Healthy, Positive Sexual Expression and Relationships

The NSPCC’s Head of Policy, Almudena Lara, has commented: ‘The NSPCC firmly believes that every child should be taught from an early age about consent, different relationships, and what abuse and harassment is, so that they learn they have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.’ (BBC News – School pupils to be taught about relationships)

How we interact with others can have a significant impact on our well-being and mental health. In a healthy relationship, we can feel supported and confident. In an unhealthy relationship, we can lack confidence and self-esteem.

Children and young people should learn about healthy relationships in an inclusive and safe school environment. Schools must ensure that all pupils, and their family relationships, are treated with respect. Pupils who are, for example, from same-sex families or looked after by grandparents or carers, must not be discriminated against or stigmatised.

This area of the RSE Hub signposts to resources and guidance information that can help teachers, parents/carers, and children and young people explore how to build positive relationships, and recognise and respond to age-appropriate behaviours.


Relationships education in primary schools should focus on exploring positive, respectful relationships with family and friends. It should also explore keeping safe, making appropriate decisions, and developing resilience and self-worth to meet the challenges of today’s world.

Children should be able to recognise and distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships (both online and offline) and who to go to for support if they need it. They should learn:

  • what a relationship is;
  • what friendship is;
  • about establishing boundaries and appropriate and inappropriate touch; and
  • how to recognise risk, responding safely and appropriately when they encounter adults that they may not know.

Useful Links

Here are some links that we think are particularly useful for this topic:

Primary Healthy Relationships Links105 KB - uploaded 01-04-2019

Living.Learning.TogetherOur resource, for 5–11 year olds, encourages children to become personally, emotionally and socially effective, recognise how they relate to adults and other children, recognise and respond to bullying, and be aware of who and what influences their behaviour at home and in school -

Relationships and Sexuality Education Guidance – An Update for Primary SchoolsSection 1 of our guidance highlights the importance of effective RSE in helping children learn about friendships, healthy relationships and behaviours with others.

NSPCC Learning – PANTS resources for schools and teachersCovering topics like naming body parts and knowing which parts should be private, this page includes a lesson plan, presentation, teaching guidance and resources for parents/carers -

NSPCC Learning – Making Sense of Relationships Key Stage 2 Lesson Plan 2: Changing FriendshipsThis lesson plan explores the benefits of friendships and the positive, safe and healthy ways to manage them -


Learning about healthy, positive relationships at Key Stages 3 and 4 should build on the RSE covered at primary school. It should go further in exploring issues around risk-taking, sexuality and intimate relationships, both online and offline. It should teach young people how to recognise healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviour, recognise and manage risk, and respect themselves and others.

They should understand that healthy relationships have a positive effect on their mental health and well-being, and recognise the negative and potentially long-lasting impact of unhealthy relationships. Teachers should deal with issues around healthy relationships in a sensitive way.

Young people should explore the range, qualities and behavioural aspects of different relationships, including families, friends and romantic relationships, and the positive qualities people bring to healthy relationships. They should also be able to:

  • identify the features of a positive, healthy relationship (such as good communication and mutual respect) and contrast them with the features of an unhealthy relationship (such as coercion and manipulation);
  • start to explore the meaning of romantic relationships and sexual attraction;
  • relate the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, and recognise how power inequality can negatively affect romantic and sexual relationships;
  • recognise risk and risk-taking behaviours; and
  • develop skills and strategies to mitigate risk for themselves or to help others to manage risk.

Young people should also demonstrate what it means to treat others in a relationship with fairness, dignity and respect. They should be aware of who to go to if they need help and the range of specialised support services available to them in their local communities.

Useful Links

Here are some links that we think are particularly useful for this topic:

Post Primary Healthy Relationships Links111 KB - uploaded 01-04-2019

Making sense of relationships( NSPCC and PSHE)Complete suite of 12 lesson plans

Insync Year 8 Theme 9: Relationships and Sexuality
Insync Year 9 Theme 9: Relationships and Sexuality
Insync Year 10 Theme 8: Safety and Managing RiskThese sections of our resource cover topics like managing difficulties and risk within relationships and developing close personal friendships -

Relationships and Sexuality Education Guidance – An Update for Post-Primary SchoolsSection 1 of our guidance highlights the importance of effective RSE in helping young people to develop the skills to build healthy and respectful relationships.

Childline – Healthy and Unhealthy RelationshipsAimed at young people, this page features information and videos on making sense of how they feel and what to do if they feel unsafe -

NSPCC – It’s Not OKIncluding lesson plans, films and activities, these resources can help pupils recognise concerning behaviour and identify characteristics of positive relationships -

NSPCC Learning – Making Sense of Relationships Key Stage 3 Lesson Plan 1: Healthy RelationshipsThis lesson plan explores healthy relationships and can help pupils to recognise healthy and unhealthy behaviour -

NSPCC Learning – Making Sense of Relationships Key Stage 4 Lesson Plan 2: Unhealthy RelationshipsThis lesson plan focuses on unhealthy relationships and can help pupils to learn how, where and when to ask for support -