Anne Barlow News

Working Out Relationships Youth Panel

18 February 2021

Despite the lack of tea and cake, over 20 inspirational young people and their leaders joined the Youth Panel on the 16th February. Participants came from Devon Schools and Community Groups as well as the Family Justice Young People’s Board whose members represent young people who have had experience of the family justice system.

The Panel was brought together as part of the Wellcome Beacon project, Healthy Relationships across the Life Course, involving Exeter Law and Medical School colleagues interested in the links between relationships and young people’s mental health. Ideas are being co-developed with young people around what they would like to get out of the new Relationship Education curriculum. This, for the first time, places stress on learning about relationships in schools, rather than just about sex, as well as discussion of issues which face children when their parents separate.

The two strands of the Beacon project reflect these developments. The first strand of research has been focusing on Healthy Relationship Education (HeaRE) and what skills young people want or need to recognise, develop and maintain ‘healthy’ relationships. The second, Healthy Relationship Transitions (HeaRT), has been considering what knowledge, skills or processes are wanted or needed to help young people manage the breakdown of relationships – their own or their parents – should these occur – and how these might best be discussed in the classroom.

The panel all took part in breakout sessions focusing on the themes which had emerged from the research about how to communicate these issues to diverse communities of young people. Very strong and consistent views were expressed by the Panel that the voice of young people needs to be heard on these important matters much more clearly, through the education system and beyond.

Discussion topics included, Is the classroom the best place for children to learn about relationships and parental separation issues? Are there other forums or support young people should access? Is child inclusive mediation, where children can also speak to a mediator about the arrangements they would like to see when their parents separate a good idea? What input and outcomes do young people want to see in relationship education? How can this be done in an age appropriate way?

The research team, Anne Barlow, Simon Benham-Clarke, Jan Ewing and Tamsin Newlove-Delgado will now go on to finalise the project, making sure these views reach a wider audience. They aim to publish their findings this year, sharing them with all the groups who participated.

Enormous thanks to all who took part, including Coombe Dean School, the Youth Parliament, Torbay Rural Area Youth Engagement Project, the Family Justice Young People’s Board and Young Devon.



Anne Barlow News

Working out relationships? Free teaching materials for PSHE lessons

18 August 2020

Working out Relationships? is a fun and interactive two-part lesson plan for use in PSHE classes for Key Stage 4 pupils devised by Prof. Anne Barlow and Dr Jan Ewing at Exeter Law School. It is based on an idea which came from the findings of an interdisciplinary research study on relationships where they worked with local schools. These lesson plans were then tested by schools in Devon in an ongoing project (HeaRE) funded by the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health.

The lesson plans will help support teachers to bust common myths about the ‘perfect relationship’ to manage young people’s expectations. They use a gym theme to show that, like getting fit, relationships are fun but require work.

From September 2020, relationship education (rather than just sex education) will be compulsory in all schools. Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education classes will be updated to ensure that young people learn both how to build and maintain healthy relationships and how relationships can affect physical and mental health and well-being.

In response to these changes to the curriculum the new teaching resources, developed by the University of Exeter, were launched in July 2020 and have recently been awarded the prestigious PSHE Association’s quality mark, only given to selected resources which are at the leading edge of effective teaching practice in PSHE education. The resources are freely available to schools, and can be downloaded from the Working out Relationships webpage.

WCCEH is looking forward to seeing more of these resources as the team behind Working out relationships? continues their research in their WCCEH-funded project, HeaRE.



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