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DfE – Relationships, Sex and Health Education


Since 1999, it has been compulsory in state-funded secondary schools to deliver the relationship and sex education (RSE) aspect of PSHE. However, schools have been left to plan lessons, source resources, and remain informed about RSE subject matter without a standardised framework. Meaning they are poorly equipped to educate learners about sensitive but crucial life lessons.


We live in a drastically different world to that of nearly 20 years ago for both positive and negative reasons. Today’s children and young people are growing up in an increasingly complex world and living their lives seamlessly on and offline. This presents many positive and exciting opportunities but also challenges and risks.

The beta aimed to produce training materials to increase teachers’ knowledge and confidence in teaching Relationships, Sex and Health Education for September 2020.

“The subject matter is really interesting, how you’ve approached it, how you put it across with lots of information, and you answered the questions really well.” 



Hippo worked closely with Department for Education from the outset to understand the role and remit, including a pedagogical approach. Given the complex nature, we held co-creation workshops face-to-face and remotely for each module with subject matter experts, content designers, user researchers and policy people.

In addition to this, we used research interviews of over 175 participants to provide insight into sensitive topic areas, including domestic abuse, consent, rape, female genital mutilation and cancer. The findings were used to develop and iterate user personas.

Using agile methodology, we provided Research playbacks delivered every sprint to the DfE policy team and stakeholders. There were up to 20 content reviewers per module, including several DfE policy experts and pedagogical experts. 

The reviewers were impressed to see a “well-developed editorial model for producing a relatively high volume of content that requires sign off at several levels.”


This working method allowed Hippo to write approximately 80,000 words in beta, providing sufficient factual information in an accessible, pedagogical language that builds teachers’ knowledge and confidence.

The Mental wellbeing module was published early at the start of June instead of the end of August at the request of No.10 to help teachers deal with the impact of coronavirus on children’s mental health and well-being with over 15,000 unique downloads. 

“It really resonates with me, with the stakeholders you’re working with, it’s not just DfE, it is across gov departments.”