The lesson plans have also received the PSHE Association Quality Mark.

Pioneering University of Exeter resources designed to help children learn at school about the consequences of family breakdowns have been honoured by the legal community.

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

The project won the LexisNexis Community Interaction Award at the recent National Family Law Awards.

The lesson plans have also received the PSHE Association Quality Mark.

The award was given to Professor Barlow and Dr Ewing and the project’s practitioner partners, both members of Resolution’s Cohabitation Committee, family solicitor Yuliya Osudina from Child & Child and Graeme Fraser, Head of Family Team and Partner at BBS Law.

Judges said the “pioneering” project “has benefited many schoolchildren and their families and has overall made a marked difference to the communities in which they operate”.

The resources, for use in PSHE teaching for Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 pupils, 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 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.

Professor Barlow said: “We are delighted and honoured that our collaboration on these important issues and drawing on research and practice expertise has been recognised in this way.”

Modern Families draws on evidence from Professor Barlow’s research which has shown the persistence of the ‘common-law marriage myth’ – the mistaken belief that unmarried couples who live together for some time have a ‘common law marriage’ which gives them the same legal rights as married couples.

It also draws on the research of Professor Rebecca Probert, also based at the University of Exeter Law School, on non-qualifying ceremonies; a marriage or other ceremony that has no effect under the law of England and Wales. The research has shown that the number entering such ceremonies is growing, with some participants wrongly believing themselves to be legally married.

Making informeddecisions about future relationships is a requirement of the RSE Statutory Guidance and the PSHE Association’s Programme of Study 2020. 

The LexisNexis Family Law Awards celebrates the vital contribution to society of those involved in family law. They were launched in 2011 to recognise the important work of family lawyers and celebrate their many successes and outstanding achievements.

The shortlist and winners were chosen by a judging panel made up of the heads of the Family Law Bar Association, Resolution, the Association of Lawyers for Children and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, along with Family Law editors and publishing professionals.