Helping students build healthy relationships

Issue: Volume 98, Number 17

Posted: 10 October 2019
Reference #: 1HA0J3

Improving young people’s understanding of positive relationships and how to form their own healthy relationships is the aim of a programme available free to schools.

After research from the 2012 Youth 2000 survey revealed some sobering figures around young people’s experiences in their relationships, work was done to develop programmes to help educate and support young people.

In the survey of 8,500 secondary students, 15 per cent reported experiencing some form of unwanted sexual contact. Students who experience sexual harm often struggle in silence and do not reach out for support. This is borne out in the survey results, with 57 per cent of those students telling no one about their experiences.

Research shows 15- to 24-year-olds are the age group in New Zealand most at risk from physical, psychological and sexual victimisation as well as for harming others.

Sharing stories

“There are many aspects of a young person’s life that school, family, sports coaches, doctors ... all of us older people who interact with them know nothing about. They remain hidden until we provide the right opportunities for the young people to share them with us,” explains Ratika Rai, subject matter expert for ACC’s Mates & Dates programme.

“We need to work together and provide multiple opportunities for young people to share their stories and connect their understandings with the learnings we offer.”

Building positive relationships requires a comprehensive approach, which can include social and emotional learning (SEL), violence prevention education and critical reflection. However, many health education teachers can feel trepidation at the thought of violence prevention education; and with good cause. It can be a thorny area that can lead to unexpected revelations, calling for specialist external supports.

Working with facilitators

Programmes such as Mates & Dates provide expert facilitators who work in with the school’s curriculum and other external programmes.

“Our facilitators come in as a team with the expertise in sexual and dating violence prevention, healthy relationships and working with young people,” says Ratika.

“The programme is free to schools and designed to complement other initiatives schools already have in place. Facilitators are able to support school staff in managing disclosures that arise from the programme. It’s a collaborative, inclusive approach ...”

International research has shown that, if done in line with best practice, school-based violence prevention achieves results. It improves students’ ability to relate to each other without conflict, which has positive impacts on attendance, academic results and disruptive behaviour in and around school.

“... if young people have healthy relationships at school and home, that can support them to do better academically,” confirms Ratika.

For more information see:

Mates & Dates(external link)

Helping students form healthy relationships (external link)


BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:08 am, 10 October 2019

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