Sources of support for LGBTQ+ young people over Christmas and New Year.

For some of the LGBTQ+ young folk I work with Christmas can be a difficult time.  Extended periods of time with close family, when sometimes the young person may not be out, or there are relationship tensions around the young persons identity. So just wanted to share with you all some helpful sources of support that are accessible throughout the Christmas period. I especially love HolidayMom (as do some of the folk I work with).  Please share with anyone who might find this useful.


Switchboard offers free non-judgemental and confidential help for LGBTQ+people. You can call free on 0300 330 0630 10am-11pm every day, instant message or email

Childline offers free and confidential help for young people in the UK 24/7. You can call free on 0800 1111, speak to a counsellor online or visit the explore section on their website for information and advice on a range of topics.
Samaritans offers free and confidential help in the UK 24/7, you don’t have to be suicidal to get in touch. You can call free on 116 123 or email or visit a local Bath Samaritans Branch.…/samaritans-bath-and-district

The Mix
The Mix offers free and confidential support to the under 25s. They are offering support over Christmas

You  like to check out your Holiday Mom which offers LGBTQ+ youth a virtual home for the holidays.

In an emergency you should always ring 999.

5 things that everyone should know about sex – Guardian

Today the Guardian has posted ‘5 things that everyone should know about sex’ that I wrote for them. From reading the comments (I know I know I shouldn’t but did!) it seems like I needed to expand more on enthusiastic consent (I had a word limit.) So I will try and get a mo to expand on that more this week. Hope you enjoy the article.


What ‘porn education’ before puberty might look like.

Teach children about pornography before puberty has been published today. Before the moral panic sets in, here is what ‘porn education’ before puberty might look like.
Age 4-6
Basic differences between boys and girls;  challenging gender stereotypes at every opportunity; correct names of body parts; being a good friend (healthy relationships), who can we get help from if scared or upset about something?  Pantosaurus and NSPCC pants campaign needs to be taught here.
Age 6-8
Carry on building on the work from 4-6 PLUS more work on challenging gender stereotypes; building individual resilience and self confidence so children don’t feel they have to follow the herd all the time; more work on healthy relationships;  basic work around internet safety – seeking help if you see something that worries or upsets you. (Alongside supportive work with parents around parental filters, and supporting parents to have conversations with their children about sex and relationships including porn).
Age 9-11
Carry on building on all the work from 4-8 (particularly around healthy relationships, gender stuff and building resilience)  PLUS much more work on staying safe online. Children may start to have their own mobiles at this age.
At this age we should be clear that there is lots of “stuff for grownups” (adult content) online but that it is illegal for someone to show things meant for people over 18 to them. If anyone tries to show them something or to share pictures of themselves online then they need to know how to report it. Children need to know about the CEOP report abuse button (on many of the social media sites that children use) and that if they ever see anything online that worries or scares them there is always someone able to help them (help them identify who those people are). We also need to teach them to be ferociously media critical. They need to know about photoshopping; that “the fast and the furious” movies about high speed car chases would be useless to learn how to drive a car (!) and likewise much of what they see online probably won’t actually reflect how they live in the real world. You don’t need to teach them at all this age that porn sex in no way relates to real sex – but you need to equip them with skills to critically analyse how media can distort reality. The Mediasmart resources can help with this.
We all need to be aware that fewer children are accessing inappropriate material than we think and that they report less harm than we might expect however we need to teach them to recognize that some of the stuff online may scare or upset them because their brains are not ready to process it, so self care would be not to seek it out in the first place (same rule goes for getting offline if it gets too much).  Personally I suspect children may come across porn because they are desperate to seek answers to words they may hear in the playground- ‘cock’ ‘boobs’ ‘cum’ etc. and so they google them…… . Although you also need to be aware they may also innocently come across porn if filters not set up correctly because if you google image search ‘three little pigs’ without safe search turned on- you don’t just get innocent nursery rhymes!!!
Really high quality age appropriate sex ed is vital at this age range. Children and young people need to have a space where all their questions about sex and relationships can be answered openly and honestly. They will want and need discussions of puberty and bodily changes, crushes and romantic relationships, what sex is and why people have it. They need reassurance that masturbation is a normal part of growing up for many people that teaches about your body and what feels good (although being sensitive to the fact that some cultures do frown upon it). They also need to know that it is something that is done in private and that it is probably best to use your imagination rather than “sexy materials” until you are old and mature enough to make an active choice to seek/use “sexy materials” or not (note I haven’t even said the word pornography- you don’t have too – its about finding age appropriate routes to education).  I quite like the Sense CD’s Sex and Relationship DVD which has some nice cartoon clips about what masturbation and fantasy and internet porn is which would be suitable for Y6/Y7 age range- 11-12.
 This age range also need good sex ed resources for their age group where they can access information on their own. There are hundreds of sex ed books parents can order (I quite like Sex is a funny word and let’s talk about sex or there is Not your mum or which are aimed at the preteen age range). Parents also need a ton of support here (Sadly this support is often lacking but parents local to Bath/Bristol get in touch as I am starting to offer some supportive discussion and training sessions on this stuff!)
N.B For the pubertal 11-14’s I would continue to build on all of the work described above, going into more detail about sex, puberty, media literacy etc.  For the 14plus age range I always think @Bishtrainings Planet Porn resource and Website are just fab! For all of this work I recommend looking at Brooks Sexual Behaviors Traffic light tool as it gives you a really clear idea about what behaviours come at what age and where the red and amber flags are to certain sexual behaviours.
Hope this clarifies somewhat what Porn Education might look like for the under 11’s. It is not anything too terrifying and it can most definitely be done sensitively and age appropriately! Well done to Sarah Champion for saying what needed to be said. Now lets hope the government will listen and make SRE statutory with an age and stage appropriate curriculum that meets the needs of 21st Century Children.

Teaching kids to say NO!

Having explored teaching safewords with young people I think it is clear we also need to practice our NO!’s. Lesley Kerr Edwards of Image in Action recently showed us the Speak out stay safe  resources from NSPCC at a SEF meeting. She had a great activity with threatening to spray kids with water from a spray bottle and they had to communicate No to her (nobody got wet!) where the NO! was broken down into three parts:

  • verbal– loud strong clear confident NO!
  • facial– a stern/frowning unsmiling face
  • body– A hand firmly put up as a barrier signalling STOP!

I think even with teens it is worth breaking down the communication of NO! into parts so we can unpick where ambiguity and potential issues around consent can arise.

Other techniques to practice saying No include “broken record technique” or exploring passive/aggressive/assertive No communication.

What other techniques do you use for teaching No?

Teaching safewords in SRE teaching about consent?

So the brilliant Alan McKee was talking about teaching safewords (video from about 6.03) when teaching about consent.

Safewords are a word used in sexual activity (generally in BDSM) that if used the sexual activity should stop immediately.  At this point the partners should move to different form of relationship interaction, a caring, nurturing role where the following questions should be asked:

  • What happened?
  • Are you okay?
  • What do you want to do now?

Young people often find it hard to talk about and communicate about sex and consent, so I think that teaching the option of using safewords to cause a STOP followed by a shift into caring communication about what happened could be really useful.

Given the potential daily mail sensitivities around “teaching safewords” in sex education then this could simply be taught around using the word NO. If this word is used at any point then your partner needs to check in using the questions above.

What do you think? Would you teach safewords in your classroom?

A new approach to SRE. Let’s DO… it!

Start of a new term and time for me to share with you a project I have been working on since April 2015  with the fabulous BISHUK and loads of other amazing bods from NAHT, NAT, Brook Charity, FPA, RSE Hub

We have worked together with the lovely folk at Durex and Hive Health  come up with DO… which is a new approach to sex ed. New because it doesn’t just focus on pregnancy, plumbing and prevention, but actually starts where young people are at and takes them on a journey through who they are, their identity, relationships, society, gender roles, consent, sexuality and so much more!

BONUS: All the resources are absolutely 100% FREE!!!!

There are loads of resources for schools looking at adopting the whole school approach (Clue: for sex ed to have an impact it HAS to be a whole school approach). Plus an incredibly useful Self evaluation tool for signposting the most crucial info personalised to your schools needs.

DO… also offers an ace teachers CPD section for skilling you up before you start.  Then there are 6 ace easy to use lesson plans and associated materials.  If that wasn’t enough soon we will also be offering training!

So anyhow, it is a project I am incredibly proud of and absolutely love working on so I wanted to share with you all.

Hope you like it and find it useful!



My Wellbeing Toolkit- A free resource for those working with young people.

So recently I learned how to use Google Drawings and at the same time this post from the awesome friend @PookyH  inspired me to think about wellbeing action plans. So this afternoon I started to have a  play with google drawings (partly because I was having a play for my own Wellbeing Action Plan- you need to practice what you preach after all!) and I came up with something that if printed on A3 might be useful for those working with young people.


My Wellbeing Toolkit (1)


It is adapted from the 5 Ways to Wellbeing and I also added some explanatory info to help young people with filling it in. It is probably aimed at secondary aged pupils due to some of the language but when I get a mo, I will look at doing a primary version.

Notes on Completing My Wellbeing Toolkit (2)

Anyhow I hope you find this helpful and I provide the PDF for printing on A3 here MyWellbeingToolkit: and the explanatory notes here:Notes on Completing My Wellbeing Toolkit

Any feedback, I would love to hear it. I am still learning with Google drawings and I am no designer but I am finding it a really easy to use and fun tool (and Google docs in general is awesome for collaborative work!).

Happy Educating!



Emotion Coaching for Parents/Teachers and well everyone really!

So I have been working on a Mental Health project with Young People in Somerset for the last eighteen months. A sister project to my project is Emotion Coaching which works with parents and professionals working with young people to support them to deal with their emotions, (coaching them through their emotions- hence the name!).

I have finally had time and space to go through the course materials and try and get to grips with the process a little more. I think it is something I will need to practice (watch out daughters of mine!) but to help me get my head round it I drew a ‘pretty’ (yay for Google Drawings- so easy to use!) diagram of the Emotion Coaching Process which I wanted to share:

Emotion Coaching Process (1)


Hope this helps people who might be interested in Emotion Coaching and go check out for loads more information.

Happy Coaching.

Tips for supporting mental health during unsettling times.

I felt it might be helpful to quickly blog some tips for use in the classroom with young people who might be worried about what leaving the EU means for them, as well as for ourselves for looking after our own mental health during these somewhat unsettling times for our country.

Tip #1 Connect with the people you love.  Feeling connected, loving and being loved help us feel happy. Hug your family, invite a mate over for a cuppa (and a rant if needed), phone a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Perhaps its even time to extend your circle and make some new friends? Just connect! This is particularly important if some of the people you love voted differently to how you did. As Jo Cox said we have #moreincommon than that which divides us so its time for all of us to reinforce our connections.

Tip #2 Get the self care basics right– food, exercise and sleep can all affect how we feel about things. If overhauling all of these seems too much right now, how about just getting an early night tonight? If you stayed up all night watching the referendum you will probably need to catch up on some sleep!

Tip #3 Connect with nature. Step outside and listen to the birds sing, watch a squirrel dart up a tree, smell the grass just after the rain, feel the sun on your skin. Our green and pleasant land is still just that despite whatever is going on politically. Make sure you take the time to get out there and enjoy it.

Tip #4 Take breaks from the internet and the news. Nothing is going to happen immediately, and unfortunately the ensuing consequences of this decision are going to go on for years and years. We are early days into this and sadly clicking refresh won’t help your anxiety levels and unfortunately won’t change anything for the moment.  This is the one I find the hardest to follow myself but I hope by writing it down I might try harder to stick to it!

Tip #5 Aim for positive but boundaried activism – There are so many feelings around a result like this. Think of things you might want to get involved in locally or politically that will help you feel more engaged in your community and beyond as feeling like you are doing something to make a positive difference can really help you feel better about things. However, that comes with the caveat that you have to put your own mental health first, and if something becomes too much or too draining for you on a personal level it is fine and important for you to be selfish and take a step back.

Tip #6 Develop your own toolkit of mental health support strategies that work for you. For me, writing is therapeutic (insert obligatory plug for book here), hence me writing this blogpost right now, but I also know that I find things like mosaic making, colouring in, card making and knitting very therapeutic activities (and need to find time to do more of them!). Jot a list of the best therapeutic activities that work for you. One young person I work with has a self care box in which she keeps a pen, note paper, some emergency chocolate, her favorite blanket, her favourite smells and a letter from her nan that makes her smile.What would be in a self care box for you?


What other tips would you include to help us all look after ourselves and each other during these unsettling times?

I have also written this list into a young people friendly version for use in the classroom available here:

Tips for supporting mental health during unsettling times


For info: for the last year I have been working with groups of young people across Somerset developing tips (or as the Yoof decided to call them- LifeHacks) around supporting their own mental health and their friends mental health. They get launched in July so I will be able to share them then (can’t wait as they are BRILLIANT if I say so myself!) but in meantime I hope the list above might help. 


Teaching empathy for Refugees- a lesson plan

PSHE and Citizenship teachers may currently struggling how to address the current refugee crisis in lessons. I, like so many others have been deeply affected by the situation at the moment and the devastating loss of life at sea, and I am desperate to help in any way I know how. So I wanted to share this lesson plan as I think it is one of the most incredible exercises for building empathy with refugees there is.    I used to work in a school where so many students (interestingly who were mostly 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants themselves) were constantly complaining about “bloody immigrants” and I found this lesson really helped them “get it” and develop their empathy and understanding skills as a result. But bewarned it is a TOUGH lesson to deliver and recieve. It is crucial you explain to students beforehand (and possibly parents/wider school community if required) that this lesson maybe upsetting and seek their consent to participate, and don’t force any student to paticipate if they don’t want too. You need to know your class very well before you deliver it and be mindful of any students in your class who may have had experiences such as the lesson situation creates or who have been bereaved.  If you see students getting upset do go an support them individually and make sure you do proper debriefs and icebreakers at the end of the session to break the mood. If possible it is very useful to have one or two other adults present to escort any student who needs to leave the room and make sure you have tissues at the ready. Have to admit I once made 17 students in a single lesson cry by doing this lesson (there was an element of group hysteria too!) but all of them were properly supported and debriefed and many still mentioned the lesson years later as a lesson they would never forget.

REMEMBER This exercise is extremely powerful and has potential to be very upsetting. 

 Aim: To explore how it might feel to be a refugee.

Ask the class to work alone and individually, all they need is paper and a pen.
Tell the class:

“When you get home from school today there is a note on the kitchen table saying you must leave in half an hour.

You do not know where you are going, but you know it may be a long journey.

You do not know whether you will return or how long you will be away.

You can only take a small rucksack.

You need to decide on 10 items to take with you. They can be either personal or useful, your choice, but no pets.”


Play gentle music playing (ideally a slow sad instrumental tune as can help create a serious sombre mood- Ludovico Einaudi is great for this) and allow students 5 mins to write down 10 items

  1. Continue scenario.

“Also on the kitchen table are 4 tickets. Decide and write down which other 3 people will come with you.

Music playing – 3 mins for writing down who is coming

  1. Continue scenario.

“You are now told that you need to share the rucksack. It is not possible to take all 10 items. You can only take 3 items. You need to cross off 7 items from your list.”


Music playing – 3 mins for crossing off items. Students often really struggle with this bit “but I need my ipad and my passport!? What about food!?”


  1. Drama Activity – Teacher in role (playing the role of a refugee possibly called Meena)

Props : shawl or covering to change appearance whilst in role and chair (and teacher preparation as to the backstory to the role and situation for refugees and asylum seekers.

After a short introduction to the character, the children are allowed to ask questions to find out more about Meena.

Remind students of the need to be sensitive. Not call out, but wait for Meena to acknowledge before asking question.

(not possible to be teacher while in role so important to remind students in advance of your ground rules, the students will respond really well to this activity if you prepare well and take your role seriously, you can get some really fabulous genuine questions. )

Brief introduction about herself by MEENA, a refugee.

Possibly backstory- Previously a nurse in her home country, She is currently living in a refugee camp in Calais with her 2 young children. Her husband was shot and she had to flee for her life. She has other relatives and friends still in her home country, but apart from her children she is alone here. She has been at the camp for a couple of months. She relies on charities for food and clothing. She is hoping to come to England where she has a cousin.

10 mins question and answer time- The students will often ask really fantastic questions, sometimes they can try and ask insensitive or “testing” questions but a response of “I find that question too sad or difficult to answer” usually brings them back to taking the role play seriously again.

When the questions have dried up the teacher needs to exit the room for a moment to remove the “prop” and re-enter the room as the class teacher.

Continue scenario.

“There is bad news. It is not true that there are 4 tickets. There are only 3. You need to leave someone behind, you need to choose who cannot come and write them a letter saying goodbye, explaining why they cannot come and expressing how you feel etc.”

Continue to play the music allowing 5 to 10 mins to write letter in silence.  At this point it is important to be vigilant for students getting upset as some will. Understandably they will, a supportive quiet word about how this isn’t a real activity for them (although is reflecting a real situation going on in the world) and permitting them to stop if they feel they need too is important.

Sharing activity.

Stop music. Explain next activity as follows:

Students close eyes (music very quietly)

Teacher to tap one child on shoulder.

Child reads out their letter (or not if they prefer). May need to encourage, but important not to force.

Sometimes two reading concurrently.

Again some students may get upset at hearing some of the letters being read out, so it is important at the end of the activity to completely change the mood of the session before going into a debrief.  Putting on some silly music and striking poses or playing simon says can help break the mood. Very important to bring the session back to the present, the here and now where the students are safe and those situations are not real.

Allow time for a plenary session to discuss issues around asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants and the current refugee crisis and how the lesson has affected them. Also try to make sure you allow 5 mins to relax and talk amongst themselves before moving on to next session to help breakdown the heightened emotions of the session before their next class.

Additional ideas:

Explore this website which shows the contents of refugees bags and shares some of their story.

Introduce some newspaper items and headlines about people coming to the UK to see how you feel and what you think in the light of the drama experience.

Useful to research some facts re: numbers, legal system e.g benefits and right to work, health provision, time taken to process applications, routes into UK, and so on. (either beforehand for teacher to be informed or as homework activity for class).


N.B. This lesson is adapted from one delivered by Liz Peadon who worked for Traveller Education Support Service in Cambridgeshire in 2005. I am no longer in touch with her and not sure of the exact origins of the lesson but it remains one of my most powerful lessons to teach to this day and I think one worth sharing.