Parenting in Lockdown


After a particularly bad day parenting my three children in lockdown where one hid crying under her cabin bed void for 2 hours, one climbed over the fence and sat on next doors shed roof and refused to come in, and the other cried or whined almost all day unless paw patrol was on.  I decided I needed an aide memoir for the approach I am trying to take. I am most certainly not any kind of parenting expert (I generally advocate the benign neglect approach to parenting to foster independence!) and some of these are maybe aspirational at times. But I hope they will help someone. They helped me write them (I am having fun developing my basic design skills using Canva). Feel free to share the image or download the print friendly version and stick it on your fridge.

Good Luck Everyone!

Parenting in a PandemicPrint Friendly Parenting in a Pandemic

Print Friendly Parenting in a Pandemic (printable PDF)

Straight in a gay world – A visualisation activity.

Below is a powerful activity I have used many times in lessons and assemblies. The LGBT+ young people I work with really like it as an exercise in helping people understand what their lived experience can be like. As always feedback welcome and this activity is a working document so often updated (Disco’s ain’t as cool as they used to be…).

Straight in a gay world.

This activity is an updated and adapted version from an original visualisation provided in Brian McNaught’s Growing Up Gay (1993) Shared with permission. 

Summary: This is a visualisation activity in which participants are asked to imagine they are a straight person growing up in a world in which being gay is the expected social norm. By standing heteronormativity on its head the activity exposes the way in which heterosexual privilege works and encourages participants to empathise with the experience of feeling invisible, unrecognised and not ‘normal’. These are all feelings that many LGBT young people experience.
Age: 11+

Time: 10- 15 minutes

Resources: Copy of visualisation for facilitator.

Explain to the group that you are going to guide them through a visualisation called Straight in a gay world. As part of the activity they will need to imagine that they are straight or heterosexual. Remind the group that we know not every in the group will identify as straight, but for the purposes of this activity we are asking everyone to imagine they are.

Encourage everyone taking part to get into a comfortable position, close their eyes and listen.

Straight in a gay world.

Imagine that you are 15 years old, growing up straight in a world where everyone is lesbian or gay. Your facilitator is lesbian, the participant wellbeing officer and school nurse are gay, your grandfather is gay, Your big sister is a lesbian and your twin brother is gay. Who could you turn to? Who could you confide in to tell your secret? You’ve been searching the internet for information about straights but you have to be so very careful that nobody checks your search history and many of the sites are blocked by parental filters.

During lunchtime at school, kids talk about ‘straights’ and how disgusting they are. When you are in year 11  someone of the same sex invites you to the school prom. What do you do? You go, because you don’t want people to think you’re strange or different. At the prom, girls are dancing with other girls, and boys are dancing with other boys, holding each other close. What will you do if your partner starts snuggling up to you and tries to kiss you? What if they find out about you? They might throw you out or even beat you up – just for a laugh. Lots of people say that it’s wrong to be straight. How do you feel when you hear people in your group talking like this?

On a noticeboard at the youth centre you see a notice about a local youth group on tuesday nights for straight young people. One night you decide to go along. As you walk down the street you’re sure that people can tell that you’re straight just by looking at you. You finally get to the youth group and for the first time you meet people like yourself. Girls and boys are sitting together; talking together.  Over time you become more confident about attending spaces where only straight people hang out. You are often found wearing black and white stripes, the national identifier of straight people. You attend Straight Pride rallies and finally you gather the courage to tell your two mums you are straight. At first they are upset but eventually they come around so long as you agree not to flaunt your straightness to your grandfathers.

One day you meet someone at a Straight club who you really like. After hanging out together for a while you decide to form a relationship based on friendship, respect and love. However, you sometimes don’t feel safe holding hands at the park, kissing at the movies or snuggling up together at parties in case you become the target of abuse. This really hurts.  The law only recently changed to allow you to get married to your partner of the opposite sex.


When you’re ready, slowly open your eyes and come back to this room, this time, and this group. Stretch, and think about the thoughts, feelings and emotions that you experienced as we did this exercise.

To debrief ask the participants:

  • How did it feel to take part in this activity?
  • What parts in the visualization were unexpected or really made you think?
  • What kinds of support would have been helpful during some of the situations you experienced through the guided visualisation?
  • How can you be a good ally to someone experiencing discrimination because of their gender or sexuality?

A spiral curriculum for learning about condoms

At the #ASCL2018 conference this week we spoke with delegates a lot about age appropriateness of different concepts like consent (one delegate was surprised when I said 2 year olds can learn about consent) and a conversation with one colleague got me thinking about a spiral curriculum for condoms. A common criticism of sex education is that a young person may do a annual condom demonstration but not be taught about negotiation, communication, relationships skills etc. This is unhelpful.

If you are doing a yearly condom demonstration without adding any value in terms of knowledge and understanding, values, attitudes, skills each year then you are not delivering good relationships and sex education.


So I thought I would have a bash at setting out what a spiral curriculum for condoms could look like. I am even going to start it from KS1 because I am a bit radical like that but as you will see it doesn’t actually include reference to condoms! It is important to note there is no evidence that RSE hastens the first experience of sex and quality RSE has been found to  delaying the initiation of sex; reduce the number of sexual partners; and increase condom or contraceptive use.

KS1– Learning about hygeine- washing hands with soap and water and using a tissue to prevent germs spreading. Correct basic names for the outer genitals vulva/penis. Some children may also learn that a baby is made by a sperm and egg and grows in a uterus. (This book is my fave).

One of my children when aged about 4 once asked me “Mummy, how do ladies not have a baby if they don’t want one?” and whilst I was wrestling with my options of age appropriate answers around contraception and abortion, she answered her own question: “I KNOW! they stay away from sperm!” Perfect age appropriate (and hilarious) answer and we left it there!

KS2– Building on hygiene knowledge from KS1 children should understand the use of barriers to stop germs spreading eg. latex gloves or face masks. They should also learn more detailed names Vulva/Vagina/Uterus Penis/Testicles/Scrotum. They should also definitely by now understand that sperm plus egg = baby (and for IVF families and same sex parent families the What makes a baby book is excellent for inclusivity).  For Y6 if a question came up from the anonymous question box about condoms I would probably answer it thus. “Condoms are used to help protect people from some infections or pregnancy. They are mostly made from latex (like rubber gloves and balloons) and work as a barrier so sperm or infections can’t pass between people.”. Or I might be tempted to answer it like a child once told Catherine Kirk at the RSE Service  “it’s like the skin on a sausage!” (which is brill!) My rationale is that if they are old enough to ask the question they are old enough to hear an age appropriate answer.

Now in KS3/KS4/KS5 I would break it down by year/age range.

For Y7 (aged 11+) I would definitely mention condoms briefly along lines of the KS2 answer but slightly increasing the complexity. “Condoms are used to help protect people from some infections or pregnancy. They are mostly made from latex and are worn over the penis or inside the vagina to act as a barrier during sex so sperm or infections can’t pass between people”.  When talking about the spread of diseases you can spray some perfume or body spray on the palm of someones hand before the lesson and ask the young people to go round shaking hands. Everyone sniffs their hands at end of activity to see how far a “disease has spread” and talk about protecting yourself from infection (washing hands, wearing gloves, not shaking hands!)

For Y8 (aged 12- 13) I would do the STI practical and I would show them internal/external condoms (male condom and female condoms) as part of object based learning.  I would expect them to be able to describe what a condom is what it is made from and what it is used for.

For end of Y9/early Y10 (~14+ age range) I would do the STI practical (only if they haven’t done it in Y8) and I would do condom olympics if time as well as a standard condom demonstration (ideally with ejaculating function and UV blacklight ) plus an exploding condom demo (blow up two condoms- rub baby oil/vaseline or other oil based lubricant into one and water or silicone based lubricant into another and the oil based one will pop pretty quickly showing which lubricants are safe and unsafe. I would demo dental dams for safe oral sex and internal condoms (Female condom- see pic below). I would signpost the local C-card scheme. I would expect them to be able to explain in detail how and why condoms are used and where they can be accessed as well as describe an overview of STIs and how and where to get tested.


For Y10 -Y11 (~15plus age range) I would only do a condom demonstration if they hadn’t done it previously or if the group felt they needed a refresher (in which case I would expect them to ‘teach’ each other and collaborate on ‘best demo’ rather than another teacher led demo followed by student practice. I would explore condom negotiation using something like “condom excuses/responses” and explore in much more detail what causes condoms to fail . I would explore the context of condom use (types of relationships etc) and what might the barriers be to using condoms. I would also explore more info about STIs and which STIs are not protected for by condoms.

For Y11- 6th form (+16 year olds age range and over age of consent) I would expect them to be critically exploring gendered attitudes to condom use (how society responds to males carrying condoms compared to females and how internal condom use has positives especially for gender equality! I would be encouraging as many to get signed up for a C-card (local condom distribution schemes) around this age. I would sign them up myself depending on the settings policy. I would talk in much more detail about safer sex and how dental dams and condoms use is vital but also how to overcome some of the barriers to their use particularly in the context of negotiating pleasurable experiences. I would talk much more about lubricant and arousal and be directing them to the awesome info found in scarleteen  and Bish

Obviously what I have written above is a tiny part of what an RSE curriculum should be. I haven’t mentioned the detailed stuff I would cover on relationships, sexuality, pleasure, anatomy, gender, mental health, contraception etc. because this is a blog post on condoms and how to build a spiral curriculum using just that one topic. In DO… our awesome RSE materials for 14-16year olds we manage to cover all of this and more in just 6 lessons! (Our condom lesson is here but you really need to teach it in the context of the 4 lessons before it found here)

What would your spiral curriculum on condoms look like? Have I missed anything off? Please do comment below!

Exploring the power of Object Based Learning for Relationships and Sex Education

On Friday I had the honour of being invited to speak at University of Exeter about my experiences as a practitioner working on the Sex & History Project. (N.B. I co-wrote the FREE RSE lesson pack here and and lessons exploring gender and sexual diversity here for LGBT history month and beyond!)  Unfortunately due to the snow I had to Skype in and not be there in person to run a workshop, so I also wanted to summarise my thoughts in a blog post.

The topic I chose to talk about was The Power of ‘Object-Based Learning’ for Relationships and Sex Education.  For those of you who don’t know Object Based Learning is using an object (historical object/ 3D printed model or any physical solid 3D thing!) to spark a conversation and learn something new. (Or a more academic description: “Object-Based Learning (OBL) is a student-centred learning approach that uses objects to facilitate deep learning. Objects may take many forms, small or large, but the method typically involves students handling or working at close quarters with and interrogating physical artefacts.”. I first heard of it as a concept in a meeting with Melany Rose Education Manager at the British Museum. Then seeing the Ain Sakhri lovers on display there really bought it home to me the difference in learning between seeing the actual physical object is compared to learning from photo of the object (both have value but for some objects seeing them for yourselves gives a extra layer of understanding)


3D Printed Uterus model

In Sex & History, we often have to use photographs of the objects rather than actual handling materials because these are rare museum pieces that are valuable and can’t be handled by a class of teenagers in case they are damaged! However, last year I was lucky enough to lead a teacher training workshop at Brighton and Hove Museum where they had a 3D printed Venus of Willendorf to handle alongside looking at actual objects from the museum’s collection. It was fascinating to watch the teachers engage with the piece in new and unexpected ways when physically able to handle the object rather than just look at it behind glass or in a photograph or image on a screen.  At Sex and History we are gathering a small collection of handling objects (such as examples similar to these erotic fruits)  and actively exploring 3D printing of replica objects in order to further utilise the opportunities and benefits of OBL.

For my workshop with practitioners and academics from UK and Germany I had been planning to provide a huge range of objects covered with a sheet and ask individuals to choose an object they were most interested in learning more about asking the questions: “what is it?” “how could it be used for relationships and sex education?” (whilst also making it very clear that any object chosen did not reflect anything personal about the participant choosing it!). Experiencing the value of object based learning for yourself is a powerful lesson in its value for sex education.


Venus of Willendorf

Although this concept may seem foreign to many teachers of RSE I think that many RSE teachers are doing OBL all the time anyway without realising. Condoms demonstrations and passing around different methods of contraception to have a much closer look at all count as OBL! Being able to see, touch, feel, handle, move and rotate an object relating to relationships and sex education can create discussions and questions that you would never get without the physical object being present.

The benefits of object based learning (as well as possible objects to use) can be set out as follows:

  • Icebreakers– can help defuse tensions and create safer spaces by using certain objects like knitted uteruses/vulvas/penises/or cuddly STI toys.  Crocheted body parts have been used with particular success in Brighton and Hove with an RSE project for young unaccompanied asylum seekers in single sex groups (that I have been supporting in the background), as a way of kick starting safe fun conversations about their bodies.  These young people may come from cultures where such knowledge about their own bodies is sometimes seen as taboo and often not talked about, and cultural understandings of consent can be very different.  The benign fun nature of knitted or crocheted objects provide such a safe space to start having conversations which can then over time lead into trickier conversations such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). 


  • Starters- Start the conversation off by passing round an object “what is this” “what might it be used for” “how is it used?” “why does it exist” can create fascinating conversations. You could use things like wedding rings, engagement rings (non-valuable ones!!) to start conversations about marriage and relationships, gender, power and control (who wears the engagement ring- why?) and extend the conversation to explore the use of rings used for chastity (silver ring thing) or fidelity pledges or use of neck rings in marriage or sign of beauty. Something so simple as a small silver or gold band can start a conversation that could go on for a whole lesson if you plan it right and are skilled in your questioning and how you manage discussions.
  • Investigators and Interrogators  Supplying a range of objects can be used to explore and interrogate patterns and assumptions in society. For example , menstrual products, intimate washes, soaps, razors, make up. hair straighteners, Protein shakes, Pilates balls, gendered clothing or shoes. What objects make us feel good about ourselves, what make us feel bad, which are designed for men/women? what are essential? which are cultural? etc.                                                                          Or you could do the fab The Sensual Star activity (from Jo Adams who developed the RU Ready? Program) where you supply a wide range of objects that can be used to stimulate the five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound and smell. eg. perfumes/scented candles/sound bowl/musical instruments for sound; chocolate/fruits/ massagers or objects with rough or smooth textures eg. silk scarves and have a conversation about sensuality and what are our favorite objects against each of the five senses. This can be drawn and decorated on a “Sensual Star” (a 5 pointed star with each sense allocated to a point).
  • Confidence building Adolescence can be a tricky time with lots of new things to master that people often don’t talk in detail to you about. For example you can also use a range of disposable and reusable menstrual products or range of antiperspirants and deodorants to kick start conversations about puberty, hygiene and menstruation. Familiarity with some of the products they may need to use in their lives can build confidence about talking about, purchasing and using them.
  • Reassurance about whats ‘normal’– exploring the range of variation in bodies by passing around objects of different sizes analogous to human bodies (E.g. as well as using knitted objects with some inner labia longer than outer labia etc, I also have a range of different sized condom demonstrators (and TheyFit is a great site to share). It also encourages young people to feel more comfortable talking about their bodies when I get out Lady Penelope it is fascinating (and really sad) to realise how many girls do not have any real understanding of how their own bodies work. 

  • Visualising how things work Until you have seen an actual IUD/IUS in the flesh and seen on a diagram or model of female reproductive tract how it works, then it can be quite hard to conceptualise. Likewise seeing the actual size of an implant (a matchstick can work here or small matchstick sized piece of ultra fine tubing), the contraceptive ring (the inner ring of an internal condom (femidom) works) then it can be hard to understanding or visualise how such methods work.  Also Object based learning is also vital for visually impaired students if you can’t see then being able to handle and be talked through anatomy or using methods of contraception is very important.
  • New directions for discussions Talking about STI testing can be a little dry sometimes but passing round a chlamydia testing kit and allowing a look at a urine testing pot, a swab kit, or passing round a speculum can help make the conversation more interesting. I’m also very interested in exploring how every day objects like a wire coat hanger could open up discussions on abortion, or egg white or flour paste or cottage cheese in petri dishes could open up conversations about normal vaginal discharge! A small Venus of Willendorf (I now have one of my own) could open up conversations about body image, breasts, weight, sexiness, fertility!


Speculum, swab and urine testing kits.

  • Exploring new frontiers (knowledge, learning and technology!)- the 3D printed clitoris is my FAVE object for getting a conversation going about sexual pleasure and anatomy (and I still think it is outrageous that this wasn’t mapped until 1998). I now have a 3D printed uterus and I am hoping to get a vulva too. 3D printing for sex ed could be incredible!


    Range of 3D printed clitorises

  • Consolidating learning. In youth group settings we sometimes use a “talking stick” or other object as a tool to signify who can talk and who needs to listen. We also sometimes pass an object round to close a session with each person holding the object says one thing they have learned about the session before passing it on to the next person. While I can see their might be potential for silliness if certain objects were used (!) I can also see there is potential in having a particular object close a session quite powerfully.  I am thinking something like a small squishy heart stress toy to pass round and feedback on notions of romantic love and why the heart is seen as a symbol for love and how that can make people feel. The level of SQUEEZE could indicate how much the session was enjoyed or not!


How would you use object based learning in your setting and what do you think are the benefits? Please comment below!


This post is bought to you with thanks to Sex & History Project for funding me to do this work. Rhian Drinkwater for her expert knitting skills (the uteri were knitted by a sexual health campaign up north and to my horror I can’t remember who to thank them- if it was you please shout!), Lovehoney for supplying me with loads of kit.  Ben O’Steen for 3D printing  this file designed by Odile Filod for me and putting me in touch with Valeria Vitale from  Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House who has also indulged my 3D printing whims and needs using the Odile Filod file and the Vulvacademy files (with thanks to @Gareth Cheeseman for sharing the link to Vulvacademy files)!


Facebook group for RSE Teachers- Free advice and support!

I am really excited to be able to tell you about my new project for the year ahead. Justin Hancock and I have been kindly sponsored by Reckitt Benckiser to set up and run a facebook group for RSE teachers to support them with delivery of RSE especially now it is becoming statutory (We retain full editorial control and independence) . This is as part of our work for DO…  (you know those awesome FREE RSE Resources Justin and I wrote!).
We antipcate this will be a group for discussions of best practice, signposting great resources/organisations, a space for sharing helpful hints and tips and resources etc. We already have 130+ members!
If you are a practicing RSE teacher then please do check us out and join us and please share with any other RSE teachers you know who might find this useful.

Addressing online activity with LGBT+ young people.

A twitter pal bought this to my attention last month and I haven’t had a moment to finish this post until now. Many apologies for the tardiness of this post! I can’t embed the video on my blog (but it is available in the twitter link above) but basically it shows a 15 year old Mitchell in gloriously contoured makeup talking about whether he fancied boys or girls and informing the viewer that if he had to put a label on it he might be bisexual. It then showed two adults sat with him in a room confronting him about his Tinder profile.

Shaming an LGBT+ young person for their use of social media to meet people is generally unhelpful in terms of safeguarding them from harm. Due to prejudice and discrimination faced by LGBT+ communities, Young people who identify as LGBT+ can often struggle to meet other young people experiencing similar things to what they experience and forming romantic relationships can be difficult. Social media can offer a forum to meet likeminded folk and a space to explore your identity.

At 15 this young person is under the age of consent (which in the U.K. (except Northern Ireland) is 16 for both opposite and same sex experiences. The website Tindr (which is mildly less of a ‘meatmarket’ than its counterpart Grindr) has a minimum age limit of 18  however young people frequently join websites before they are able too. As far as I am aware there are no UK laws preventing young people from signing up to websites so the teacher reference to illegality was misplaced. What would be illegal would be if the young person took a sexually explicit picture and shared that as that can be classed as transmitting ‘child pornography’ if under 18.

The admonishing of the young person and demand that he delete the app was unhelpful and ultimately unsucessful in changing his behaviour. You could tell it came from a place of genuine care and concern for the young person, but as you saw in the next clip he had deleted the app from another phone and was still using the app and checking his matches. All the staff had succeeded in doing was driving his behaviour underground.

How could this situation have been dealt with better? Firstly the young person needs access to an LGBT+ youth group- a space to be himself and meet other young people supported by experienced LGBT+ youth workers. Those youth workers could also be present in safeguarding meetings about app use and the tone of the conversation should have been exploring why Tindr was being used, what was hoped to get from using the app, what the possible risks were and how to mitigate those risks. Young people are often a lot more savvy in their social media use than adults give them credit for and many of them are a lot better at sussing people contacting them for nefarious purposes than we think. Having said that, young gay men in particular are vulnerable to child sexual exploitation and this can often be missed in current drives by local authorities to address CSE as the focus is often on vulnerable girls.

It’s wonderful that the young man said he wasn’t bullied at school and full credit to the school for that, as for many young people I work with school is not a happy environment for them. I would hope that he can access a Manchester based LGBT+ support group such as the fabulous folk at the Proud Trust.  I also think internet safety more generally needs to be addressed comprehensively as part of PSHE lessons in the school and I think the staff might benefit from attending some additional training around supporting LGBT+ youth at school.

If you are in the South West for local help and support for LGBT+ and training for professionals do get in touch with Off The Record Bath and North East Somerset, or consider donating so we can continue working to help local kids like Mitchell find their own wonderful rainbow path in the world.

The teacher that ate catfood in front of her students to teach them a lesson that would never be forgotten….

So did that click baity blog post title pressure you into reading more? Interesting….

I was finally able to deliver my favourite lesson of all time on Monday. It was a lesson that stemmed from an idea in one of Sue Cowley‘s behaviour books about using mars bars in orange jelly in a tin of catfood as a hook to capture kids attention. She had got it from her colleague Dave who used it in a DT lesson about how marketing and packaging works, ‘Should you always believe what you read on the label?’

Previously I had used it very succesfully in a lesson on digestion when I used to teach science, and in 2010 I wrote a lesson plan using it to teach peer pressure  which has been well received on TES website. Unofortunately but I didn’t have a real opportunity to trial this lesson myself until 7 years later (had three kids in meantime)!  I love that the idea (chopped up mars bars in orange jelly) can become such a versatile tool for use in all sorts of lessons. Really does create an unforgetable learning experience for young people.

The Catfood lesson I delivered this week went far better than I hoped for 7 years ago – it was genuinely one of the most fun activities I have ever taught. Two things struck me which hadn’t occured when I wrote the lesson- firstly – suprisingly lots of the young people were desperate to try the catfood even when they thought it was catfood! There was some social cachet involved in being the coolest/daftest member of the class to try it. Peer pressure in action!!  Secondly that this lesson can also be used as an example of teaching about internet safety- when we used “you can go viral on the internet eating catfood!” this massively changed the pressure power dynamic. In 2010 when I wrote that lesson that wasn’t really a thing in the same way it is now.

The bit I was really chuffed with is my daft catfood acrostic really worked with the young people when helping them analyse peer pressure. Hopefully it might be memorable and useable.

C- Consider consequences?

A- Analyse Advantages?

T- Talk to someone who can help

F- Find out more information?

O- Other options instead?

O- Own your own mind and body

D- Decide on what action to take

Anyhow I am pasting a draft version of the lesson plan below. I would love thoughts and feedback to help me refine it and I will publish a more polished version post consultation. With thanks from Ian MacDonald from Mentor Adepis whose fab training I was at yesterday and for his idea on 3 stage sentences for exploring peer pressure which I have shamelessly adapted!

Catfood and peer pressure

Lesson Preparation:

Before the class prepare the following:

Using a thoroughly cleaned empty tin (of human food!)- carefully stick a catfood label around the tin.  Prepare some orange jelly in a bowl and leave to set.  Chop up a mars bar into small cubes.  Just before the lesson begins mix in the chopped mars bar into the orange jelly so it resembles catfood and put in the tin (Warning don’t do this too far in advance of the lesson as the ingredients will dissolve into each other). Place a plastic “tin lid” eg a Pringles lid. over it  for hygiene. Have plenty of spoons available in this lesson.

Arrange for a single student (someone who is a good actor and has no dietary restrictions or allergies so is able to eat mars bars in orange jelly) to be informed before the lesson and to be the one being pressured.



Lesson Objectives

  • To analyse what is happening in a “peer pressure” situation.


  • To practice different possible responses to peer pressure.


  • To use the CATFOOD acrostic to help with dealing with situations involving peer pressure.

Remind class of the ground rules for PSHE sessions to establish a safe learning environment.

Show the class the following sentences and ask them what they would do in that situation.

  1. Would you try a cigarette?
  2. Would you eat catfood?
  3. Would you get in a car with someone who had been drinking?
  4. Would you add an older person you didn’t know to your social media?

Reveal a second part to the sentences and see if that changes things:

  1. Would you try a cigarette if the people around you were smoking?
  2. Would you eat catfood if someone dared you to for a laugh?
  3. Would you get in a car with someone who had been drinking and no-one else seemed worried?
  4. Would you add an older person you didn’t know to your social media, but they were already friends with your friends?

Reveal a third part of the sentences to see if that changes things further

  1. Would you try a cigarette if the people around you were smoking including someone you really fancied?
  2. Would you eat catfood if someone dared you to for a laugh and you figured it might make you go viral on youtube?
  3. Would you get in a car with someone who had been drinking and no-one else seemed worried and you didn’t want to be the one to kill the mood?
  4. Would you add an older person you didn’t know to your social media, but they were already friends with your friends, and you wanted to have more friends in your list to look popular?

Discuss with the class if and why their opinions changed and explain that this lesson is going to explore aspects of peer pressure and saying No in more detail


Main Activity:Eating Catfood

Ask the class for a volunteer for the next activity and pick your young person who you have previously prepared.

You should be offering the tin of catfood and saying things like:

“Come on everyone else has, you can’t be in our gang unless you do, you’re such a wimp, it’s not going to hurt you, it’s good enough for cats so it’s fine for us,” etc etc. Show the class the catfood and show yourself how fine it is to eat ‘catfood’ (at which point the class may erupt!) you can pretend to like it but still make it seem like it is genuine catfood.  The young person being pressured should try and withhold but eventually give in and try the catfood. It’s particularly effective for the next stages of the lesson if they act like it is horrible.

Ask what techniques you were using to pressure the young person into eating the catfood?

Suggestions could include:

·         Saying everyone was doing it?- (was that true?)

·         Saying they couldn’t be in their gang- excluding them if they didn’t join in

·         Saying hurtful personal comments

·         Saying it wouldn’t hurt to try it (is that true?).

Ask the class why did the young person give in to the peer pressure?

Suggestions could include

·         Wanted to be liked

·         Wanted them to stop going on at him

·         Wanted to be in their gang

·         Believed teacher that it wouldn’t hurt.

Now ask for a volunteer in the class to show how to say no to the teacher.  (choose quite a confident assertive individual who will be able to cope!) Role play the pressure situation again and allow the new actor to say no, this time The teacher can  really up the pressure- including showing how easy it is to “eat the catfood”.  “Look you are SUCH a wimp- look its soooo easy, what a baby, I dare have a spoonful, in fact I’ll have two etc. (eat the “catfood” in front of the new volunteer. Perhaps even persuade the first young person to have some again- to increase the pressure further “And look my friend is doing it too- so why can’t you- both “friends” to laugh and jeer at the other young person while eating the “catfood”.

(Again if the class hasn’t sussed this isn’t really catfood yet there maybe be some strong reactions!).

Further role play ideas

  • You can also experiment with offering the spoon to the young person first and seeing how that affects the pressure situation (once they have the spoon in their hand (the tool to eat the catfood) it becomes much harder to say no.


  • You can also ask someone to film it on a mobile or talk about how this is going to make us go viral and how that might affect the pressure situation.
  • You can ask for more volunteers to try and catfood.  Interestingly lots of young people will volunteer not knowing it genuinely isn’t catfood (having seen the teacher and a peer try it). Unpick with the class what motivations are going on behind volunteering to take part (whilst being mindful of the class dynamic and not putting a young person in any uncomfortable personal position).

Ask the class why they are being pressured into eating ‘catfood’?

Suggestions could include:

–      Because it’s genuinely good and they want to share how nice it is?!

–      Because they are bullying

–      Because they want to have power over them?

–      Because they want that person to be like them?

–      Because they want them to be in the gang?

–      Because they know eating catfood is wrong but they want other people to join them so they won’t be the only ones who get into trouble.

–      Because they are trying dares/taking risks/hazing for group membership.

–      Because they are trying to do something stupid for popularity (going viral)

Ask the class what might the genuine consequences of giving into peer pressure (of eating catfood) might be? (including physical and emotional consequences)

  • Tummy ache/being sick/allergies
  • Nothing
  • Parents get cross
  • Feeling sad that they gave into pressure
  • Not feeling in control.

Explain to the class about “passive, aggressive and assertive responses” and role play each of these for the situation. Ask the children to role play each of these responses and discuss in pairs how it felt.

Ask the class what techniques the new role player was employing to avoid having to eat the catfood.

–      eg. repetition NO NO NO, Body language- strong defensive stance, Giving good reasons “no I might be allergic, “I ate earlier” etc.


Analyse each of these responses in more detail- for example young people will often giggle or give shy body language when saying no to the catfood. Point out by smiling or weaker body language they might be conveying that they are not sure of their NO so the pressurer knows they might win them over if they keep trying. (N.B. It is important to be clear here about consent and victim blaming- an absence of No is not a yes, and if something happens to someone without their consent that is never okay and never the victims fault for not saying NO well enough- this lesson is simply an opportunity for us to practice our NO!’s in a safe space. Signpost local sources of support if necessary.)


Explain that humans are often not very good at saying no. This partly comes from our parents not letting us say no to bedtimes, or brushing our teeth, so saying no as a teenager or adult can be tricky for us as we like to please people. So it is important we practice saying NO to things we don’t want and that we convey that clearly.


Explain there are three parts to saying No. Firstly a loud clear NO! Secondly a stern facial expression- no smiling or laughing. Thirdly strong confident body language- perhaps even with a hand up. NO!  Encourage the class to role play saying No and talk about how that felt.

Discuss situations where it can be hard to say no.

Further activities.

Ask the class to come up with a list of “Strategies for saying no to peer pressure” Create a whole class poster with this information on.





Explain to the class if they haven’t already worked it out that the “catfood” is really orange jelly and mars bars, and in this case not really harmful however there are many situations where someone might try and pressure you into doing something that could be harmful- ask the class to consider what these may be and come up with a list.

Introduce the “CATFOOD” acrostic to help them with decision making in cases of peer pressure in future.

C- Consider consequences?

A- Analyse Advantages?

T- Talk to someone who can help

F- Find out more information?

O- Other options instead?

O- Own your own mind and body

D- Decide on what action to take


Ask students to create individual decorated posters with this information on.



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.