Research reshaping relationships and sexuality education wins award


Research which has enabled children and young people to speak out about gender and sexual violence, helping to transform relationships and sexuality education in Wales, has attained a prestigious national award.


Professor Emma Renold’s pioneering participatory research with children and young people has won her £10,000 for Outstanding Impact in Society in the 2018 Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Celebrating Impact Prize.


Professor Renold’s research has sparked youth activism on sexual injustice and violence, contributed to new Welsh legislation on gender and sexual violence, and shaped the fundamental overhaul of relationships and sexuality education in Welsh schools announced by Wales’s education secretary, Kirsty Williams, in May 2018.


Her prize-winning achievements include:

  • Co-creating a ground-breaking guide that supports young people to raise awareness of gender-based and sexual violence in schools and local communities. AGENDA: A Young People’s Guide to Making Positive Relationships Matter is an online toolkit produced in partnership with young people that supports them to speak out creatively and safely on gender and sexual injustices and violence using innovative methods such as visual arts, poetry, dance and theatre.
  • In the first 12 months since its launch, the guide was used by 1,400 young people, 1,000 practitioners, 500 teachers and 100 academics. Forty young people were trained as AGENDA youth ambassadors and some of these shared the toolkit resource with the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children and at the UN headquarters in New York.
  • Professor Renold’s research education’s role in preventing gender and sexual violence was extensively cited by the Welsh Government in the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (VAWDASV) Act, passed in 2015.
  • As a member of the Welsh Government’s National VAWDASV Advisory Group, Professor Renold helped develop the Welsh Government #thisisme campaign to challenge harmful gender stereotypes that underpin gender and sexual violence.
  • Professor Renold chaired the Cabinet Secretary for Education (Wales) expert panel that concluded that the Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in schools was often too biological and too negative, with insufficient attention given to rights, gender equity, emotions and relationships. These findings led to an overhaul of the SRE curriculum. From 2022, the new ‘relationships and sexuality education’ will be embedded in the Welsh curriculum rather than taught as a separate subject and will cover wider issues such as consent, domestic abuse and respecting diversity.


“Young people are increasingly speaking out about how gender and sexual harassment and violence impacts their lives and others,” Professor Renold points out.


“Over the past seven years we have been co-creating research, engagement events, forums and the AGENDA resource with young people to ensure their views are heard and acted upon,” she says.


One example of workshop activities is a skirt made from grafittied rulers, designed by students as a creative response to boys lifting up girls’ skirts with rulers. Students wrote the negative things they wanted to stop and the positive things they want to change on rulers. The rulers were then tied to a belt forming a skirt to demonstrate against unwanted touching and abusive comments.


“Without AGENDA we wouldn’t have started our health relationships group ‘We are More’ in our school. We can make a change in society with AGENDA, and change is what is vitally needed right now,” explains Llayda, an AGENDA youth ambassador from Mountain Ash Comprehensive School, Mountain Ash, Wales.