RE: Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE).
Following a very positive and successful parent consultation last year, I am writing to reiterate the messages shared on the evening and outline the school’s stance on RSHE.
At Barnby Road we pride ourselves on offering a broad and balanced curriculum. As part of this, we teach PSHE weekly to all children across the school. We have implemented JIGSAW, the mindful approach to PSHE as a scheme, running from Foundation to Year 6. Since last September, children have received weekly lessons that focus on building their emotional literacy, self-esteem and knowledge of who they are and how they relate to each other and the world in a positive and healthy way. We are sure you will have heard about the JIGSAW Friends and Calm Me time, with the special chime.
JIGSAW runs throughout the six terms, with each term being a different piece of the puzzle. In the Summer Term, the puzzles (units) are about Relationships and Changing Me. In every year group, the Changing Me puzzle includes lessons to help children understand the changes puberty brings and how human reproduction happens. There is a very serious safeguarding aspect to this work; obviously, the younger year groups are not looking at these issues directly and explicitly, but rather learning correct terminology for body parts and doing the foundation work for learning that will follow in later year groups. The Years 5 and 6 lessons look more fully at puberty and reproduction.
Firstly, it is important to explain that relationships and health education is compulsory in primary schools as of September 2020. Barnby Road Academy has chosen to follow the JIGSAW scheme of work, which encompasses all statutory elements of RSHE and has a strong focus on emotional wellbeing and mental health. The teaching of RSHE will take place weekly, across the Summer Term.
This DfE guidance clearly states the statutory requirements, i.e. what children MUST be taught by the end of primary school. Health Education includes learning about ‘the changing adolescent body’ to equip children to understand and cope with puberty.
The National Curriculum for Science (also a compulsory subject), includes learning the correct names for the main external body parts, learning about the human body as it grows from birth to old age and reproduction in some plants and animals (which could include human beings). So, Relationships Education, Health Education and Science are compulsory subjects and parents/carers do NOT have the right to withdraw their children from these subjects.
At Barnby Road we classify Sex Education as Human Reproduction. This is covered in both Science and JIGSAW lessons. Sex Education is a non-statutory part of RSHE and will be covered in one or two sessions from Year 4. We advise that all children learn about this natural process, which will be taught in an age appropriate way. It is important to note that through teaching Sex Education we are not promoting sex, rather educating children on the biological process of reproduction.
RSHE is taught to children to safeguard them and prepare them for the ‘real world’. Our children inadvertently see sexualised images and messages all around us: in song lyrics, on adverts, on the television etc. When it comes to sex, our children’s heads are probably full of half-truths and misconceptions. Therefore, it is our aim to educate them accurately. We are not promoting sex or sexual activity, rather educating our children on positive relationships and biological reproduction.
What will my child actually be taught about puberty and human reproduction?
Jigsaw’s ‘Changing Me’ unit is taught over a period of 6 weeks, usually in the second half of the summer term. Each year group will be taught appropriate to their age and developmental stage, building on the previous years’ learning. As some year groups have missed their previous years learning, this will be revisited and built upon in their weekly sessions. For example, Year 5 will be teaching the Year 4 content and Year 6 will be teaching the Year 4, 5 and 6 content. Please note: at no point will a child be taught something that is inappropriate; and if a question from a child arises and the teacher feels it would be inappropriate to answer, (for example, because of its mature or explicit nature), the child will be encouraged to ask his/her parents or carers at home. The question will not be answered to the child or class if it is outside the remit of that year group’s programme.
The Changing Me Puzzle is all about coping positively with change and includes:
Foundation stage (Nursery and Reception):
Ages 3-5 Growing up: how we have changed since we were babies.
Ages 5-6 Boys’ and girls’ bodies; correct names for body parts.
Ages 6-7 Boys’ and girls’ bodies; body parts and respecting privacy (which parts of the body are private and why this is).
Ages 7-8 How babies grow and how boys’ and girls’ bodies change as they grow older. Introduction to puberty and menstruation.
Ages 8-9 Internal and external reproductive body parts. Recap about puberty and menstruation. Conception explained in simple terms.
Ages 9-10 Puberty for boys and girls in more detail including the social and emotional aspects of becoming an adolescent. Conception explained in simple biological terms.
Ages 10-11 Puberty for boys and girls revisited. Understanding conception to the birth of a baby. Becoming a teenager.
All lessons are taught using correct terminology, child-friendly language and diagrams.
What about LGBT+ issues?
There has been much mis-information in the media about how LGBT+ issues are to be taught within the Relationships, Health and Sex Education curriculum in primary schools. Jigsaw has produced a separate leaflet explaining its approach to this. Your child’s school can make this available to you on request.
Jigsaw firmly stands by its position that EVERY child is valued and special.
If you have any questions…
Talk to your child’s teacher, the head teacher, or the teacher in charge of PSHE (Miss Taylor). Often, when parents and carers find out what is in the curriculum, their fears are allayed as they can appreciate it is in the best interests of their child’s lifelong learning and safeguarding.
How can I talk to my child about relationships, puberty and human reproduction?
What children learn at school is only part of the curriculum, and children can continue to learn from you at home. For some parents/carers, it can feel totally natural to discuss relationships, puberty and human reproduction with their child, while for others it can seem uncomfortable. Either way, it is important to remember these key points:
• We all want children to be safe, healthy and happy.
• We need to consider their needs and the world they inhabit.
• We need to normalise talking about relationships, puberty and human reproduction to ensure children feel they can talk to parents/carers about any concerns or worries they may have.
• We may need to challenge our own ways of thinking about how we feel about relationships and sex education.
• We have choices. We can avoid talking about relationships and puberty or we can communicate openly and honestly with children.
Here are some tips for talking to your child:
• Be honest. If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest and say so. Tell your child that you will need to find out and that you will get back to them with more soon.
• Remember that children are curious and want to know and understand. We tend to place our adult perspective on children’s questions and comments, when actually a child just wants (and needs) a very simple, age-appropriate, matter-of-fact answer. This answer will not involve an ‘adult’ understanding of a topic – it needs to be at a child’s level, with opportunity given for the child to be able to ask further questions if needed. Give yourself time to respond by asking something like, “What do you think that means?” or “Why do you ask?”
• Keep lines of communication open. Having an open and honest relationship with your child can really help make conversations easier, so make sure that you are always willing to talk when your child needs you; if you can’t, explain why and find another time when it is more mutually convenient.
• Use correct terminology. It helps that children aren’t confused by hints, euphemisms and innuendo; use correct terminology whenever you can, especially for body parts. This is hugely important for safeguarding too.
• Respond to what children say they need. Bear in mind that children’s lives today are very different from even five years ago. Therefore, the education they receive needs to reflect this. Research shows us that children want and need to understand relationships, puberty and human reproduction, and want to be able to talk with parents/carers about this when they have had lessons at school. We may feel that they know too much, when actually ignorance is the enemy of innocence.
• Answer questions and don’t be afraid to say, ‘I really don’t know – let’s work it out or look it up together’. Have a phrase for awkward moments, such as, ‘That’s a good question, and let’s talk about it once we get home’.
• Always respond. If you don’t, they may think it is wrong to talk to you about relationships, puberty or human reproduction and as a result you may find your child clams up when you want to raise the subject, now or in the future.
• If it all feels too personal, try talking about people in books, films and favourite television programmes.
• Enjoy it. Laugh with each other!
• Work in partnership with the school.
We hope you will be in agreement with us that this work is vitally important for children, that it needs to be done age-appropriately and that the Jigsaw Programme gives us a secure framework in which to do this. We hope you, like us, will see the materials in Jigsaw as educationally sound and beneficial to our children.
If there are any questions or queries please do not hesitate to get in touch,