Teacher Training Model Sustains Improvement to School SRE

The quality of SRE in schools is seriously limited in cases where teachers lack competence and confidence.  Young people have repeatedly highlighted the problem of teacher embarrassment and lack of knowledge. Research with teachers in England has found knowledge levels wanting; in one study many teachers were confused about the difference between HIV and AIDS with six per cent failing to identify HIV as a sexually transmitted infection (Westwood and Mullan 2007). But lack of confidence is perhaps a bigger barrier than lack of knowledge - for example teachers have described their anxiety about using correct terminology for genitalia and concerns about how to handle personal questions.

Teacher training does not necessarily include any content on SRE and only very few teachers (3 per cent) reported that SRE was covered adequately in their Initial Teacher Training (Sex Education Forum 2008b). Given the poor starting point, opportunities for teachers to gain specialist SRE training are invaluable. As one secondary teacher explains: '"SRE is only as good as the staff who deliver it".

The Christopher Winter Project (CWP) has developed a model of in-class teacher training that is carried out entirely within the school site and school time. This means that schools do not have to find cover for teachers and enables teachers to build their skills directly with their own pupils. The CWP in-class training model is structured in three stages:

1)    Lesson One: the CWP trainer leads the lesson with the teacher observing

2)    Lesson Two: the CWP trainer and teacher team teach

3)    Lesson Three: the teacher leads the lesson supported by  the trainer  

Before the first lesson the CWP trainer holds an initial meeting with the teacher. This meeting is an opportunity to discuss the lessons and any concerns the teacher may have.  Each of the three lessons is followed by reflection and evaluation time. The type of issues that are discussed include how to answer pupil questions, what language to use, assessment of learning and teacher confidence and skills.  Teachers complete evaluation forms before and after the sequence of lessons. The purpose of the form is to help teachers identify questions at the start of the programme and to assess the teachers' individual needs. A pupil needs assessment is also built into the programme so that the three training lessons are responsive to the class. Evaluation from children and young people has found that following the lessons, many pupils feel more able to discuss sex and relationships and to ask questions without embarrassment.

Teacher evaluation has been extremely positive, with 95% of participants saying that they have more confidence and ability to teach SRE after the programme. As few as 2% of teachers feel they need further training the following year and this is usually because they go on to teach a very different age group from the group they had their training with. The in-class training is based on the CWP schemes of work and lesson plans included in the Teaching SRE with Confidence series.  Schools are encouraged to adapt these to meet local need.

When recruiting teachers to take part CWP explains to schools how important it is that teachers are willing to participate. Often, a teacher who was initially reluctant to take part has come on board later when they have seen the benefits for colleagues.

In some areas, for example Cornwall, local authority SRE advisors who have received CWP training have rolled out the teacher training model themselves. This ensures that after the duration of the CWP input schools can go on increasing the number of teachers who are confident and capable to teach SRE. However in some cases local authority cuts have resulted in schools approaching CWP directly where local authority SRE advisors are no longer in post.

The CWP project began as a small project working in Hackney in 2001. The training model has since evolved with the development of resources for Years 1 to 13, including evaluation tools. A  CWP Trainers' Handbook ensures consistency across the service and trainers have the skills to now offer 'training the trainers' as well as in-class training.  The model has now been used in 27 local authority areas across England. The team of CWP trainers has grown by 50%. In 2010-11 487 teachers received in-class training, including 16 teachers in the Falkland Islands. Despite current financial challenges some schools that had previously been given funding for CWP training are now prepared to self-fund.

CWP have a team of specialist SRE trainers who are supported with mentoring, in-house training, classroom observation and opportunities to meet regularly with other trainers. Individual schools can contract CWP services but more often a more substantial collaboration is made with the local authority.

Paula Power, Director of CWP says "Our belief in the value of school-based SRE, delivered by confident teachers, has proven contagious. Schools appreciate the support CWP gives them and are using our training as part of school continuing professional development, recognizing that the CWP approach improves teaching and learning in all areas of the curriculum".

In conclusion, the CWP model is practical and convenient for schools to manage and offers a sustainable model to increase the number of teachers who are competent and confident to teacher SRE. 


For further information contact:Paula Power, Director, The Christopher Winter Project. Email: paulapower@tcwp.co.uk


Published on the Sex Education Forum web-site June 2011