For Sexual Health Week 2020 and throughout September, Brook is celebrating the introduction of mandatory RSE in all schools in England. Here, Brook’s Helen Dring suggests helpful ways for teachers to navigate talking to parents about mandatory RSE.
With mandatory RSE finally arriving, you might find yourself answering more questions from parents about what you’re teaching, when and why. As a former teacher and Special Educational Needs co-ordinator, I’ve had my fair share of conversations about the logistics of RSE and listened to a lot of parental concerns about the subject.
RSE can be challenging for parents for a variety of reasons – from religious or cultural beliefs to concern over their children learning about sex ‘too soon’. And these concerns come from a place of love, so it’s important that we handle them with sensitivity and with the aim of working together in the child/young person’s best interests.
Here are five common questions and concerns parents might raise about RSE, some answers, and some general top tips.
- Why has the curriculum changed?
The new Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum is designed to help young people live healthy and happy lives. To do this, they will need knowledge that will enable them to make informed decisions about their wellbeing, health and relationships. The new curriculum also aims to help children and young people develop the capacity to make sound decisions when facing risks and challenges.
Most young people will face some kind of challenge in their lives, and their RSE lessons should help them learn where to go to seek out support and help in addition to their family and school.
- Why does my child have to learn about sexuality and gender?
Sexual orientation and gender reassignment are protected characteristics under the Equality Act (2010). Tolerance and respect are fundamental British values, and learning about people who perhaps live differently to us is an important way to learn about diversity. Schools remain responsible for making sure that LGBT+ content is delivered in an age-appropriate and sensitive way, and that this content is integrated across the curriculum.
- What if I don’t want my child to participate?
You have a right to request that your child is withdrawn from some or all of the relationships and sex element of the curriculum. You should write to the Headteacher of your child’s school and the Headteacher may want to discuss this request with both you and your child. However, if your child only has three terms left until they turn 16, if they wish to receive RSE, the school should provide them with the opportunity to.
- I don’t want my child to learn about sex from someone else.
Conversations about relationships and sex at home are really important, and a great way to help your child clear up any questions they may feel more comfortable asking you.
Not every child is lucky enough to have parents that can or want to do this, though, and RSE in school is the best way of making sure all children and young people can have access to the information they need and a supportive environment to ask questions in.
- My child has special educational needs, will it be appropriate?
All young people have a right to and need for relationships and sex education.
The new curriculum recognises that some young people may be especially vulnerable due to the nature of their special educational need. Schools will make sure that the content delivered is accessible, and meets the special educational needs of your child at a time that is both age and developmentally appropriate.
- Meet parents where they are.
Parents have their children’s best interests at heart, and sometimes recognising that they’re growing up is overwhelming. Ask if there’s anything you can do to support them with talking to their children about relationships and sex – Brook can offer professional and parent training sessions to help you do this.
- Remind them that you’re on the same page.
This is key. Schools and parents both want what is best for young people. Schools have a statutory framework to operate in, and parents should know that this has been designed with the health of children and young people in mind. We’re all working to help develop healthy, happy young people, and we shouldn’t be against each other.
- Show them the curriculum and policy documents.
This curriculum is new, and it’s the first time there’s ever been a mandatory RSE curriculum. Show parents the topics and content covered, and demonstrate some of the ways you’ll answer their children’s questions, and this should put them at ease.
We’re all passionate about helping young people live their best lives. Hopefully these Frequently Asked Questions and tips will help you to get that message across.
Remember, Brook can offer support with delivering RSE and provide professional and parent training too! Find out more here.