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New tools to help teachers support students during Covid-19 and beyond

25 June 2020

Emma Renold

The wellbeing of young people will need to be a key focus for teachers following Covid-19, a Cardiff University expert in education says.

Professor EJ Renold’s research focuses on how children learn about a range of topics including feelings and emotions, friendships and relationships and gender and sexuality. It has informed the vision of the new Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) curriculum in Wales, a statutory part of Wales’ new curriculum from 2022.

Today, Professor Renold launches CRUSH, a professional learning resource for teachers to help them prepare for how the new RSE curriculum will be taught. In addition, since the Covid-19 lockdown, Professor Renold has devised  creative workshop activities for teachers specifically aimed at addressing the impact of the pandemic with students.

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Professor Renold, based in the School of Social Sciences, said: “The impact of the lockdown for children and young people has huge implications for their mental health and wellbeing. It is vital that teachers are supported with tools and techniques that enable them to listen to young people about how they are feeling and what support they might need as they navigate their way through this extremely difficult period, as well as in the years to come.”

CRUSH: Transforming RSE is a practitioner resource which draws upon AGENDA: supporting children and young people in making positive relationships matter. The resource  uses the findings from an innovative professional learning programme and provides teachers with examples of best practice, including a creative audit designed to offer different ways to listen to young people about what matters to them, a glossary of terms and key background information to give context to the changes being made to Wales’s RSE provision.

RSE in Wales is changing. At its core, it will offer a curriculum that is co-produced with children and young people. CRUSH is a resource packed with ideas and best practice for how primary, secondary and special schools are preparing for the new RSE. A key innovation in the resource is how teachers are using creative methods to learn from and act upon what children and young people need so that it is relevant, empowering and inclusive.

Professor EJ Renold Professor of Childhood Studies, Cardiff University

CRUSH is accompanied by a film, Making Space: Transforming RSE in Wales which shows what a ‘creative audit’ looks like in practice.

AGENDA during Covid is a separate series of creative activities which can be used as a starting point for teachers and young people discussing issues and feelings that have surfaced since the lockdown. The National Education Union (NEU) has already recommended AGENDA as a resource to support students’ social and emotional needs during Covid-19.

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The Children’s Commissioner for Wales Sally Holland said: “Children and young people repeatedly tell me they want high-quality and informative Relationships and Sex Education [RSE]. Professor Renold’s CRUSH resource supports teachers to develop RSE in a relevant and creative way that is research-led and child-informed.

“CRUSH supports professionals to enable children and young people to understand emotions, friendships, relationships and sexuality. Children need these opportunities to experience their human rights.  These rights include the right to accurate information, to safety and protection from harm, to non-discrimination, to a holistic education, and to active participation in decisions that affect their life.

“I’m also pleased that a separate teaching resource, AGENDA during Covid, has been developed for children and young people to discuss how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected them. As part of my Coronavirus and Me survey I heard from nearly 24,000 children and young people and while some have thrived during the lockdown, some have struggled with their emotional and mental health as a result of being isolated from friends and family."

As schools re-open it is important that teachers are equipped to support children’s wellbeing as they adapt to changes to their lives.

Sally Holland The Children’s Commissioner for Wales

Ros McNeil, Assistant General Secretary at the NEU said: “Supporting the mental health and wellbeing of pupils must be a priority for all schools now and long after lockdown ends.  The AGENDA during Covid-19 resources are timely and important to help schools centre student voice and respond to what children and young people are feeling and experiencing during this time.  We are delighted to be working with Professor Renold to deliver training to our members on AGENDA and to support best practice in RSE.”

Kelly Harris of Brook Cymru said: “It is fantastic to see how the important AGENDA resource has evolved and created a new legacy in the new and exciting CRUSH resource. CRUSH is a timely and important resource for professionals as they start to get to grips with the changing landscape of RSE within Wales as it provides information, guidance and activities to help support professional development, but never loses the voices of the children and young people.”

Professor Renold wishes to thank Central South Consortia, Cardiff University and the Economic and Social Science Research Council for part-funding the CRUSH resource.

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