Teachers need training to provide high-quality sexuality education to adolescents. The recent release of a new Australian health curriculum provides a timely opportunity to examine the experiences of Australian sexuality education teachers since the release of this curriculum.
Australian teachers who had taught sexuality education since the 2015 release of the national health curriculum (N = 239) participated in this cross-sectional survey between 2017 and 2018. Survey items investigated teaching and training experiences; comfort with, and hours spent teaching, sexuality education; and the topics taught. Analyses included comparative means, correlations, and a standard multiple regression.
Half of the sample taught health while the other half taught seven other subjects. Teachers who had received any training or professional development had higher scores on having had the “right” training (all ps < 0.005) and spent more hours on delivery of sexuality education (p ≤ 0.001); 10–20 h or more of training was more strongly affirmed as useful. Earlier training or professional development increased overall comfort, and comfort was the biggest predictor of increased content delivered (beta = − 0.278, p = 0.001). Training after new curricular requirements only aided comfort around “new material,” specifically, gender and sexual diversity (p = 0.007).
This study confirms that the amount and types of training received, perceived usefulness of that training, comfort delivering various parts of the curriculum, and the time spent in the classroom delivering sexuality education all support the delivery of high-quality sexuality education in schools.
Results indicate that any Australian teacher could be required to teach sexuality education. Therefore, universities should supply pre-service teacher training in sexuality education across all degree programs. Education leaders should supply early professional development for new sexuality education teachers to enhance overall comfort, and subsequent professional development focused on “new material” or updates.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
ACARA. (2016a). https://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/foundation-year-10/learning-areas-subjects/health-and-physical-education
ACARA. (2016b). Retrieved from https://www.acara.edu.au/curriculum/foundation-year-10/learning-areas-subjects
ACARA. (2020). Curriculum review: Process paper version 1.0. Retrieved from https://www.acara.edu.au/docs/default-source/curriculum/curriculum-review-process-paper-31-august-2020.pdf
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2015). Accreditation of initial teacher education programs in Australia. Retrieved from Melbourne: https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/national-policy-framework/accreditation-of-initial-teacher-education-programs-in-australia.pdf?sfvrsn=e87cff3c_28
Barr, E. M., Goldfarb, E. S., Russell, S., Seabert, D., Wallen, M., & Wilson, K. L. (2014). Improving sexuality education: The development of teacher-preparation standards. Journal of School Health, 84(6), 396–415.
Breuner, C. C., & Mattson, G. (2016). Committee on Psychological Aspects of Child and Family Health. Sexuality education for children and adolescents Pediatrics 138 2 e20161348
Burns, S., & Hendriks, J. (2018). Sexuality and relationship education training to primary and secondary school teachers: An evaluation of provision in Western Australia. Sex Education, 18(6), 672–688.
Byrne, J., Shepherd, J., Dewhirst, S., Pickett, K., Speller, V., Roderick, P., & Almond, P. (2015). Pre-service teacher training in health and well-being in England: The state of the nation. European Journal of Teacher Education, 38(2), 217–233.
Carman, M., Mitchell, A., Schlichthorst, M., & Smith, A. (2011). Teacher training in sexuality education in Australia: How well are teachers prepared for the job? Sexual Health, 8(3), 269–271.
Carmody, M. (2015). Sex, Ethics, and Young People: Palgrave Macmillan.
Cohen, J. N., Byers, E. S., & Sears, H. A. (2012). Factors affecting Canadian teachers’ willingness to teach sexual health education. Sex Education, 12(3), 299–316.
Collier-Harris, C. A., & Goldman, J. D. G. (2017). Could Australia have its own teacher professional standards for teaching relationships and sexuality education? Sex Education, 17(5), 512–528.
Dewhirst, S., Pickett, K., Speller, V., Shepherd, J., Byrne, J., Almond, P., & Roderick, P. (2013). Are trainee teachers being adequately prepared to promote the health and well-being of school children? A survey of current practice. Journal of Public Health, 36(3), 467–475.
Duffy, B., Fotinatos, N., Smith, A., & Burke, J. (2013). Puberty, health and sexual education Australian regional primary schools: Year 5 and 6 teacher perceptions. Sex Education, 13(2), 186–203.
Ezer, P., Jones, T., Fisher, C. M., & Power, J. (2019). A critical discourse analysis of sexuality education in the Australian curriculum. Sex Education, 19(5), 551–567.
Ezer, P., Power, J., Jones, T., & Fisher, C. M. (2020). Survey instrument: 2nd national survey of Australian teachers of sexuality education 2018.
Fisher, C. M., & Cummings, C. A. (2015). Assessing teacher confidence and proficiency with sexuality education standards: Implication for professional development. Pedagogy in Health Promotion: The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 1(4), 194–202.
Fisher, C. M., Reece, M., Dodge, B., Wright, E., Sherwood-Laughlin, C., & Baldwin, K. (2010). Expanding our reach: The potential for youth development professionals in community-based organizations to provide sexuality information. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 5(1), 36–53.
Goldman, J. D. G. (2010). The new sexuality education curriculum for Queensland primary schools. Sex Education, 10(1), 47–66.
Goldman, J. D. G. (2011). External providers’ sexuality education teaching and pedagogies for primary school students in grade 1 to grade 7. Sex Education, 11(2), 155–174.
Goldman, J. D. G. (2012). A critical analysis of UNESCO’s international technical guidance on school-based education for puberty and sexuality. Sex Education, 12(2), 199–218.
Goldman, J. D. G. (2015). UNESCO’s Guidance on puberty and sexual health education for students aged 9–12 years compared to an upper primary school curriculum. Health Education Journal, 74(3), 340–350.
Goldman, J. D. G. (2016). Can MOOCs enhance sexuality education? Sex Education, 16(5), 487–502.
Goldman, J. D. G., & Coleman, S. J. (2013). Primary school puberty/sexuality education: Student-teachers’ past learning, present professional education, and intention to teach these subjects. Sex Education, 13(3), 276–290.
Johnson, R. L., Sendall, M. C., & McCuaig, L. A. (2014). Primary schools and the delivery of relationships and sexuality education: The experience of Queensland teachers. Sex Education, 14(4), 359–374.
LaChausse, R. G., Clark, K. R., & Chapple, S. (2014). Beyond teacher training: The critical role of professional development in maintaining curriculum fidelity. Journal of Adolescent Health, 54(3), S53–S58.
Leahy, D. (2014). Assembling sexuality education: Realising the hopes of sexuality education through HPE. Paper presented at the Gender and Education Association Asia Pacific Biennial Interim Conference, Melbourne.
Long, R. (2019). Relationships and sex education in schools (England). Retrieved from https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/34770/1/SN06103%20%282%29.pdf
McKay, C., Vlazny, C., & Cumming, S. (2017). Relationships and sexuality education topics taught in Western Australia secondary schools during 2014. Sex Education, 17(4), 454–470.
Mitchell, A., Smith, A., Carman, M., Schlichthorst, M., Walsh, J., & Pitts, M. (2011). Sexuality education in Australia in 2011. Retrieved from Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/bd3c/48003fe45f9f03b2612044bb107364a63799.pdf
O’Brien, H., Hendriks, J., & Burns, S. (2020). Teacher training organisations and their preparation of the pre-service teacher to deliver comprehensive sexuality education in the school setting: A systematic literature review. Sex Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2020.1792874.
Ollis, D. (2014). The role of teachers in delivering education about respectful relationships: Exploring teacher and student perspectives. Health Education Research, 29(4), 702–713.
Ollis, D., Harrison, L., & Maharaj, C. (2013). Sexuality education matters: Preparing pre-service teachers to teach sexuality education. Retrieved from Burwood, VIC: http://dro.deakin.edu.au/eserv/DU:30052291/ollis-sexualityeducation-2013.pdf
Rhodes, D. L., Jozkowski, K. N., Hammig, B. J., Ogletree, R. J., & Fogarty, E. C. (2014). Influence of professional preparation and class structure on HIV, STD, and pregnancy prevention education. Health Education Journal, 73(4), 403–414.
UNESCO. (2018). International technical guidance on sexuality education: An evidence-informed approach. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000260770
WHO. (1998). Force for Change: World AIDS Campaign for Young People. Retrieved from http://data.unaids.org/pub/report/1998/19980424_force_en.pdf
This work was supported by the La Trobe University Full Free Research Scholarship.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Research Involving Human Participants
The questionnaire and methodology for this study was approved by the La Trobe University Human Ethics Committee (Ethics approval number: S17127).
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Ezer, P., Fisher, C.M., Jones, T. et al. Changes in Sexuality Education Teacher Training Since the Release of the Australian Curriculum. Sex Res Soc Policy 19, 12–21 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-020-00520-3
- Sexuality education