Family Stability Network and Centre for Social Justice polling of young people and their attitudes towards Relationships and Sex Education

The Centre for Social Justice and Family Stability Network commissioned an opinion poll of young people aged 14-17 in England to understand their views on changes to the provision of Relationships and Sex Education. This survey was conducted by Survation between 13th-15th December 2017. Survation polled 1,011 young people aged 14-17 living in England and weighted the results to provide a representative sample of opinion. Full results including methodology can be found in Appendix 1.

RSE should reflect the ambitions of young people, not just the here and now:

72 per cent wanted relationship education to help them understand how to build long term lasting relationships as an adult.

Young people want Relationships Education to helping them understand the how to build a long term, lasting relationships as an adult. The legislation requires schools to teach young people about the impact of relationships on health and the characteristics of a healthy or unhealthy relationships but when we asked polled young people aged 14-17 about these aims and their relationship goals they felt helping them understand how to build long term, lasting relationships was just as important.

Achieving a lasting relationship in adult life is just as important to young people as their career ambitions:

Almost eighty per cent (78 per cent) of 14-17 year olds in England think a long term, lasting relationship in adult life is just as important (or even more important) to them than their career ambitions.

We invest heavily in careers advice for young people but they aspire to a lasting relationship just as much as a good job.

Despite growing up in the shadow of widespread family breakdown, achieving a lasting relationship as an adult is still important to older teenagers:

A long term, lasting relationship in adult life is important or very important to 77 per cent of teenagers.

Relationships Education needs to reflect this aspiration, it isn’t just about better relationships today. Young people are ambitious for lasting relationships as adults despite more than half of young people growing up with experience of their own family breaking up.

Young people want to get married as adults, RSE shouldn’t ignore marriage:

Eight in ten (78 per cent) teenagers (aged 14-17) want to get married. Only 4 per cent of teenagers rule it out completely.

Not only do young people want a lasting relationship in adult life, they aspire to get married. Relationships Education shouldn’t ignore the word ‘marriage’ and the ambition of young people to get married as adults.

There is a long way to go in understanding why marriage matters:

When we asked young people if they agreed or disagreed with the statement ‘being married is no different to just living together’ 41 per cent agreed while 39 per cent disagreed.

Young people are evenly split when it comes to understanding the important role of marriage as more than just another kind of relationship. This confusion should be addressed by a more ambitious approach to RSE in schools and online. There is a long way to go in supporting young people in their ambition to get married and understanding why it is important.

RSE needs to go beyond the classroom:

More than half of young people (58 per cent) are looking for relationship information and advice online. Young people are least likely to go to a teacher for advice (29 per cent).

However more than four out of ten (42 per cent) teenagers are clear there isn’t enough good information and advice online.

Despite all the time spent online ‘real life’ conversations with friends and parents remain important with 72 per cent telling us they go to friends in person for advice and 66 per cent saying they were likely to talk to their parents.

Going beyond the classroom with better online provision needs to help young people and parents have better real life conversations.

Achieving their relationship goals is harder than ever for young people:

A majority (56 per cent) of young people think that forming a lasting relationship is harder now than it was for previous generations.

We need to do more to help young people achieve their aim of a long term, lasting relationship in adult life. The need to promote the ingredients of stability has never been more important or urgent.

This article was first published on the website of the Centre for Social Justice, and is republished with permission. You may not use, copy, distribute, publish, syndicate, sub-license and transmit the whole or any part of such material in any manner and in any format and/or media without the permission of the original publishers.

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