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Respect is a key life skill we cannot afford to pass.

When teachers and pupils talk openly and honestly in a safe place it stops an uninformed child becoming a vulnerable child.

With the new RSHE curriculum set for September 2020, schools are still considering how they plan to implement age-appropriate teaching in the classroom (or via Zoom if need be!). RSHE has always been perceived by the media, sadly, as a negative topic. Headlines often stating that 5 years olds would be taught about sex and parents left in a frenzy about how to remove pupils from certain lessons.

As a parent, RSHE consultant for schools, and a co-author of Discovery Education’s new Health and Relationships programme, I can wholeheartedly confirm that the new curriculum IS a positive step. It allows our children to talk openly and honestly about feelings, relationships and their bodies in an age-appropriate manner and it also encompasses the message of respect - not only to one another but for the pupils themselves.

Respect is the overarching theme, it is the thread that binds all of the RSHE curriculum content together, whether it be respecting one another in a friendship or relationship, respecting their bodies, boundaries, privacy and safety or respecting a diverse community. Respect is a key life skill for our children to acquire, it is an extremely valuable tool to use throughout life and one we cannot afford to pass.

Families and committed relationships

The ‘Relationships’ element of RSHE is compulsory and parents are not able to withdraw from these lessons. It is important to understand that the content of these lessons is very much around friendships, families, love and communities. The Relationships lessons will not be teaching children about anything other than respect, kindness and inclusivity.

Children see on a daily basis families who often will not look like that of their own. Families exist in so many forms and it’s that diversity that they will be already so familiar with. Single parents, children raised by grandparents, foster families, families with two dads, two mums, mum, dad, aunts, uncles… the list goes on. The fact is that our society is made up of wonderful families who for whatever the set-up, love their children and support them.

In school pupils will have opportunities to talk about all families, ensuring that no child is left to feel they are not included. Embracing our culture in the 21st century is something that small children take on board, without prejudice. RSHE is not encouraging children to become anything other than who they are but it allows a safe space for children to be identified within their own family and more importantly allows inclusive teaching for all.

The Equality Act 2010, supports the delivery of inclusive education and ensures that everyone is treated equally within our community with the respect they are entitled to. Many of the lessons within Discovery Education’s new curriculum programme consider what a family is (including difference and diversity between families), and why families are important and special. There isn’t a quick fix or ‘one-off’ lesson but more of a thread from Year 1-6 around how our families look and what the qualities of committed relationships are.

Healthy and happy friendships

In a primary school, friendships and relationships are on-going; fallouts occur, disagreements happen and we have to allow our children to recognise their feelings in relation to certain situations. Pupils have to understand how their own actions can affect others and vice-versa. RSHE provides pupils with the skills to recognise how they feel within situations and to know that sometimes we may feel upset or angry and as long as we deal with this appropriately in a way we can manage and more importantly recognise, then that is the end goal.

Lack of managing or talking about our own emotions as children is often something that can negatively impact our adult relationships. In relation to mental health statistics and the social pressures of today, it is so important to ensure our pupils’ understand a range of emotions and are able to understand how and why they feel in a certain way. This of course allows pupils to reflect on themselves, encouraging self-respect and self-care.

Healthy bodies, healthy minds

If children understand their own bodies and how amazing they are, they then begin the journey to self-respect. In primary school, pupils just need the basics - the correct terms for their genitals, when taught in an age-appropriate manner, is in essence just a factual lesson. Young children will not see the terms such as penis and vulva as negative. They will know that yes, these are private but they have a name.

RSHE empowers young children to understand that nobody has the right to touch their bodies, they have a right to respect. More importantly children need to identify their genitals to ensure they can speak clearly about their bodies. Perhaps they want to describe to a GP the nature of a water infection or talk about their body changes at puberty if ever they felt at risk, or wanted to describe to a trusted adult where someone has touched them? RSHE provides the language very early on so that children are aware for the terminology and therefore have the confidence to relay anything that may be troubling them.

Let’s talk openly and honestly

Quite often our own ‘adult values’ consider genitals as sexual body parts, however, children will ONLY know them as body parts! Informing children of the correct terminology will not make them more inquisitive, in fact it just normalises what they are. In short, an uninformed child, is a vulnerable child and I believe that we owe it to our children to keep them safe.

The world is ever-changing and finally, we have a curriculum which echoes these changes and more importantly allows pupils to talk openly and honestly in a safe place at home and in school.

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Confidently deliver the new curriculum requirements 

Discovery Education Health and Relationships covers the statutory requirements for teaching primary Health Education and Relationships Education from September 2020. It contains lessons for teaching all aspects of the guidelines, including the non-statutory aspects. View the programme progression.