The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Rebecca Jennings

Tailoring your RSHE curriculum

The DfE has announced a review of RSHE to be carried out by the end of this year.  Rebecca Jennings discusses the concerns raised and how to enhance RSHE delivery.

As an RSHE subject matter expert, my recent work with the DfE has been to support staff by creating staff training modules around the delivery of topics covered in the RSHE curriculum. Now, the view is on ensuring the RSHE pupils receive is appropriate, not only for the age of pupils but for the ability of their understanding. 

Statutory RSHE had been a long time coming and finally, we now have the scaffolding of a curriculum which ensures young people receive the open and honest information they so deserve.

Tailoring RSHE to age and ability 

RSHE should ensure that children understand the facts that are relevant to them, they do not need to know excessive details of sex or sexual content, but they do need to know how to discuss boundaries, consent, love, and respect from an early age to prepare them for future romantic relationships they may have. 

As educators, we must pitch the curriculum in a way that pupils understand their age and ability. This is the beauty of teaching staff delivering sensitive topics, they know their pupils and how best they will respond, they can support them with any questions and understand why certain pupils may be asking certain questions based on their experiences. Teacher-led RSHE should also be trauma-informed to ensure the pupils in their class feel safe when discussing certain topics.  

To educate the facts is key, an uninformed child can often be a vulnerable child

Identifying curriculum gaps

During my work with young people, it is clear to identify gaps within this curriculum and those gaps will certainly find their place in the review. The impact of misogyny is having a significant impact on many pupils, and this must be a topic we should be adding to support our young people to navigate the world around them. 

Equally, in primary settings, the delivery of puberty talks is prompting discussions around body image and the pressures of social media which needs to be a focus for our younger pupils. The recent Dove campaign highlights the impact social media is having on children, and we need to speak openly with younger children about unrealistic expectations and to inform parents of the impact such exposure is having on their children.  

Tips for schools concerned about RSHE

RSHE is a sensitive topic, and it must be pitched correctly here are some tips for schools that still may be concerned about some areas of this topic. 

  • When using outside speakers, ensure to view session content beforehand. As an outside speaker schools and parents can view my resources as requested. This ensures a speaker will work within the ethos of your setting and can also alleviate any concerns around inappropriate context. 
  • Ensure a vocabulary for lessons is agreed upon for all lessons, this is especially helpful for staff who may be concerned about what they can/can’t say to pupils and provides consistency around how questions are answered and how the facts of a topic can be delivered appropriately. 
  • Create a safe space in the classroom by using a working together agreement. This is something you can create with your pupils and can include statements such as ‘no such things as a silly question, ‘no personal comments,’ or ‘the ability to step out the room if you find the topic challenging’.  
  • Ensure staff feel confident delivering sensitive topics by ensuring they have adequate training and access to great resources. 
  • Use a question box as part of the delivery to ensure pupils can ask anonymous questions and that staff can reflect on questions without feeling they have to answer on the spot. 
  • To ensure a whole-school approach to RSHE, informing parents of content is vital. Organise parent workshops which can alleviate any concerns and can assist with further conversations at home. 
  • Maintain an up-to-date RSHE policy that includes information about the statutory curriculum, year groups for teaching, responsible teachers, guidelines for answering student questions, and designated resources. The policy should be easily accessible on the school's website. 

Comprehensive RSHE

Ensuring children and young people understand it is okay to talk about their bodies, their relationships, families, their experience in the online world and sexual health (secondary) ensures that they can make informed choices in the future.

To educate the facts is key, an uninformed child can often be a vulnerable child. We owe it to our young people to receive the RSHE they need to keep them safe to navigate the world around them in the 21st century. 

Find out more about Rebecca’s work.

The Pupil Wellbeing Award

Support and improve the physical, emotional and mental health of all pupils.

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