Tender’s Healthy Relationship Education Project

Tender has been developing and delivering the Healthy Relationship Education Project over the last seven years and has worked with more than 160 schools and pupil referral units.

The project is informed by knowledge of young people's attitudes and experiences, gained through surveys and research, which show that violence is normalised for some young people, with sexual coercion and violence seen as tolerable elements of a relationship. Fifty per cent of young people know someone who has been sexually assaulted or raped (CWASU, 2006).

Young people have repeatedly said that the relationships element of SRE is the most neglected. A survey of over 1700 young people found that 92 per cent had learnt about 'the biology of sex and reproduction' but only 21 per cent had learnt 'skills for coping with relationships' (Sex Education Forum, 2008).

The Model
The Tender project encourages young people to think deeply about what a healthy relationship means. This involves exploring concepts such as respect, trust, sexual consent and communication. The project is drama-based, which has the benefit of being engaging and fun for young people, enabling them to practice strategies and ideas in a safe space.  Drama also has a distancing effect, whereby young people can explore the emotions and decisions of characters rather than focusing on their own personal experiences.  Drama is able to encourage groups to work together as teams, increase individual confidence and raise self esteem.

Tender have devised a model for delivering the Healthy Relationships Education project in schools. In each school a pair of trained arts facilitators (one male and one female) work with a group of young people aged 13-18 through 10 hours of workshops, to become whole-school champions of healthy relationships. The project aims to:

  • EDUCATE young people about the violence and abuse perpetrated in relationships.  There is a particular focus on the early warning signs of abuse e.g. controlling, isolating behaviour.
  • EXPOSE attitudes that condone and conceal abuse and sexual violence in the lives of young people and challenge those attitudes with facts and an understanding of the consequences.  So attitudes that blame victims for the violence they experience and excuses that may be given for perpetrator violence, are explored and redressed.
  • ENABLE young people to seek support and use the services available if they, or someone they know, are suffering from abuse.

The group of young people is then supported to prepare a performance or presentation, which is showcased to other young people and also to parents, carers and families. Tender's own evaluation of audience experiences have shown that:

88% have more knowledge about where to seek support and advice

95% have more understanding of what healthy/unhealthy relationships are

79% understand women are most likely to be victims of violent relationships

All young people involved are invited to continue campaigning around the issues after the life of the programme, by becoming one of Tender's Youth Ambassadors and individuals are invited to join the Young Person's Liaison Group.

Teacher Training
Alongside the direct work with young people, Tender also deliver teacher training to groups and individual teachers within each school.  The training offers teachers an opportunity to look at the material contained within the project and also to develop a basic awareness and understanding of the key issues for victims experiencing violence and abuse. The delivery of the work with young people always involves a teacher so that they are then equipped to see how the work can develop.   A teacher pack provides session outlines and resources which can  support them to deliver the work independently following the departure of Tender.

Evaluation
Teachers and young people taking part in the project complete pre and post-project questionnaires. These have been developed in consultation with partners including the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London University and CRG Ltd. Results from the questionnaires show that young people's knowledge about how prevalent relationship abuse is, what the early warning signs are and how to support themselves and others, increases after the project. Some results from Tender's 2007-09 evaluation found that:

  • 90% of students felt that they had learnt something from the project
  • 79% of teachers noted changes in most pupils and 92% felt that the changes noted in their students were positive.
  • Male satisfaction responses were very high but lower than females so the project team is planning to work with young men to identify how the risks of alienating them can be minimized.

National Reach
Over the last seven years the project has grown from strength to strength and is now receiving invitations to work with schools outside London.  Many projects are able to be offered to schools free of charge with funding coming from a range of sources including Comic Relief. 

Tender is currently developing a franchise model designed to support a national roll out of the programme.  Next year Tender will work with 4 partners across the UK to evaluate the effectiveness of other organisations taking on the model and delivering it within their own settings.

Key features:

  • The project supports young people to look in-depth at relationship issues - an aspect of SRE that is often neglected
  • Learning includes knowledge, skills and attitudes
  • The project model gives young people a platform to communicate to their peers and also their parents and carers
  • The project model equips teachers with the skills and information to support the young people with whom they work and to continue to deliver their own work around the issue.

References

CWASU (2006) Challenging a violent future: Final Report of the Evaluation of the Trust Education Theatre Project
Sex Education Forum (2008) Key findings. Young people survey on sex and relationships education. London: NCB
CRG Ltd (2009) An Independent Evaluation of the TRUST Education Project

Published on the Sex Education Forum web-site June 2011