UCL News


New resources to support the delivery of Relationships and Sex Education

12 January 2023

Resources to support the Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) curriculum, have been co-developed by a UCL researcher.

young teenagers

Professor Cath Mercer (UCL Institute for Global Health) worked alongside colleagues at Cardiff University, The Open University and the sexual health charity Brook, on the Engaging Sexual Stories project.

Researchers used creative arts and online technologies to produce a range of free-to-use bilingual resources, which are available on The Open University’s OpenLearn platform.

The resources, which include quizzes, animations and interactive articles, have been informed by Britain’s National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) – of which Professor Mercer is also a Principal Investigator.

Researchers hope that the Engaging Sexual Stories project will make findings from Natsal more accessible to people beyond the scientific community. The survey is one of the largest scientific assessments of sexual behaviour in the world. It was first run in 1990 and has taken place every 10 years since.

Professor Mercer said: “For over 30 years, Natsal has had major impacts on policy and practice and played a key role in the public’s conversations about sex and sexual health. But these new, interactive, and evidence-based resources take the public’s engagement with Natsal to a new level.”

As well as providing support and guidance for educators working in secondary schools, project resources are relevant to professionals working in the area of sex and sexual health. By using Natsal-3 survey findings, OpenLearn interactive resources enable visitors to explore facts about sex and sexual attitudes in Britain – such as where and how people first learn about sex, and at what age they become sexually active.

The team launched the resources at a special event in the Welsh Parliament’s Pierhead on Thursday 12 January 2023, sponsored by Jenny Rathbone MS.

Professor EJ Renold (Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences) said: “As a new era for learning about relationships and sexuality begins in Wales, it is vital that teachers and practitioners are given the best, evidence-based training to ensure the new curriculum truly fulfils its aims.

“We hope these new resources will empower and inspire professionals in Wales and more widely across the UK, and ensure that the wellbeing of children and young people remains central to their education.”

The materials have been developed with funding from the Wellcome Trust.

Relationships and Sex Education became compulsory in secondary schools in England in 2020.

Professor Jacqui Gabb (Professor of Sociology and Intimacy at The Open University) said: “We all think we know about sex, but this knowledge is premised on hearsay and personal experience.

“People need evidence-based information on sex to dispel the urban myths of sex. The OpenLearn resources enable sexual health practitioners and the general population to learn about sex through interactive resources that are freely-available, engaging and fun to use.”



Media contact 

Poppy Danby 

E: p.danby [at] ucl.ac.uk