Postgraduate students from the School of Education are participating in a collaborative research project with students from the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Politics at Sheffield Hallam University as part of the Sheffield Relationships and Sex and Education Task Group. The Task Group has been established by Sheffield’s Sexual Health Network group and is chaired and administered by SAYiT, a local organisation that works with young people and professionals to provide practical support around LGBT+ life, sexual health, HIV and mental wellbeing for young people in Sheffield. The group aims to enable Sheffield schools to plan and prepare for the government’s policy changes to sex and relationship education, which will be instituted in September 2020. The changes, brought in by then-Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening, emerged through amendments to the Children and Social Work Act (2017), and will make it a requirement that all schools in England – primary and secondary, maintained and academy – teach sex and relationship education (SRE) in some form.
Lydia Hall, Yan Zhao, and Amy Davison, of the School of Education, are completing their MA dissertations through the Task Group. The students are working with three postgraduate MRes students from Sheffield Hallam University, Tracey Holland, Rebecca White, and Chloe Froggatt, who are being supervised by Julia Hirst, Professor of Sexualities and Sexual Health at Sheffield Hallam. In collaboration, the students will be carrying out research into Sheffield schools’ readiness for these significant changes to the SRE curriculum. A National Education Union (NEU) survey revealed that although 91% of school leaders and teachers feel that SRE should have a regular slot in school timetables and be an integral part of the school curriculum, only 29% of respondents felt confident that their school would be ready to deliver by the September 2020 deadline. The aim of the research, then, is to find key ways to support schools in Sheffield in their commitments when developing SRE curricula – in particular to support schools around new expectations around LGBT inclusiveness, emotional and intimate relationships and the realities that new social technologies bring to our sexual and intimate lives.
The students are being led and supervised by Dr Kirsty Liddiard, School of Education and iHuman Research Fellow and author of The Intimate Lives of Disabled People (Routledge, 2018), and have become members of the Task Group. Thus far, they have attended key meetings and are developing the Task Group’s work alongside a range of professionals from the NHS, Sheffield City Council, as well as community organisations such as SAYiT.
Yan Zhao said, “It is a big challenge but meanwhile a great learning opportunity for me to be participating in this project as a member of the Task Group. I hope my research work could contribute something from a stance of the eastern culture.”
Amy Davison said, “As a masters student, it really is very exciting to be apart of a project which is so current. Hopefully our research will provide much needed data to ensure local schools are supported. I am looking forward to working with Kirsty and the rest of the team.”
Lydia Hall said, “I am thrilled to be taking part in the RSE project with Kirsty, Amy and Yan. I feel this is an excellent opportunity to be involved with research that has the potential to positively impact on children and young people’s relationships and sexual health, but also to gain direct research experience in a current project here at the University of Sheffield”.