AGENDA comes from the Latin “things to be done”, “matters to be acted upon”. Supporting children’s rights to be heard and make a difference on matters that affect them is central. While change-making weaves throughout the resource, it’s the learning and experiencing of the process, not the outcome, that matter the most.
AGENDA is full of ideas, information and stories to help you build safe, supportive, inclusive and engaging environments for children and young people to speak out and share what matters to them. The resource offers multiple examples (see the word cloud on the homepage) of what is possible to explore and how, and clear signposting on support and advice on safe-guarding issues. AGENDA demonstrates that good RSE provision is all about listening to children and young people and working in partnership with other agencies. It is about building relationships and connecting different points of view and expertise (children’s and adult’s).
AGENDA has been written as a series of suggestions for you to build on creatively. Creativity can encourage new responses to familiar or unfamiliar ideas, feelings, movements, concepts or situations. Working in the creative mode, such as story-telling, crafting, movement or music enables us to become more aware of what matters to children. By using a wide range of expression you can create spaces for children to feel, think, question, and share sensate, sensitive or difficult issues, without revealing too much of themselves. In effect your teaching is what makes the AGENDA as you work creatively with what children and young people tell you.
Too often, children and young people learn about relationships and sexuality through negative stereotypes that are often gendered, racialized, sexualised, classed and ableist with the stress on shame and blame. AGENDA starts from a positive approach which affirms and accepts children and young people’s experiences and enables them to be explored sensitively. It does this by giving children and young people a range of creative ways to express feelings and ideas, which can be empowering when it emphasises that children and young people are not alone and that many share their experiences. AGENDA encourages a collective approach to RSE issues. It invites children and young people to forge alliances with others and act on the injustices in their own and others’ lives and well-being.
AGENDA takes a wide lens to explore how positive relationships matter with children and young people in all their difference and diversity.Many of the case studies support a rights-respecting relationships and sexuality education that is embedded in the context of equity, social justice, safety and well-being. The resource will provide you with ideas of how you can safely and creatively explore with children the impact of uneven power relations in society. Many of the case studies are about advancing gender equity and equality. They also address sexuality and relationship rights and freedom from gender-related and sexual inequalities, oppression and violence.
Curiosity is at the heart of AGENDA. By starting with curiosity, we can strive to recognise ‘what matters’ to children and young people as we teach RSE. Providing opportunities to create interactive and agentic spaces that invite children and young people to speak out on what matters to them and in ways that nurture collective thought, understanding, debate and action for change is a key feature of the resource.
Children learn about gender, relationships and sexuality long before they start school (e.g. from advertising, books, social media, television and from family members and peers in their communities).
Schools are key sites to learn from and respond to children and young people’s evolving ideas, questions and needs on a range of RSE issues, from body image to consent.
Relationships can be formed within and between people, but also with, for example, deities, places, objects, animals and nature (e.g. pets, a favourite toy, the environment).
Inter-personal relationships can include a range of associations and bonds between, for example, family members, peers, relatives, adult civil and marriage partnerships and with a whole range of others (e.g. neighbours, shopkeepers etc.). Relationships introduce children to a range of feelings (e.g. affection, closeness, care, fear, love, obligation, power, powerlessness, respect, trust) which shift and change throughout the course of their contact with others. Some relationships are very brief, others are life long. Some relationships are regulated by law, customs, rituals and mutual agreement.
Human relationships are shaped by a range of societal norms (e.g. gender norms) and operate in the context of shifting, uneven, unequal or abusive power relations.
‘Gender’ is used in this resource to refer to how sexed bodies are lived (e.g. as identity, as expression, through social interaction), represented (e.g. in language, media, popular culture) and regulated (e.g. by socio-cultural norms, such as the stereotypes of ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’, and in law).
While the concept gender can include the different ways societies assign chromosomes or body parts to sex categories, it is not synonymous with sex, and does not only refer to gender identity or gender expression.
It is a concept that allows for analyses of gender as an organising principle of society (e.g. how gender shapes and is shaped by economic, environmental, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors). As a concept, it also enables an exploration of how different societies address the intersection of biological, socio-cultural and psychological processes.
‘Sex’ is used in this resource to refer to the biological processes and attributes that societies use to assign sex categories (e.g. male, female, intersex). These biological attributes include chromosomes, hormones and internal and external physical sexual and reproductive anatomy.
‘Gender identity’ is used in this resource to refer to a person’s inner sense of self. Gender identity does not necessarily relate to the sex a person is assigned at birth. Feelings about gender identity start early, around the age of 2-3.
‘Gender expression’ is used in this resource to refer to the outward signs that people use to communicate their gender identity (i.e. inner sense of self). This can include, for example, preferred pronouns, choice of name, style of dress and appearance, mannerisms and behaviour.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition of sexuality informs this resource. They define sexuality as “... a central aspect of being human throughout life that encompasses sex, gender identities and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors.” (WHO 2006, 2010). See further WHO definitions of sexual health and sexual rights here.