Important sexuality ed research underway

Important sexuality ed research underway

01 Dec 2009

A significant study into sexuality education in the Loddon Mallee region will provide an informed basis for professional development that will help to better equip teachers to deal with questions on the subject from their students.

Sex education chalkboardThe La Trobe University research will gain insight into the experiences, understandings and approaches of primary teachers and nurses who teach sexuality education, which can be confronting for even the most experienced teacher.

Health education lecturer at La Trobe University’s Bendigo campus, Cathleen Farrelly, said while community research shows that the majority of parents want schools to teach sexuality education, there are still a lot of issues around teachers feeling at-risk when teaching sexuality education.

‘This may include fear of backlash if they say something out of place, or feeling inadequate to respond to questions from students regarding sensitive or controversial issues.’

‘This study is significant because there is almost no research that explores teachers’ experiences, understandings of approaches to sexuality education, or their beliefs about the approaches they employ within primary schools.’

Ms Farrelly said there is discussion among some educators that comprehensive sexuality education should be taught to children earlier. This includes issues around relationships, families, and gender.

‘Children are reaching puberty much earlier. They are very aware of the world around them and are exposed to so many different forms of media. In Grades 5 and 6 the focus of sex education is on puberty. Issues such as sexual orientation for example are often not formally covered at the primary school level, yet we live in a world where an increasing number of children will have same-sex parents or members of their family are homosexual.

‘This research will also look at the approaches teachers take when responding to issues raised by children outside the subject area.’

‘If issues such as backlash, risk, or fear are identified as issues for teachers, we can feed that information into teaching training.

‘It is critical that teachers are supported and feel comfortable that what they teach and say is approved.’

Ms Farrelly is seeking primary teachers who teach sexuality education to participate in the study, which will involve a face-to-face interview.

For more information phone Cathleen Farrelly on 5444 7252 or email 

For more information on the Faculty of Education and courses, visit or phone 5444 7907.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Cathleen Farrelly, health education lecturer, Ph 03 5444 7252
Zerin Knight, Ph 03 5444 7375 F +613 5444 7526 M 0428 463 161




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