Why we shouldn’t forget SRE for pupils with SEND
To discuss why sex and relationship education is just as important for pupils with SEND, SENCo Gareth D Morewood interviews Martin Jones, Head of Beliefs and Values at Priestnall School.
In March 2015 the Guardian published an article on Pupils with learning difficulties are being denied their right to sex education. The shocking sub-title ‘Children with learning difficulties are twice as likely to be sexually abused and yet some schools – or parents – feel too embarrassed or angry to educate them’ made me think more about not only how we support young people, but how we educate them about preparing for adulthood.
Why is sex and relationships education (SRE) important?
SRE is vital for a wide range of reasons. Firstly, SRE education is on the front-line of safeguarding – covering the emergent issues of grooming and internet safety, including sexting and revenge porn. The teaching of effective SRE by skilled specialists highlights the risks young people face when they interact with both the virtual and the real world. Secondly, it allows pupils to understand who they are. They can explore their identities in the light of their relationships, their sexuality and their online persona, as well as who they are and who they will be physically.
How should we view SRE when considering pupils with SEND?
As a parent of a child who lives with a disability, this is more than just a professional issue for me. I want my daughter to be safe. I want her to understand the risks that young people face in an increasingly virtual world. I want my daughter to be confident. I want her to tackle the changes and challenges of puberty without fear. I want my daughter to embrace life. I want her to be able to experience friendships, love, trust, companionship and even passion. I want her to be able to understand and embrace sharing her life with others. If, as a parent, this is what I want for my child, surely as a teacher I can do nothing less than make this a reality for other children.
Tailoring SRE for individual young people with different starting points must be a significant skill for the teachers and parents/carers responsible. What do you think we can do to take on this challenge?
We face challenging times, because we live in changing times. We struggle to adapt SRE provision to a changing society with increasingly complex risks. But we have to RISE to this challenge: Resourcing, Inspiring, Supporting and Encouraging children to build positive relationships and embrace adult life.
What was very clear to me after our initial chat was that this is an area I need to discuss further and consider in more detail, especially in relation to EHC plans and appropriate support for students into early adulthood. I am sure my conversations with Martin will continue and develop further as we explore how our existing curriculum supports our young people and prepares them for life.