Teaching teens: the importance of learning about healthy relationships

08/04/2022

As part of the Home Office’s Safer Streets funding, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne has provided funds to East Sussex County Council to deliver ‘safe, healthy relationship’ education in secondary schools.

The support given by PCC Bourne has allowed for all state-funded secondary schools, including special schools, in East Sussex to have the opportunity to get a visit from AlterEgo Productions.

The company have devised a specialised theatre in education performance’ where, through acting and storytelling, young people are engaged in learning about safe healthy relationships, harmful behaviours, equality and respect. The funding has also enabled supporting lesson plans to go ahead, where young people can have conversations about what they’ve learnt and explore these topics further.

The performance and lesson plans come as part of an overall package that East Sussex Public Health, Children’s Services and the Secondary PSHE Hub have put together for secondary schools to focus on tackling violence against women and girls. The package complements and strengthens existing PSHE education support for schools specifically in the area of relationships, consent and harmful behaviours.

Last week, PCC Katy Bourne went to visit a secondary school that is setting a brilliant example in teaching Years 7-11 about healthy relationships. She watched the performance by AlterEgo Productions and spoke to performers in the show as well as some of the pupils who had watched it and are receiving the specialised PSHE lessons.

Sam Whittaker, Assistant Head Teacher at Seaford Head School has played a key role in helping to develop the programme. Speaking to Mrs Bourne, he said: “So far, the programme has received outstanding feedback from schools and young people. Over 90% of young people said the education programme has enabled them to understand harmful behaviours, consent and healthy relationships. A higher percentage of young people stated that they are aware of how to access support should they need to.”

Mrs Bourne also spoke with actors from the production who explained that their show had provided the opportunity for young people to speak-up about their own experiences and even come forward and disclose instances where they have felt unsafe or been at risk.

Actors Libby Goodwin, Liam Hynes and Jack Bentinck from AlterEgo Productions said that the show “really helps with the first step of somebody coming forward. For a few of the people who disclosed, we were the first people they’d ever told.” They said performing the show and being able to teach these important lessons to young people was extremely “rewarding and empowering.”

Students at Seaford Head School spoke to PCC Katy Bourne about what they thought of the show and how they’re finding their healthy relationship lessons in school. One student said that the show helped to “put things into perspective by adding examples of experiences and stories” and another mentioned how “it was very easy to take note of how this topic can be prevented.”

Reflecting on the visit and the programme being offered in secondary schools across the East of the county, PCC Katy Bourne said: “It’s important that young people know what a healthy relationship should be like and that they understand they have the right to feel safe and respected.

“I was so impressed with the theatre show and the way that Seaford Head School had really gripped these topics, which include educating about healthy relationships both in-person and online.

“The funding that has enabled the age-appropriate programme is available to all East Sussex state secondary schools. It plays a vital role in building the essential foundations that young people need to identify, prevent and report harmful behaviours as well as helping to provide them with additional information and knowledge about what to do if they feel unsafe.”