Questions teachers and schools ask
Can condoms be given out to high school students?
The Growing and Developing Healthy Relationships curriculum support material reflects a philosophy where abstinence from sexual activity for school-aged students is the key focus. It also emphasises a positive preventative approach, harm reduction and safer sex strategies without necessarily normalising sexual activity for school-aged students. Where appropriate, condoms may be used during a health education lesson on contraception. It is not, however, the school's role to distribute condoms to students.
The Department of Education does not support the installation of condom vending machines in secondary schools.
Secondary school students have access to school health nurses who can provide developmentally appropriate information on sexual health, including contraception. If appropriate, students may be referred to relevant health services.
Health and Physical Education provides students with the skills and knowledge required to develop and maintain positive healthy relationships. It develops students' abilities to make informed and responsible decisions about health and well-being for themselves and others; and develops the skills needed to make informed decisions in a range of contexts, including healthy relationships and sexual health.
Does the Department of Education have guidelines and policy about sexual health and relationships education?
There are no specific Departmental guidelines or policies governing public schools on sexual health and relationships education (SRE). Individual schools are encouraged to develop school-specific guidelines to address a range of health-related issues. School guidelines/policy for SRE should include areas such as professional development for teachers; guidelines for guest speakers; teaching resources; and communication with parents.
Do teachers need to inform parents they are implementing relationships/sexual health education with their class?
It is strongly recommended that teachers/schools communicate clearly with parents and caregivers about the nature and content of health-related programs, including relationship and sexual health education. This could be for example, through the school council agenda, newsletters, and parent events or through a letter from the teacher/school. Research indicates that the majority of parents support the provision of sexuality education at school but want to be informed when it is happening to support and complement the program.
If a parent or caregiver subsequently chooses to withdraw their child from a lesson and has followed he required procedure for exemption, teachers need to ensure that an alternative teaching and learning activity is provided to enable achievement of the same learning outcomes as other students. For further information, please refer to the Exemption from Particular Classes Guidelines from the WA Department of Education.
Further information for parents can be found in Talk Soon. Talk Often. A Guide for Parents Talking to Their Kids About Sex.
How early should you introduce the names of body parts?
It is recommended and age appropriate that students as early as kindergarten learn the correct names of their external body parts, including sexual parts, for example, penis, vulva, breast, testicles and buttocks (or bottom). Knowing these names enables a child to communicate clearly if they need to get help; and in particular in cases of abuse or injury. The classroom teacher should communicate with parents/caregivers with adequate notice to ensure they understand the concepts and proposed learning sequence their child will be participating in.
How should younger students be taught about resilience?
Resilience and emotional wellbeing go hand in hand. These are important concepts to teach in the junior primary, early childhood years as this is when younger students may need support to identify their own personal strengths. Identifying and describing their own strengths and achievements and those of others form the basis of persistence, understanding change and the transition and change in identity.
Must teachers be trained to teach sexuality education?
No, but it is highly recommended. Effectively dealing with sensitive and controversial issues can be difficult. It is important for teachers to ensure their personal values and beliefs are not imposed upon their students when these issues and situations arise.
Quality professional learning enables teachers to further develop their skills and knowledge in teaching sexual health.
What about the issue of young people looking at pornography on the internet?
It is normal for young people to be curious about pornography, and to look at it on the internet, it is also absolutely normal for them to be disinterested in pornography!
Viewing pornography can be a very destructive means of early education about sexuality and relationships. It’s very important for young people to understand that graphic and sensational pictures of naked men and women, body parts such as breasts, vaginas (vulvas), penises and all manner of sexual intercourse positions may seem exciting, but it’s simply not reality.
Pornography has the potential to negatively impact on sexual experiences. It can shape what and how young less experienced people think sex will be like; how they believe men and women should look and how they should act sexually.
Pornography commonly portrays women and sometimes men enjoying the experience of being treated badly, even violently. This is usually a completely false representation of what is really going on.
A useful discussion question about pornography could be prompted by asking students "Why is it that pornography does not show sex as a loving kind of thing?"
What happens if parents want to exempt students from sexual health and relationships education?
In WA government schools there is provision for parents to apply for their child to be exempt from specific learning experiences.
This process can be located in the Exemption from Particular Classes Guidelines (WA Department of Education).
Teachers and schools then must ensure that reasonable efforts are made to provide alternative means for exempted students to achieve the same outcomes as other students. Parents must be advised that the student’s achievement and assessment may be adversely affected by exemption from particular classes.
What if a student discloses abuse?
Everyone working in schools is responsible for the care and protection of children and the reporting of concerns about child protection. The Department of Education’s Child Protection Policy explains the actions to be taken by staff to protect children in circumstances where abuse is suspected or when allegations of child abuse are made.
How to make a report
Once a disclosure of sexual abuse is made or suspicion is strong, school personnel must make a report to the Department for Child Protection and Family Support’s Mandatory Reporting Service.
A verbal report can be made, but this must be followed by a written report as soon as is practicable, preferably within 24 hours.
Once a report is made, the Mandatory Reporting Service will:
acknowledge receipt of the report
provide the Western Australian Police with a copy of every written report
make enquiries and an assessment to take the necessary action
assist the Western Australian Police, who may undertake a separate investigation.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. In most cases it’s caused by a virus, but it may also be caused by alcohol, drugs, or other medical conditions.
The three most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
- Hepatitis A is an acute infection of the liver and is found in the faeces (poo) of people with the infection. It is usually spread by eating or drinking contaminated (dirty) food or water.
- It can also be spread by close personal contact with an infected person (including sexual contact).
- Hepatitis A can be prevented with a vaccine.
- Deaths from hepatitis A are rare, but some people get very sick.
- Hepatitis B is mainly passed on by blood-to-blood contact - when infected blood enters another person's blood stream.
- It can also be passed on through sexual contact.
- Hepatitis B can be prevented with a vaccine.
- Most adults recover completely from hepatitis B, and can't get it again. Some people go on to develop a lifelong infection and this can lead to scarring of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure.
- Hepatitis C is only transmitted through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person.
- In Australia, most infections are caused by sharing drug injecting equipment like needles and syringes.
- Most hepatitis C infections develop into a lifelong infection and can lead to scarring of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure if left untreated.
- New hepatitis C treatments have a cure rate of 95% or higher. For most people the treatment course is only 8-12 weeks, with only mild or no side effects. General practitioners (GPs) can prescribe hepatitis C treatment.
- However, even if a person is cured of hepatitis C, they can be re-infected with the virus again, so it is important to practice safe behaviours.
Testing for viral hepatitis is via a few simple blood tests.
What professional development opportunities are available for teachers to learn more about relationships and sexual health education?
Effectively dealing with sensitive and controversial issues can be difficult. It is important for teachers to ensure their personal values and beliefs are not imposed upon their students when these issues and situations arise. Quality professional learning enables teachers to further develop their skills and knowledge in teaching sexual health.
Professional learning opportunities are available for teachers through the Curtin University SRE Teacher Training Project. Check out the Events and PD section of this site for more information.
What resources are available for students and parents who home school?
Useful resources are the ‘Puberty’ series - Girls and Boys in Puberty. A good approach is to have boys learn about what also happens for girls (and vice versa). The Relationships, Sex and Other Stuff booklet is for teenagers (13 years or older).
The comprehensive publication Talk Soon. Talk Often. A Guide for Parents Talking to their Kids About Sex aims to increase the confidence of parents when talking to their children about relationship and sexuality topics.
Sexual Health Quarters also have many resources available for free or low cost.
What should teachers do if they receive questions from parents?
Listen carefully to queries and answer where possible.
The FREE Booklets section of the GDHR website lists resources that parents can access to support relationships and sexuality education within the home.
If questions of concerns are about policy or procedure, teachers should seek support from the school's principal. The Department of Education is also available for support.
Who can provide additional sexuality education and information sessions for students and come to the school as a guest speaker?
Guest speakers can add interest and relevance to school-based relationships and sexuality education programs. However, this strategy should not be used in isolation but should complement other learning opportunities. Refer to the WA Health Promoting Schools Association Guidelines for Engaging Guest Speakers for more information.
There are two possible avenues for teachers to access external support and guest speakers for sexuality education in schools:
The School Community Health Nurse. Many school health nurses are involved in supporting teachers in the delivery of sexual health education for primary and secondary school students. There is variation in the sexual health-related skills, expertise and work programs between school nurses but it is worth checking out if they can be involved.
External agencies provide guest speakers on aspects of relationships and sexuality education in WA schools. For example, Sexual Health Quarters provides support for school sexuality education. Fees may be charged for providing these services.
Why is there more than one needle for the HPV vaccine?
The current HPV vaccine (Gardasil9) is 2 doses (2 needles) which protects against 9 strains of the HPV virus. The previous HPV vaccine (Gardasil) had 3 doses (3 needles) and protected against 4 strains of the virus. All doses of the vaccine are needed for best protection against HPV and the only way to obtain its full benefits and protection.