Fastn releases new research for RSE Day

Catherine Hine & Marwah El-Murad
24 June, 2021 : 17:04
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Parents are firmly behind their children learning about the importance of relationships for good mental health, strong friendships and supportive families.

That’s the overwhelming message of new research that Fastn are releasing today to coincide with RSE Day.

Almost all the 1,011 parents (96%) surveyed said it was important for schools to help children ‘understand and be prepared for’ friendships, while 82% said the same about sexual relationships and 92% said it about family relationships.

This is a great basis for schools to continue to engage with parents. For instance, by making use of Parentkind’s Blueprint for Parent Friendly Schools.

Many schools are already engaging parents on Relationships Education, adopting many of the Principles of Excellence in Relationships Education developed by Parentkind, Fastn, and others across the sector. The Principles can be viewed here.

However, our survey found that 46% of parents said they had not yet been contacted by schools about the new curriculum.

Relationships Education in all primary schools in England, and Relationships and Sex Education in all secondary schools, became a compulsory part of the curriculum in September 2020. But the full rollout was slowed because of the pandemic, and the Department for Education told schools the new curriculum must be implemented ‘no later than the start of the summer term 2021.’

Our relationships feel more important than ever. Positive, healthy, and dependable relationships help support our mental wellbeing and physical health, and offer us opportunities to thrive throughout life.

We are learning about relationships every day, because every day we connect with people around us, and those interactions have a powerful and lasting impact on our thoughts, attitudes and behaviours. In a time when almost all children and young people have been starved of many of the interactions they would normally have, learning how to recognise and nurture healthy relationships while they make up for lost time, is more important than ever.

For children and young people unable to witness and experience positive, healthy, dependable, and nurturing relationships, making up for lost time can take a lifetime. During childhood and adolescence, we learn how to engage with others from our parents, families, guardians and other responsible adults in our lives. We mimic the behaviour and emotions of those around us, and this early socialisation shapes how we understand and model relationship-forming behaviour throughout life.

Changes in family circumstances and composition and particularly conflictual relationships, can act to interrupt the forming of positive bonds, and have been found to impact negatively on academic attainment, as well as future attitudes to relationships. Children who don’t experience a positive home environment are left at a disadvantage when it comes to building their own personal toolkit to look after their mental health.

That’s why it’s vital that schools take the lead in providing high quality, inclusive RHSE that represents the diverse makeup of romantic relationships, friendships, and families today.

The good news is that, according to our survey, parents are on their side. Many parents recognise that they too are still learning. One in five parents (20%) of said their child was not confident in ‘talking about their moods and emotions with you or their friends’. One in 10 parents said they themselves feel ‘not that confident’ or ‘not confident at all’ in talking to their child about either their own or their child’s mental health.

Working together, schools and parents, have a real opportunity to create an environment where positive relationship ambitions are celebrated and children are able to thrive.

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Catherine Hine & Marwah El-Murad

Catherine joined Fastn as CEO in June 2018. Prior to this, she led and advised programmes and campaigns tackling poverty and inequality nationally and internationally for over fifteen years and observed first-hand the key role that family and dependable relationships have on life outcomes.

Catherine is a Non-Executive Director at Smallwood Trust, a charitable foundation supporting women experiencing financial disadvantage, and recently completed an MBA including research on how employers can best support employee families to thrive.  Catherine has two young daughters, one of whom is at primary school.

Fastn believes that we should all have the same chances to enjoy a thriving family life. We champion the skills that sustain positive relationships throughout life, making inclusive, committed and compassionate future s possible for all. We do this by connecting and inspiring people to influence and promote the healthy, dependable relationships that support thriving families in all their forms.

Marwah joined the Mental Health Foundation in 2019. She manages the Foundation’s universal and education-based programmes, supporting families, children, and young people to look after their mental health, in school, college, and university settings.

She is passionate about amplifying service users’ voices and facilitating coproduction to ensure initiatives are service user-led. 

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