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The importance of peer-led experiences in RSHE teaching

The Relationships and Health curriculum contains some sensitive topics that teachers may feel anxious at the thought of teaching! This is where using peer-led videos as teaching tools can enable pupils to learn in a way that is unthreatening, familiar and relaxed - allowing teachers to develop consistency and distancing techniques which pupils respond well to.

PROGRAMME DEEP-DIVE: Age-appropriate video is an important central medium for the Health and Relationships programme as you can use it to broaden understanding of key topics from healthy and happy friendships, coping with change to caring and responsibility. These concepts will play an important part of the PSHE recovery curriculum which schools may choose to roll out in the autumn term.

Ranging from real-life or animated scenarios, school visits and interviews, video can help children to see the world from different perspectives, engage in discussions and share their opinions. Teachers can use it in a variety of ways to best suit their needs for example, as an introduction to a topic before teaching a lesson, a springboard to stimulate discussion and as a reference point to remind pupils of concepts.

Peer-led videos are of particular appeal as depending on the topic or the age group (or both), these either show ‘real-life’ situations fronted by the young presenters Archie and Elise, or are animations, featuring characters who are around the same age as the viewers.

This consistency – real or animated – means pupils become familiar with who they’re watching, trusting the presenters as if they are older siblings, and ‘getting to know’ the animated characters as the scheme progresses. Using peers means the videos avoid becoming preachy and just another means of being told something by an adult.

Each topic contains a video for every year group, which can be used in three key ways:

  1. To introduce a topic, offering a way in to engage interest and stimulate thinking, and for reference as the topic progresses.
  2. To do some of the ‘heavy lifting’ for teachers of the more sensitive aspects within topics.
  3. To provide entertainment, interest and insight into an aspect of a topic that may not be directly connected to learning objectives but can prompt ideas, discussion and further exploration beyond lesson plans.

Because of this variety, teachers can use the videos flexibly and in a way that suits them, their pupils and their needs – there is no prescribed way to use them. However, examples of how to use them are outlined below.

Video to introduce a topic

The Year 1 'The importance of family' video is presented by Elise, who introduces us to different children in a school. They tell us about who is in their family, why these people are special and how they can sometimes make them frustrated. The children featured are also in Year 1, so those watching will be able to relate to them and what they share about their families - this recognition should help prompt thinking during the lesson.

The video could be used right at the start of this topic, kicking off a discussion on families and what they look like, and as a way to highlight the diversity of families as a whole range of circumstances are represented.

Some of the children show pictures of themselves with their families, which is an activity within lesson 2 – teachers could show the video (or that scene) again during this lesson, or refer back to it as a reminder before the activity. The video serves to both introduce and reinforce learning about families in a way that is relatable, but also entertaining and safe.

Video that does the ‘heavy lifting’

RSHE contains some sensitive aspects, and teachers can feel anxious at the thought of teaching these, especially if they are new to the subject. Some of the videos have been specifically developed to address the sensitivities, offering direct expert knowledge on areas such as naming body parts, puberty and sex education, for a teacher to then follow up and reinforce using lesson activities.

In the Year 1 'Our bodies' naming body parts video, the animated class discusses some of the words they use at home for their private body parts, and their ‘teacher’ introduces them to the correct terms. Watching the video gives the opportunity to introduce both slang and correct terminology in a distanced way and without judgement, and emphasises safety messages that correlate with schools’ general safety programme. The video is best used before lesson 2, which then reinforces the terminology and the safeguarding messages.

Videos for older pupils in Year 6 feature Archie and Elise ‘Asking the expert’ (a professional RSE educator) for responses to ‘tricky questions’ about puberty or emotions. And the Year 5 'Elise explains: periods' video shows a group of older girls discussing their experiences and feelings about having periods as a way to reassure and respond to pupils’ potential anxieties about this. The discussion includes Archie, to show the importance of boys’ understanding about periods as well as girls.

Videos for entertainment, insight and inspiration

Another intention for the videos within the scheme is to entertain and engage, showing examples of what pupils have learnt happens in real-life situations.

For example, the Year 5 'Caring in the community' video encompasses learning from all the Year 5 lesson plans, as it looks at care needs, ways to combat isolation and loneliness, and at how children can safely volunteer. It features a school that invites older people into school each week to do activities with them, demonstrating the mutual benefits to both adults and children.

The video can illustrate some of the learning that has taken place and how pupils can apply it outside the classroom, but teachers could also use points in the video to generate discussion e.g. ‘How do the older adults benefit from being with the children and how do the children benefit from being with them?’ It could also act as an inspiration to pupils considering how they might make a change in the community.

In summary...

Using peer-led videos engages, inspires and entertains, but it also enables pupils to learn in a way that is unthreatening and relaxed. The distancing given by the animations makes these videos relatable for the younger age groups, as well as containing a consistency that they respond to. Archie and Elise’s friendly, unpatronising and warm approach generates respect and engagement – after all, it is usually easier to be told about sensitive or embarrassing issues from a peer whose recent experiences will soon be your own.

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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.