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Working Out Relationships Youth Panel

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.

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