During the 2021–2022 academic year, 567 schools took part in the promotional scheme ‘Healthy Relationships & Sexuality’ offered by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. This scheme includes substantive advice, teaching packages, guest lessons and teacher training. An evaluation by RIVM shows that 23% of these schools experienced a decrease in incidents following the introduction of the scheme. Examples of such incidents include transgressive behaviour and gender discrimination.

The majority of schools that took part said they were satisfied with the scheme. For example, 92% of the schools reported that pupils/students had adopted a more respectful attitude towards their own sexuality and that of others. In addition, 38% of the schools indicated that the atmosphere at school had improved. Most of the participating schools (87%) received support from a Healthy Schools adviser.

Part of school policy

Over one-quarter (27%) of the schools that took part have made the ‘Relationships & Sexuality’ theme part of their school policy. Almost half of these schools have done so since the launch of the promotional scheme. Some of the schools (41%) also reported devoting regular attention to this theme in class through efforts like themed weeks and teaching packages. Furthermore, 79% of the schools indicated that they had organised a Healthy Schools activity on this theme. Nearly one-quarter of these schools had organised this activity for more than one age group.

‘The topics we are dealing with here are often considered difficult to discuss in an effective way. More and more, we see that schools are looking for tools and support to help their pupils and students find answers to questions about relationships and sexuality. The great thing about this evaluation is that the participating schools are now telling us that this kind of scheme is genuinely helpful,’ says Mariken Leurs, head of the RIVM Centre for Health and Society.

Healthy Schools programme

The Healthy Relationships & Sexuality promotional scheme is available for all Dutch schools in primary, special, secondary and secondary vocational education. Schools can use the funding to boost their efforts in connection with the Relationships and Sexuality theme as part of the Healthy Schools plan. The promotional scheme is also receiving support from Rutgers, the School & Safety Foundation, Soa Aids Nederland and Siriz and is being implemented through the Healthy Schools programme. This programme is a unique collaboration between the Primary Education Council, the Secondary Education Council, the Vocational Education Council, Netherlands Municipal Public Health Services and Medical Assistance in Accidents and Disasters, and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. It aims to help professionals in the education sector promote a healthy lifestyle as self-evident in Dutch schools.