Ortho­dox ready to teach re­la­tion­ships

The Jewish Chronicle - - EDUCATION - BY SI­MON ROCKER

A NEW pro­posal to make re­la­tion­ships ed­u­ca­tion com­pul­sory in schools has re­ceived ini­tial sup­port from a strictly Ortho­dox um­brella group.

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ortho­dox Jewish Schools (Na­jos) last month op­posed Labour MP Stella Creasy’s move to strengthen teach­ing of the sub­ject be­cause of fears it might pose prob­lems for some re­li­gious schools.

But now, an amended ver­sion, pro­posed by Con­ser­va­tive MP David Bur­rowes, ap­pears to have al­layed Na­jos’s con­cerns.

It will be con­sid­ered as an amend­ment to the Chil­dren and So­cial Work Bill, which is go­ing through Par­lia­ment.

If ac­cepted, re­la­tion­ships ed­u­ca­tion would be­come a statu­tory part of the na­tional cur­ricu­lum. Pupils would learn about how to recog­nise a healthy re­la­tion­ship, re­spect oth­ers, han­dle bul­ly­ing and un­der­stand on­line safety. It would also en­sure they were pro­tected from teach­ing and ma­te­ri­als which are “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” for their age or re­li­gious back­ground. Ju­dith Nemeth, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Na­jos, said “these amend­ments en­sure that those schools who feel the need to ed­u­cate their pupils in sex and re­li­gious ed­u­ca­tion in its en­tirety will be able to do so and those who — ei­ther for re­li­gious rea­sons or be­cause of parental re­quest —would rather scale it down, will be able to.” She said mak­ing re­la­tion­ships ed­u­ca­tion com­pul­sory was “good news for all”. Ed­u­cat­ing chil­dren about healthy re­la­tion­ships was the fo­cus of a day long con­fer­ence last week con­vened by Reshet, the cross-com­mu­nal net­work for in­for­mal ed­u­ca­tors, which at­tracted around 100 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from

Jewish youth groups, schools and syn­a­gogues.

Top­ics ranged from man­ag­ing stress to the in­flu­ence of in­ter­net pornog­ra­phy.

In a key­note ad­dress, Natasha Devon, co-founder of the Self-Es­teem Team, which gives work­shops in schools on men­tal health , said young peo­ple were in­creas­ingly call­ing for “in­for­ma­tion on healthy re­la­tion­ships and con­sent”.

They wanted in­for­ma­tion on “the emo­tional as­pects” of re­la­tion­ships, not just the me­chan­ics of sex.

They also wanted to cover “friend- ship as well as ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships — how to have a healthy re­la­tion­ship with their peers and within their friend­ship groups, and not all to just be fo­cused on the sex­ual as­pect.”

Reshet’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Shel­ley Marsh said the con­fer­ence was vi­tal for train­ing ed­u­ca­tors to sup­port young peo­ple.

The Jewish com­mu­nity, she said, was “a mi­cro­cosm of the wider world. Our young peo­ple have the same is­sues and we are see­ing symp­toms of anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion, eat­ing dis­or­ders and self-harm in young peo­ple in­creas­ing.”

PHOTO: BLAKE EZRA

Natasha Devon

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