How Do I Make Sense of the SRE/RSE Policy? A Brief Guide
At the current time of writing (June 2018) most schools do not yet have an RE/RSE policy. However, you will be able to get hold of your child’s school SRE policy; either from the school website or by asking the school directly.
Once you have your child’s school SRE policy (and RSE policy when available) you will need to read through it and identify any areas of concern that you wish to enquire further about. SRE policies can be vague and use ambiguous or generalised terminology that does little to clarify what will actually be taught. It is important at all stages of your child’s education that you are proactive in asking exactly what will be taught and when. Do not ever feel, or let the school make you feel, guilty or as if you are pestering them. It is your right and your duty as a parent to know what your child is learning and you can ask the school for information as many times as needed until you are satisfied.
To help parents try and make sense of the school SRE policy, an example is provided below. The black text in italics refers to the SRE policy and the red text is added annotations regarding questions you can ask, actions to take or points to hold in mind. It is not exhaustive but will hopefully help you make some sense of what can be a confusing and often ambiguous document!
SRE Guidance (DfES 2000) provides the following definition:
“It is lifelong learning about physical, moral and emotional development. It is about the understanding of the importance of marriage for family life, stable and loving relationships, respect, love and care. It is also about the teaching of sex, sexuality, and sexual health. It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation (ask the school if they adhere to this, and if this will also be the case for RE/RSE, as the Prime Minister has made a commitment to making education LGBT+ inclusive; also ask them to define the difference between sexuality and sexual orientation as often they are used to mean the same thing) or sexual activity (ask for further clarification on how the school interprets this and ask if they promote abstinence and religious views on waiting for marriage) – this would be inappropriate teaching (bear in mind this is subject to interpretation as what one person may consider inappropriate may be considered appropriate by another).”
SRE has three main elements:
- Attitudes and Values – learning the importance of values and individual conscience and moral considerations; – learning the value of family life, marriage (check whether they are referring to heterosexual marriage only or will this include same-sex marriage), and stable and loving relationships for the nurture of children; – learning the value of respect, love and care; – exploring, considering and understanding moral dilemmas (ask what they mean here, ask for examples); and – developing critical thinking as part of decision-making.
- Personal and Social Skills – learning to manage emotions and relationships confidently and sensitively; – developing self-respect and empathy for others; – learning to make choices based on an understanding of difference and with an absence of prejudice (will they introduce LGBT+ topics here – if so whilst we condemn discrimination and prejudice we need to know if this will be used indirectly to teach about same-sex relationships); – developing an appreciation of the consequences of choices made; – managing conflict; and – learning how to recognise and avoid exploitation and abuse (find out what age these concepts will be taught and how etc.).
- Knowledge and Understanding – learning and understanding physical development at appropriate stages (ask to know what will be taught and when and to see language and resources used); – understanding human sexuality, reproduction, sexual health (ask to see what will be taught and to know when; they have inferred that they will not teach about sexual orientation, therefore ask exactly what they will teach under ‘human sexuality; also ask what exactly they will teach under sexual health and ask to remove your child from these lessons if inappropriate or contradict Islamic /religious beliefs), emotions and relationships (clarify the type of relationships they are referring to); – learning about contraception and the range of local and national sexual health advice, contraception and support services (ask in what context these subjects will be introduced within e.g. pre-marital sex; will children be instructed in using condoms; will they be encouraged to gain advice on these subjects without speaking to their parents first or at all? Is there a direct or indirect message promoting early sexual activity?); – learning the reasons for delaying sexual activity, and the benefits to be gained from such delay (ask for further details); and – the avoidance of unplanned pregnancy (ask what do they teach in the case of unplanned pregnancy e.g. do they teach about ‘safe’ abortion? N.B. Abortion is often taught as ‘safe’ or ‘unsafe’ not whether to have an abortion or not).
Who is Responsible for Providing SRE?
Governors working with the headship team take responsibility for meeting statutory requirements in SRE. The teaching of SRE will be provided by class teachers within the context of trusted relationships and the teaching for learning in SRE will monitored and evaluated by the SRE leader (find out who is leading and responsible for the delivery of SRE in the school, also build up a relationship with your class teacher and express any concerns etc.).
How is SRE taught?
SRE is an important related aspect and our school Policy on SRE has been developed in line with [local authority] Guidelines and is informed by the DFES requirements. We follow the [local authority] Scheme of Work where SRE is taught in the following years:
An Overview of SRE Topics Year-By-Year
Topic: Myself & Others
Topic: Family Networks
Topic: Body Awareness
Ask for further clarification on these topics and if you have any concerns ask to see resources, lesson plans or ask to sit in on the lessons if you are allowed.
|Year 1 Overview
Topic: Myself & Others
Topic: Body Parts
Topic: Diverse Families/Different Relationships
As above, ask for further details on these topics and to see the resources.
In particular, ask what ‘body parts’ children are taught about and ask if it includes the names for the sexual organs/genitalia. If so ask to know how this will be taught, to see resources and ask when it will be taught. You will need to speak to your child first about this and put into an Islamic/religious context.
For Diverse Families/Relationships – it is likely that this will be LGBT+ inclusive and teach about same-sex couples and marriages, alongside heterosexual relationships. Clarify this with the school and ask how and when it will be taught and ask to remove your child. Do not assume this will be taught only in separate SRE lessons, ask if it will be introduced into school assemblies etc. and ask to be notified in advance so you can remove your child, offer to come into school and sit with your child so they do not have to attend the assembly etc.
|Year 2 Overview
Topic: Body Development
Topic: Looking after the Body
Ask for further details – what do they teach at this stage about body development? How do they do this? If it is a mixed school with boys and girls, will they be taught together?
You will need further clarification on what they mean by ‘secrets’. “If” this is used to warn children about the dangers of sexual abuse make sure you know what resources they are using and know when it will be taught so that you can remove your child if you feel the way it is taught is inappropriate. If it is appropriate and your child attends, then make sure you know when it will be taught so that you can talk to your child about it at home and help them process the information. Make sure you engage with your child and answer any questions they have.
|Year 3 Overview
Topic: Self Esteem
Topic: Challenging Gender Stereotypes
Topic: Differences & Similarities
Topic: Decision Making
‘Gender stereotypes’ – find out if this will be used to introduce concepts around gender identity.
Differences & Similarities could refer to anything so ask for clarification and if it touches on any subject that contradicts Islamic teachings then ask to remove your child from these lessons.
Also ask for clarification on what they mean by ‘Safety” and what topics it relates to.
|Year 4 Overview
Ask for clarification on what they mean by ‘Change’ – is this biological change or something else? If biological change, what will it teach and will girls and boys be separated for these lessons?
|Year 5 Overview
Topic: Support Networks
Topic: Puberty & Hygiene
Topic: Reproduction & Pregnancy
|Ask for clarification and details on all of these topics, ask to see resources, go to any meetings regarding the puberty and reproduction lessons that schools should arrange for parents. Contraception will probably also be taught as mentioned in the policy above. Ask how and when and check what they teach with regards to pregnancy – are there implicit assumptions made that children will/may engage in sexual intercourse, have an abortion etc. If so, you need to know this in advance and make sure you talk to your child about these issues from an Islamic/religious perspective. Even if you withdraw your child from these SRE lessons it is still important to talk to your child about these issues, as they will hear about them from friends, peers etc.|
|Year 6 Overview
Topic: Resolving Conflict in Relationships
Topic: Taking Risks
Find out what ‘Risks’ the school if referring to?
Find out what ‘stereotypes’ children will be taught about…. Will it include gender stereotypes? Will it be used to introduced ideas about gender identity?
Parents’ Right to Withdraw their Children
Parents will be informed of planned SRE sessions in curriculum forecast information sheets termly (make sure you get these but you could also ask to see lesson plans and importantly ask to see the resources they will use e.g. stories, worksheets, videos etc. for the topics covered. You can also ask when SRE topics are taught e.g. is special class lessons, integrated into other lessons, class assemblies etc.).
- In Year 5, parents will be invited to see the planned programme of learning for SRE including the videos and activities on offer before it is taught to the children. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from all or part of SRE sessions (ask the procedure for arranging this and clarify if this right is for every year group not just Years 5/6. Also ask what your child will be taught or do instead of SRE if you withdraw them), except those elements taught as part of the National Curriculum Science (ask what will be taught in science that relates to SRE – ask to see resources etc. so that you can prepare to talk to your child about it from an Islamic context). Any parent wishing to discuss this aspect of the curriculum in more detail should contact the Head teacher (They said it! So make sure you do it!).
To Whom and Where the Policy Applies
This policy applies to the whole School Community, including staff, pupils, parents and visitors. The school is defined as the entirety of the school’s buildings, the school grounds, and all school vehicles.
In addition to the above questions in red, you can do the following:
- Ask when the RE/RSE policy will be ready and to be notified when it is.
- Ask how parents can be involved in developing the new RSE policy – schools are encouraged to work with parents.
- You need to act before the new RSE policy is drawn up and influence policy – ask the school who is responsible for drawing up the new RSE policy. You can then arrange a meeting to discuss.
- Form a group with some other like-minded parents and meet regularly to discuss ideas and keep updated on what the school is doing and making sure your voices and concerns are heard and taken into consideration.
- Ask to meet with governors as they will be involved in policy making etc. Ideally get a parent involved to become a parent governor as they will have more direct insight into what is going on and greater influence on the policy itself.
- Ask if the school plan to create their own resources for RSE or find out if they intend to buy in external resources and invite external ‘experts’ to come in to teach the children on certain topics. If so ask which organisations they will use (although at this stage they probably haven’t thought that far ahead – but there is no harm in asking).
- Offer to help the school by creating resources yourself or get your local community to start preparing alternative resources that do not contradict Islamic/Religious beliefs or morals. These can then be shared and proposed to schools for use in RE/RSE