Charity Awards 2024

Tender Education and Arts

Using drama to teach pupils about healthy relationships

Those aged 16 to 25 are statistically recognised as the age group most likely to experience abuse in a relationship. However, a 2016 Sex Education Forum Survey found that almost half of teens had not discussed with a parent or carer how to tell when a relationship is abusive, or discussed the meaning of sexual consent.

TenderThe updated Relationships, Sex and Healthy Education (RSHE) curriculum became mandatory in 2020 but while its content was considered an improvement on previous versions, schools received little follow-up support, training or funding to implement it effectively. A survey of over 2,000 teachers found that 28% believed their school was not ready to deliver the new RSHE curriculum, and 47% lacked confidence in their own ability to teach it.

In 2021, as schools welcomed students back after lockdowns, they reported a tsunami of disclosures relating to domestic, sexual and online abuse. However, in light of the huge pressure to regain academic ground and mitigate coronavirus infections on top of their regular workload, dealing with such disclosures was difficult for schools and the need for accessible, specialist guidance was high.

Tender had been running its unique drama-based approach to educating young people about healthy relationships in schools across London since 2003. In 2020, the charity developed and piloted its Relationships Education: Schools’ Equality Toolkit (RE:SET) with five schools. RE:SET involves students, teachers and parents/carers in a programme that comprises teacher training, student mentoring, drama role-play lessons and a curated online resource.

Following the pilot, 93% of young people said they had more understanding of healthy and unhealthy relationships. Tender has now secured a grant from the London Violence Reduction Unit to deliver RE:SET in 70 schools across London, in partnership with NurtureUK. RE:SET is being offered to all schools in seven boroughs over three years, with schools prioritised by the urgency of local need, using metrics such as absences, exclusions, special educational needs and domestic abuse incidents. The project cost per pupil is just £37.

Charity Awards judge Rachel Cockett said it was a “very valuable and much-needed programme”.

Chris Sherwood praised the way the project brought in issues such as coercive control and healthy relationships as a way to help teachers meet the curriculum requirements, rather than it being delivered as part of sex education. “I liked the healthy relationships element, and using drama as a mechanism to deliver it.”

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