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Sex and relationship(s) education: an examination of England’s and Northern Ireland’s policy processes

Cavender, Dana Ann; (2015) Sex and relationship(s) education: an examination of England’s and Northern Ireland’s policy processes. Doctoral thesis , UCL Institute of Education. Green open access

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This thesis presents the first in-depth ‘home international’ comparison examining England’s and Northern Ireland’s policy processes with regard to making sex and relationship(s) education a statutory component of their national curricula for secondary schools. Drawing on policy network analysis, advocacy coalition and political decisionmaking literature more broadly, this study focuses on how policy actors in both regions conceptualise the debate around sex and relationship(s) education. It extends the ‘values in sex education’ discussion and focuses on the specific values informing policy discussions, as well as those embedded within/excluded from relevant policy texts, and the centrality of power around who or what groups are influential in shaping policy. Informed by a social constructivist epistemology and utilising a mixed method, case study design, this study’s data include Northern Ireland Assembly and Westminster Parliament Hansard transcripts, relevant legislation and statutory policy texts, and semi-structured interviews with 32 elected representatives, civil servants, third sector representatives, academics and local school practitioners. Employing thematic and content analysis to each text, a framework was created for both the England and Northern Ireland cases to determine how policy actors in both countries approach sex and relationship(s) education and the values driving policy development arguments. Cross-case comparisons indicate that SRE policy-making in England is primarily made through a closed, ‘top down’ policy strategy with the authoritative power of the ruling government overshadowing the perceived reputational power of those within the larger SRE policy network. Meanwhile Northern Ireland adopts a more open, partnership sharing, ‘ground up’ policy strategy toward RSE with relatively little influence from Members of the Legislative Assembly within the policy-making process. This study’s findings offers a new conceptual framework for understanding the different factors that shape the sex and relationship(s) education policy-making systems within both countries and provides a tool for possible policy learning in these countries more widely.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Sex and relationship(s) education: an examination of England’s and Northern Ireland’s policy processes
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Sex education, sex and relationships education, SRE, England, relationships and sexuality education, RSE, Northern Ireland, policy-making process, values
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10021703
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