University of Exeter teaching resources for KS4 and KS5 pupils to bust myths around ‘common law marriage’ awarded PSHE Association

The lessons draw on University of Exeter research showing the persistence of ‘the common-law marriage myth’.

University of Exeter resources designed to help children learn at school about the legal consequences when relationships break down have been awarded the PSHE Association’s Quality Mark.

Modern Families‘ is a free-to-access two-part lesson pack produced by Prof. Anne Barlow and Dr Jan Ewing at Exeter Law School in collaboration with Resolution, the 6,500-member strong organisation of family law professionals.

The resources help students to learn about how relationships are formalised and the legal rights of individuals in different forms of relationships whether married, in a civil partnership or cohabitating, particularly when the relationship ends by separation or death.

The lessons draw on University of Exeter research showing the persistence of ‘the common-law marriage myth’ — the mistaken belief that unmarried couples who live together for some time have the same legal rights as married couples.

The lessons help students to recognise that families come in all shapes and sizes and make informed decisions about future relationships – a key requirement of the DfE’s Statutory RSHE Guidance.

The lesson materials also cover the legal consequences of a non-qualifying ceremony such as the Muslim nikah and the legal rights of couples, including on death or separation depending on their family form.

Guidance is available for teachers to help if pupils find the lessons distressing because of their personal circumstances.

PSHE Association Subject Specialist Jasmine John said: “We are so pleased to award the Quality Mark to ‘Modern Families’, which explores the legal rights of different forms of relationships in England and Wales, and the ways in which couples can formalise their relationships. The lessons include thought-provoking and informative activities that encourage students to develop their knowledge of the diverse family forms that exist; develop key skills and attributes such as empathy and advocacy; and equip students with strategies that can make a powerful difference to their lives in the future.”

This lesson pack complements the University of Exeter’s quality-assured KS4 lesson packs, ‘Working out Relationships?’ which challenges common myths about the ‘perfect relationship’ and The Rights Idea? on children’s rights, including when parents separate.

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