Whole-school sexuality education

The most effective school-based sexuality education programs take a whole-school approach to learning.

A whole-school learning approach recognises that the young person’s whole experience of attending school is one of continuous learning. Hence, a whole-school learning approach to sexuality education means teaching sexuality education in the classroom, in the school environment, in the way the school routinely runs itself, and in the various ways the school connects with parents and the surrounding community.

There are countless ways a school can build on the classroom learning and teaching activities through a whole-school learning approach. Over time, a school can identify opportunities and build on these.

Examples include:

  • ensuring all routines, programs and activities are inclusive of student diversity
  • supporting activities that celebrate diversity
  • ensuring school policy is consistent with and supports the teaching in sexuality education programs
  • recognising that the sexuality education of Victorian young people is a shared responsibility and promoting ongoing partnerships with parents, local groups and agencies
  • evaluating sexuality education programs following the occurrence of school critical incidents (for example, incidents of bullying, sexual assault etc.)
  • ensuring responses to critical incidents, discipline measures and support for student wellbeing informs the learning in the sexuality education program
  • recognising that issues-based sexual health education and prevention programs (for example, chlamydia prevention, prevention of unwanted pregnancies) are an important component of, but not a substitute for, whole-school learning in sexuality education
  • providing targeted learning programs for those assessed to have a specific sexuality education learning need (for example, new arrivals).

Whole-school sexuality education model

This model provides an overview of considerations for ensuring a whole-school learning approach when developing a sexuality education program in your school. A detailed version of this model with a student learning emphasis is provided on Teaching programs.

Using a whole-school approach for sexuality education (extract)

This article is an extract of a literature review commissioned by this Department:

A whole-school learning approach is based on the health promoting schools framework. Further information on this approach and the health promoting schools framework can be found on Teaching programs.

The whole-school approach  a global perspective

Different countries and international organisations use different terms to reflect a whole-school approach. In June 2007, education and health experts from 30 countries and United Nations agencies participated in the development of a statement (including a Call for Action) that reflects a whole-school approach to health education (Technical meeting on building school partnerships for health, education achievements and development, Vancouver, 5-8 June 2007).

The statement, titled 'Schools for Health, Education and Development - A call for action', provides a useful general overview of the whole-school approach:

Values in sexuality education

The provision of comprehensive sexuality education that embraces a whole-school learning approach, and is in partnership with parents and the local community, ensures a school’s program is open to a values conversation that allows individuals to reflect on their attitudes and positions.

The role of government

The Department of Education and Training (The Department) in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), provides evidenced-based policies, professional training, program development support and curriculum resources.

This established partnership, and the active liaison with other government departments and agencies, reflects the recognition that the sexuality education of Victorian young people is a responsibility shared between schools, parents and carers, and the local community.

The Department is committed to supporting sexuality education programs that are accessible and relevant for Victorian young people and is continually developing further initiatives to support schools.

The role of schools

School leaders provide overall support for the school-based sexuality education program and drive a shared responsibility approach with parents or carers, and the local community. More information is available on For principals.

Teachers ensure an integrated, cross-curriculum approach and a connection and integration with other health-related activities, such as school nursing and student wellbeing initiatives, and promote a whole-school learning approach.

Teachers assess and report student achievement against the Victorian essential learning standards.

The role of the parent or carer

The role of the student’s parent or carer is an essential element of the shared responsibility of sexuality education, and the school leader actively supports parent engagement activities.

The parent’s role includes providing the family perspective and responding to learning opportunities in the home. More information is available on For Parents.

The role of the local community

Many local community health centres and local council programs support schools through providing health advice, professional learning activities, and through developing a shared understanding of local needs and trends.

Some local centres also manage a library of resources that can be shared amongst schools, and a venue for peer support amongst professionals.