Most parents back relationship education in schools

Updated: Jul 6


Image credit: NeONBRAND

Most parents think their children should learn about mental health management and relationships in schools, according to new figures.


In a poll of 1011 English parents with children in primary or secondary school, 92% of those surveyed think it is important for young people to be taught about how relationships can impact mental health.


The same survey found that 95% of parents believe that schools should help young people understand mental health and wellbeing management.


When asked for reasons behind these opinions, 96% of parent said it was important for children to understand and 'be prepared for' friendships, with 82% and 92% of parents saying the same about sexual relationships and family relationships, respectively.


But despite the clear enthusiasm from parents, few are aware of these subjects being taught to their children: just 42% of parents could recall communication from their children's school about Relationships and Sex Education.


Relationships Education, and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary school, has been a compulsory part of the national curriculum since 2020, but not all schools teach the subject because of delays caused by the pandemic.


The Department for Education has insisted that the curriculum should be taught at all schools by the beginning of the summer term this year.


"Parents clearly want support in talking to their children about relationships and mental health," said Catherine Hine, chief executive of Fastn – the charity that partnered with the Mental Health Foundation to carry out the survey. "I know from my own experience as a parent that schools have a really positive role in helping with that.


"Talking about and experiencing healthy, dependable relationships supports children to thrive throughout life. Parents are keen to make the new statutory curriculum work with schools."


Read more: Most young people think mental health should be discussed in class

In addition to findings around the need for school education about relationships and mental health, the survey also uncovered opinions on what should be included.


Almost all parents (93%) said that understanding what constitutes sexually abusive behaviour, such as harassment, was important to teach children.


Comfort in communicating about mental health was also discussed in the survey, with very few respondents (20%) saying that their child was confident talking about their mental health.


One in 10 parents themselves felt 'not that confident' or 'not confident at all' talking about the subject with their children.


"Relationships matter for young people and can help shape their lives," said Marwah El-Murad, programmes manager for Families, Children and Young People at the Mental Health Foundation. "This survey shows there is some way to go but also that parents are willing to engage in conversations about complex subjects with their children.


"We all want healthy relationships and the more conversations about them between parents, pupils and teachers, the better equipped they will be to deal with concerns about mental health.’


To read more about the survey results, read the full blog post by Survation here.

Written by Marco Ricci

Editor and contributor for Talking Mental Health