September 2020 saw the introduction of statutory primary Relationships and Health Education.
Although many schools already had their curriculum up and running, some will have taken advantage of the grace period offered by the DfE to push back readiness to the start of this summer term.
With that deadline approaching, now is a good time for all schools to take stock and check everything is in place.
Audit your curriculum planning
Set your curriculum against the statutory guidance and check for gaps. If your school has a PSHE programme of study, or uses a published scheme it is likely that you are already delivering the requirements. The DfE guidance sets out what a child should learn ‘by the end of primary school’ rather than by age, so use that top-level detail as the starting point and tick off everything within your planning which addresses it. You may find gaps, especially in terms of creating a spiral curriculum which builds on children’s learning up to Year 6.
Review your RHE policy
All schools must have a published RHE policy which ‘meets the needs of pupils and parents, and reflects the communities they serve’. If you already have one, check when you last reviewed it. Does it reflect the new guidance? Are references to other policies - such as safeguarding, diversity or online learning – up to date? Give some thought to the importance of RH(S)E to your pupils.
A carefully-considered policy captures why your school is doing things the way it is and why this is in the best interests of pupils. This is especially useful for sensitive subject areas and for feeding back to parents who might have questions.
It can also boost staff confidence by giving clarity of purpose. If you are teaching sex education it enables you to specify content and thus what parents are entitled to withdraw their children from. Guidance and examples on creating a policy can be found in the DfE guidance, or on the PSHE Association’s website.
Schools should ‘work closely’ with parents over subject planning delivery, and ‘must consult’ with parents over their policy. Some teachers will be feeling anxious about how parents might respond to statutory RHE, especially where primaries have taken the decision to deliver sex education. Open communication is key.
Most parents want what is best for their children and trust the school to deliver, but they might still have questions. If a school is clear about these things then they are better equipped to respond. Showing parents the materials you will be using helps too. Often schools report that reluctant or even hostile parents are supportive when they see what their children will be learning. Keeping communication open gives the reassurance that the majority need.
Review your RHE resources
A published programme can give schools the structure and resource materials they need to establish the subject or enhance their existing provision. There are many resources of varying quality available.
Take the time to review these and consider their suitability for your school. And check that they’re inclusive and safe. Anything which contains material designed to shock or scare pupils, isn’t diverse or requires them to provide personal information and make judgements against others should be avoided.
All aspects of a school’s RHE planning and delivery must be accessible to those with special educational needs, and not discriminate in relation to the protected characteristics identified in the Equality Act 2010, including sexual orientation and gender reassignment.
The ‘needs of all pupils’ should be met, and ‘all pupils [should] understand the importance of equality and respect’. You can make these checks while auditing your curriculum planning and resources, checking that the materials you use are broad and inclusive. It is important to remember that while content should be sensitive and age-appropriate, parents only have the right to withdraw their children from sex education and not because they disagree with a lifestyle or family set-up which is presented.
Lucy Marcovitch is series editor of Discovery Education Health and Relationships, a whole school digital PSHE programme covering the full relationships and health education objectives for primary schools. The programme is available for free until October. Visit: discoveryeducation.co.uk/rse.