Back to top

Distancing techniques

29 October 2020

How do you feel about the prospect of asking and answering questions about sex? ‘No personal questions’ adorns virtually every ‘Working Together’ agreement in the land, but how do we teach about the lived experience of sex and relationships without answering the practical questions? How did you feel the first time you had to explain what the clitoris is, or demonstrate condom use, or answer that old favourite of year 9… ‘how do gay people have sex?’

And that’s us as professionals, trained askers and answerers, the captain of our ship. Imagine now what it must feel like to be 14, or 4, and how the prospect of asking and answering questions about our bodies or our values around sex and relationships must feel… anxious, embarrassed, exposed, wary. Fold into that the extra challenges of having additional learning needs, and it’s no wonder that sometimes our learners with SEND find RSE so challenging.

For us to support our learners to fully access the learning in our RSE classrooms, we must find a way for them to step back from the question, and answer without feeling that they have to share their personal experience, but to reflect on wider experience of society, and respond with empathy and balance. What I am looking for is an answer that begins “somebody might…” rather than “I have…”

Distancing techniques are a well-documented tool to support teaching and learning in RSE. There are a range of approaches, including creating and using characters to explore an idea, asking learners to respond to media, or developing answers from a shared starting point. 

Distancing techniques in RSE serve to put an identifiable space between the difficult subject and the individual learner, so that the question does not become a ‘what do you think?’ line of approach but  ‘what might they think?’ instead. It takes away the need to know and gives permission to try. It validates the individuals’ values and supports the learners to disagree and debate without anyone feeling personally compromised. It enables those tricky questions to be answered.

Case studies, realistic scenarios  and role play are frequently reported as being tools that help learners with SEND. Acting out a scene, or taking a character on a journey of choices can be a very powerful device to unpick and explore a complex adult theme in a safe and supported way.

Join me on Wednesday 4th November for a 75 minute webinar exploring the benefits of distancing techniques in RSE. We will explore ways to bring real life scenarios into your lessons, and consider how using characterisation and role play can support all learners, especially those with additional needs to understand the nuances of social situations. Relevant to teachers and subject leads in both mainstream and special education settings, we will develop your confidence to use these distancing techniques in your classroom through creative activities and sharing best practice. 


Rachael Baker
Senior RSE Specialist, Sex Education Forum 

October 2020

For more information and to book your ticket, please visit our training calendar.