New research finds Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) is falling seriously short of what young people need

Only half (52%) of young people believe Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) classes give them a good understanding of toxic and healthy relationships, new SafeLives research suggests.
SafeLives, a UK-wide charity working to end domestic abuse, heard from more than 1,000 students and 60 RSE teachers in secondary schools across England – through a series of surveys, interviews and focus groups.

The report, “I love it, but I wish it was taken more seriously”, published today, reveals significant gaps in the delivery and quality of statutory RSE classes, despite the curriculum receiving its first update in twenty years, in 2019.

We’re being taught this stuff too late and, at this point, I feel like...the information that we have, either we learnt it from our parents or we learnt it on the internet because the school really doesn’t do much to help us with these types of topics.


I love it - but wish it were taken more seriously by my school. They get two hours a year in an assembly format.


At SafeLives, we are passionate about stopping abuse before it starts, and education is the single most powerful preventative tool we have.

Our team has found some glaring gaps in the delivery of this new guidance. RSE should be equipping young people, often engaging in their first intimate relationships, with the support, knowledge and confidence to navigate relationships safely and healthily. Instead, students feel let down and that they should be getting much more out of these classes - leaving many, especially boys, looking online for answers.

It’s shocking that 10 out of the 21 young people we spoke to, who had been withdrawn from some or all sex education, said they don’t speak anyone about RSE outside school. It can't be right that some schools champion this important work, while others neglect certain areas - and it is disappointing that young people are sometimes removed from these lessons altogether.

We mustn’t have a school lottery when it comes to supporting and teaching young people about crucial issues that affect their wellbeing and safety – as young people and as they become adults.

We want to see schools across the country embedding a whole-school approach to RSE, where all members of a school community - students, staff, parents and governors - ensure RSE is prioritised and teachers are provided with the resources and time they need to build trust with their students

Chief Executive of SafeLives, Suzanne Jacob OBE

Read the report

An exploration of relationships and sex education in English secondary school settings

"I love it but I wish it was taken more seriously"

Notes to Editors

SafeLives’ research into the quality and delivery of the RSE curriculum builds on and reinforces the calls by several partner organisations working in this space:

  • Girlguiding have called for better quality relationships and sex education to tackle violence against women and girls, after their Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2022 found one in five girls in England don’t feel safe at school.
  • Domestic abuse charity Tender has invested in developing and delivering an effective Whole School Approach programme to prevent abuse and promote healthy relationships amongst young people.
  • In 2021, in response to an Ofsted review which found that sexual harassment in schools and colleges is widespread, End Violence Against Women and partners across the Domestic abuse and VAWG sector wrote a letter to the Education Secretary calling for the creation of a taskforce that will drive the Whole Schools
  • Approach in schools and to ensure that RSE is not sidelined after Covid disruption.
    SafeLives welcome the leading recommendation of the review, which we have campaigned for, that a ‘whole school approach’ is needed so that schools and college leaders can create a culture where sexual harassment and online sexual abuse are not tolerated.

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