The change process, parents and Relationships, Sex and Health Education
Lucy Emmerson – Director at Sex Education Forum
Consulting parents about the school Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) policy is a requirement of the new legislation which applies from September 2020. Schools might be apprehensive about how to approach this, but with some preparation it can be a really positive opportunity to strengthen relationships with parents and carers. Here are some of the steps your school could take to build regular communication about RSE and Health Education.
Research with young people shows that they do actually want their parents to have a role in educating them about relationships and sex. Parents may not have had particularly good sex education when they were growing up, and sometimes struggle to fulfil the role of educating their own children. Offering parents support with their role at home from the outset is usually very welcome.
A first step for schools can be to inform parents about what the new Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) curriculum covers, to invite views on your current provision, and then to ask parents if they’d like more information about any of the topics to support discussions at home. Asking open questions and leaving a space for comments is a good way to start understanding parents’ perspectives and needs.
Consulting students about their views on your current provision is important too. Student surveys, activities in lessons or focus group discussions can be useful. Sharing a summary of student views with parents can be very illuminating.
As plans progress for how the curriculum will be updated and what resources will be used, parents will value an opportunity to see examples of teaching materials and how they are used in practice. Display these materials at other school events which parents are attending, with the school PSHE or RSHE lead available for one-to-one discussions. Using multiple channels to communicate will ensure that a wider range of parents have the opportunity to understand what will be covered and how.
Parents must be informed that they have the right to request their child is withdrawn from Sex Education, but not Relationships Education, which is mandatory in both primary and secondary schools.
Parent consultation will be much easier if the school strives to be a parent-friendly school as a whole. This takes the focus off RSE, instead it may be about mapping where RSE fits with existing parent and community engagement. Begin this conversation by asking parents if they feel their families and community are represented and reflected in school life and the curriculum. If not, what would this look like, what would be different?
Communication with parents about RSE needs to be a regular, ongoing process, not a one-off event. There are resources available to help including an information guide for parents from the Department for Education and their guide to parental engagement.
Find out more about the Sex Education Forum on their website and take a look at the new Relationships, Sex and Health Education qualifications from CACHE.