Academy to trial new compulsory sex education lessons in Mansfield

Mark Cottingham, principal ofShirebrook Academy
Mark Cottingham, principal ofShirebrook Academy

A Mansfield academy is set to trial a new sex education programme, ahead of its national roll-out in 2020.

Shirebrook Academy, in Common Lane, is an early-adopter for the compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) material, which will introduce new topics such as mental health and online safety.

Other topics will include sharing explicit photos and online pornography, sexual and gender identities, and relationship education.

The lessons aim to teach students to stay safe online, and to be accepting of all gender identities, amongst other subjects.

Mark Cottingham, principal of Shirebrook Academy, said: “This curriculum isn't radically different to what we have already been teaching.

"The government hopes that by 2020, all sex education will be compulsory.

"We've always taught these subjects anyway, so we agreed to be an early-adopter for this material.

"It's very different to how sex education has been approached in the past. Many adults now will remember being taught about contraception and avoiding pregnancy, but now young people are coming across a range of issues.

"They are being exposed to things online at an earlier age, and need to understand that some of the things they see online are not representative of a normal, healthy relationship.

"We did survey parents before we agreed to adopt the material, and it was received positively.

"It has been controversial, when people don't understand what it is.

"We are not showing pornography to students, we are just teaching our students to keep safe and sensible, and be tolerant of others.

"These lessons are important - education is about more than just passing exams."

The lessons will be taught from year seven to year 11, at an age-appropriate level.

Shirebrook Academy runs a number of support programmes for staff and students, including a strong LGBT support group, while it was also among the first schools in the country to recruit mental health first aiders.