How to Engage With Your Child’s School
Build a Positive Relationship with the School
It is important to approach your child’s school in a proactive manner in order to find out what your child is learning but also to build positive relationships with the Head, teachers and staff in order to become a part of the school community. Doing this increases the likelihood that your voice will be heard when you raise concerns about matters such as Relationship Eduation and Relationship and Sex Education.
Ways to become involved could include joining the PTA or Parent Teachers Association or volunteering some time e.g. helping out with reading; cake sales etc.
Another important part you could play is becoming a parent Governor. Governors have a lot of influence on the school and will be responsible for approving the RSE curriculum and resources. By becoming a parent governor you will be able to have some impact on how Relationship Ed/RSE will be taught in the school.
Form a Parents Group & Ask for a Consultation
Whilst parental rights are being eroded, in the RSE guidelines the government have placed a lot of emphasis on, and have strongly urged schools to involve parents at every stage of RE/RSE policy and curriculum development and implementation.
It is likely however that some schools will not actively tell you this – either because they themselves don’t know or because it’s more work for them! So as parents you need to be proactive and approach the school. This will be much easier and more effective if you form a group with other like-minded parents and devise an approach to contact the school and ensure you have your say in what and how RE/RSE is taught.
There will be many parents from all backgrounds who are concerned about RE/RSE, so find parents who share your concerns, have a meeting and agree on a strategy to approach and then work with the school. You can then arrange a meeting with the Head and also with the governors and ask to become involved at every stage of RE/RSE implementation.
Make Sure You Have a Say in the Resources Selected & Any External Agencies Invited In
A lot of the concern over Relationship Ed/RSE are over the resources being used and the external agencies being invited into schools. Ensure you are consulted in the selection of resources and that you as parents feel the resources are age appropriate.
Ask for further details about the external agencies invited in and ask to see the resources and lesson plans they choose to use.
Many schools will be collaborative and the best outcome is that parents and school can work together in a mutually beneficial way.
What To Do if Your Concerns Aren’t Heard?
There may be schools that are more resistant to involving parents or who see engaging with parents as extra work – in such cases you can remind the schools that as parents it is your right to become involved with the school on RE/RSE matters. Keep approaching them until you get a response and they involve you in the process.
If you have genuine concerns that are not being listened to then you can ask for a meeting with the Chair of Governors and failing that make a formal complaint. Schools have a formal complaints procedure which you can follow.
Suggested Questions You Can Ask the School
RE/RSE Policy Development
• Ask who is leading on RE/RSE and ask to meet them.
• When are they planning on drawing up the RE/RSE policy?
• Ask how parents can get involved?
• If you get vague responses then ask further questions to elicit details e.g. So when will you begin drafting the policy? How will you inform us? When will you know who’s leading it?
• Arrange another meeting to get further details etc.
• Have they decided on what resources will they use?
• How will they ensure parents are involved and consulted in choosing the resources?
• Suggest parents are given the option to do research and select resources themselves.
• Suggest parents help make some of the resources.
• N.B. It’s essential to get involved in this as it’s often the resources used and way a topic is taught that is more of the problem than the actual topic being taught itself.
• Emphasise that you do not want graphic or ‘cartoon porn’ images to be used. Say it’s also against your religion to look at nude pictures.
• Explain images become imprinted on a child’s mind and affect the mental wellbeing and behavior, so the school have carefully consider what resources they use.
• Do they plan to use external organisations to help deliver RE/RSE? If so which ones? Ask to look into them to see if you as parents agree.
• Express concern if any of these organisations appear to be pushing their own agenda or ideology.
• If teachers are sent on training – ask which organisation they are being trained by.
• Ask who is going to teach RE/RSE to your child and ask to meet them.
• Ask to be kept informed by letter or email at each stage or term of what your child will be taught and ask to be shown resources and lesson plans.
• Ask to sit in on and observe an RE/RSE lessons (not sure if they’ll agree but no harm in asking)
• If any parents have expertise then suggest they volunteer to teach aspects of RE/RSE
• Ask how in the teaching of RE/RSE the school propose to take religious views into account?
• Ask how they plan to introduce or teach LGBT issues – will it be integral to school? If so how? Explain your religious view on this and ask how they will take this into consideration.
• N.B. The government have stated that schools have to be sensitive to religious beliefs.