Sexuality education for principals

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This page provides links to government and school-based support documents for principals and leaders when engaging in sexuality education.

The role of school leaders in sexuality education

School leaders provide the overall support for the sexuality education program. Generally this is through:

  • endorsing the development and ongoing provision of a program that best meets the learning needs of the student population
  • ensuring appropriate consultation through the school council
  • committing the necessary staff time and resources
  • supporting staff training to ensure teaching staff have the ability to teach and assess sexuality education against the Victorian Essential Learning Standards
  • demonstrating an understanding of the importance of sexuality education
  • communicating support for sexuality education to the school community
  • driving the ‘shared responsibility’ approach to sexuality education.

School policy and advisory guide

The health education section of the school policy and advisory guide provides an outline of sexuality education policy for government schools. This section includes specific reference to relevant Department of Human Services’ health policies. 

See: School Policy and Advisory Guide – Health Education Approaches

For a further outline of policy approaches and research see:

Sexuality education is a shared responsibility

In recognition of a shared responsibility for sexuality education, school leaders cultivate strategic partnerships with the local community and parents. Typically, the community agencies that are a part of this shared responsibility are already active in sexuality education in some way, such as through community health centres and local council youth programs. However, local peak bodies representing specific cultural groups may also have an interest in this area.

To be most effective, the shared responsibility partnerships reflect an integration of the different roles and responsibilities of those involved and an establishment of common goals.

Sexuality education is a complex and sensitive area and some local community group positions may differ from the school’s sexuality education policy.

In such circumstances, the school leader assists a community leader or group to understand the government policy position. This position states that the provision of comprehensive sexuality education is most effective when it has a whole-school learning approach and is underpinned by a strong research evidence base. 

Working with parents

The role of the parent or carer is a crucial part of the shared responsibility of sexuality education and the school leader actively supports the program’s parent engagement activities.

The Department intends that all students should receive a comprehensive health education and schools are not required to seek parental permission for the inclusion of sexuality education within the school’s health education. 

The role of the school council

School policy on health curriculum must be approved by the school council.

It is important for the school to assess the needs and interests of its students and parents, and decide on curriculum policies which reflect that assessment.

The school council has the responsibility to ensure that an appropriate structure exists for this assessment and that the structure involves the total school community (parents, teachers, community representatives, and, where appropriate, students).

The school council will need to give special attention to ensuring parents are part of the information-sharing process on the sexuality education health curriculum. For further information on parent information meetings, see: Teachers engaging parents

After an opportunity has been given for school community views to be made known and the school council has reached its decision, the principal and staff will have the task of deciding on the staff, the educational methods and the appropriate materials.

The school council has the continuing role of taking an overview of arrangements made to achieve policy. When policy decisions are being made, or debate occurs, it is the school Council’s role to address itself to ensuring that government guidelines and school policy are being met in the implementation of the program.

This process has been in place since the Guidelines for Health Education, Memorandum, Office of the Director-General, N.60 was issued on 10 December 1984.

Sexual diversity

Current research, such as Writing Themselves in Again – The 2nd Report on the Sexuality, Health and Wellbeing of Same-sex Attracted Young People (2005), has highlighted the importance for adequate support for young people dealing with issues related to same-sex attraction. Research indicates:

  • many students experience school environments that are harassing and humiliating as a direct effect of homophobia
  • suicide risk for same-sex attracted youth is at its highest in the months before they disclose their sexual orientation
  • schools that address these issues are making a difference.

Related information:

The supporting sexual diversity in schools booklet is designed to inform schools of approaches that are inclusive and respectful of sexual diversity. It also outlines schools’ compliance requirements under the Victorian Equal Opportunity Act 1995 and the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006. See:

The content of the booklet is supported by strong research evidence in the areas of suicide, harassment and discrimination. Principals should ensure all school staff are aware of the booklet’s content.

The booklet has been developed in consultation with the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Gay and Lesbian Health, Department of Human Services; the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University; and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

  • Safe School Policy – La Trobe Secondary College (pdf - 45.7kb)
  • This safe school policy has been provided as a sample for schools intending to review their policy to ensure safe learning environments for all. It is provided here with the permission of La Trobe Secondary College.

    For specific information relating to support for transgendered, transsexual and intersex youth, see: Prevention and support - Gender identity