, romantic and sexual relationships. Learning about both relationships and sexuality supports young people to develop the knowledge and skills needed to make sense of their thoughts and feelings and to effectively navigate rapidly changing influences. Learners need to be supported to respond to these and, where appropriate, feel equipped to challenge harmful stereotypes and perceptions and seek help and support.

RSE has the potential to be transformative for learners and communities, it is important in empowering learners and in developing their critical thinking. Children and young people are navigating a range of complex and contradictory messages about relationships and sexuality that will shape their sense of self and their relationships with others. High-quality RSE provision will support learners to critically engage with what they are learning and experiencing. This supports them to understand their values and beliefs and to advocate for respect and understanding of others.

The Welsh Government believes all children and young people have the right to receive high-quality, holistic and inclusive education about relationships and sexuality. High-quality, holistic and inclusive RSE is associated with a range of positive and protective outcomes for all learners and their communities and can, for example:

  • help increase learners’ understanding of and participation in healthy, safe, and fulfilling relationships
  • help young people recognise abusive or unhealthy relationships and seek support
  • help reduce all bullying, including homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and increase safety and well-being for all learners
  • help all learners make informed decisions about sexual intimacy and reproductive health
  • help promote equality and equity of sex, gender and sexuality
  • increase awareness, knowledge and understanding of gender-based and sexual violence