Demystifying Relationships and Sex Education in schools #RSEDay

To mark RSE Day, 27th June, Tom Espley muses on forthcoming Relationships and Sex Education changes in school to mark RSE Day

Do you ever worry about your child’s friendships – and how they’re getting on with other boys and girls at school? It’s normal. Snippets of garbled information come back about who said this, when that was happening. Admittedly it’s sometimes amusing, but it’s hard to make sense of it. Are they being bullied? Are they bullying someone? Are people nice to each other at school? Or is the playground a gauntlet to negotiate? I find myself hoping that somehow my daughters would tell me or my partner if something was wrong – but I don’t have much way of knowing.

Do you ever worry about older children getting into trouble with sex? It must be pretty high on most parents’ lists. Mine aren’t that old yet – but I know I’ll be a paranoid dad. I just hope I’ll be at a place where my daughters can chat if needed, and they have confidence to demand they’re treated right.

What isn’t so clear – is that these two are actually part of the school syllabus, and all schools have to teach it. It’s called RSE –relationship and sex education. My memories of this at schools are more about diagrams of genitalia, discussion of body changes during puberty or bananas and condoms.

The media fury over teaching LGBT has taken the limelight so far but when they’re young, its not really about sex. Government is only making Relationships Education a requirement in primary schools. It’s all about relationships; friends and what makes them good, mum / dad / granddad/ whoever cares for them being trusted and making them feel safe and happy. What do to when someone’s mean. Relationships are a big part of every child’s world. We should be happy it’s part of teachers’ job to teach this stuff. Making, keeping, managing and having happy relationships is a key ingredient to being happy yourself.

And the amazing thing is that – when you think about it – if you get the relationships stuff right – then the sex stuff, the things that really worry me about when my daughters get older – becomes a whole lot easier. My children are too young to be taught about consent in a sex-way; but there are valuable lessons they can have about sharing and playing together – which lay the groundwork for that. I want them to learn to make their own decisions about yes and no, to be aware of who makes them feel good and bad, and to communicate what they want. If they can get that bit right, then the mechanics of birth control, or the right to say no, how to look after each other on a night out seem relatively straightforward.

If that sounds familiar, then here are a few things we can do as parents to support our children on their relationships (and sex) education (author’s emphasis) :

Learn about it – Find out about what is taught for RSE at your children’s school. The official guidance is here. Once you see what the content is at school, then it’s much easier to start a conversation with your children at home.

Talk about it – Speak to the school about it. Schools get to decide how they teach, but they’re expected to engage with parents about this. Showing parental interest is likely to help move it up the agenda. The protests in Birmingham must have scared a lot of schools about how to engage. If you can show you’re positive about relationship conversations and what you want your children to learn, then it can be knocking on an open door.

Live & Experience it; The thing about relationships is that they are everywhere. While lessons and syllabuses are good to help you think and talk about something, the skills for relationships are only really going to be learnt if they’re experienced. You can teach about being honest best by showing how it’s done. If you want your child to be able to resolve an argument, take your child with you when you go to complain about something in a shop; you’ll have to keep your cool- but that’s what we want them to learn. Right? Show your child how to be grateful and to demonstrate their appreciation when someone makes an effort. You’re helping them prepare for healthy committed relationships in the future.

If you’ve seen RSE being tackled well at your children’s school, why not share this on RSE Day using the hashtag #RSEday

If you want to know more about the changes in Relationships and Sex Education, go straight to the horse’s mouth here.

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