Gove on Love Poetry vs. Sexting, A Sex & Relationships Education perspective.


So Michael Gove is urging young people to write poetry not sexts.

Which has currently spawned some brilliant responses on twitter (Look at #govepoems #govepoetry, #govelovepoetry #govelovepoems or variations thereof).

I just want to share this by William Shakespeare.

Love

It is to be all made of sighs and tears….

It is to be all made of faith and service….

It is to be made of fantasy….

All adoration, duty and observance,

All humbleness, all patience and impatience

All purity, all trial, all obedience.

Interpreting through a modern lens- do we think Shakespeare was a Christian Grey of his time!? And are they really notions of love we want to share and celebrate?

Personally I think love poetry is an incredibly useful tool to explore Sex & Relationships Education (Just think about sinister and unrelenting co-oercion expressed in “To his Coy Mistress” By Andrew Marvell), and I am a big fan of using poetry to express feelings, and despite not being an English teacher it is something I use a lot in PSHE lessons.

Do young people sext more than they write poetry to each other? Possibly? Maybe? I don’t know.  Is consensual sexting between a couple over the age of consent who have agreed boundaries in advance and would never share those images outside of that partnership somehow much worse than a man pressuring his coy mistress into unwanted sex with beautiful powerful pressurising words?

I think that it is so important for SRE to discuss with young people, how to express feelings appropriately and stay safe, and discussions of both sexting and poetry definitely have their place. I am definitely not convinced that presenting one as a suitable alternative to the other by someone who does not have young people’s (or educator’s) respect (or necessary understanding of the issues at stake) is going to make the slightest bit of difference, apart from ensuring a good giggle on twitter following the hashtags.

What do you think?

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Five year olds “marry” in church marriage ceremony


Today I saw a photo on Facebook that unsettled me. It was a photo of a bride and groom and their smiling attendants at their church wedding, except all the participants were in year 2 of primary school.

It was a photo not unlike this one from here:

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And I discover this is not an isolated occurrence (worldwide (here, here and in UK here, here, and here and that’s just from a very quick google).

I am genuinely conflicted by this. As a very happily married woman whose wedding day was the best day of my life ever &who would have become a wedding planner if I wasn’t a sex educator, then I think kids playing at weddings is fun after all it is simply children enjoying to learn about something that is a central part to our culture plus it is an example teaching Sex & Relationships Education at primary level (which primary schools don’t have to teach apart from Science NC).

On the other hand it is adults imposing a particular value set onto children. If there are genuine opportunities to learn about marriages and long term relationships (after all marriage is not a mandatory ingredient to long term successful relationships), from lots of different faith or secular perspectives then I think it could be an awesome learning opportunity for children, but likewise I would not want the children to assume that marriage and long term relationships only occur between people of the opposite sex, but how many primary school teachers would be okay about allowing a same sex marriage to occur in their classroom for fear of parental or media backlash? I appreciate that there would be little to add to the learning experience once one “marriage ceremony” has been enacted but at the very least I would expect schools to also read the brilliant and lovely “King and King” as part of their work on marriage (King isn’t keen on any of the princesses the Queen Mother wants him to marry – then he falls for another prince and they all (including Queen Mother) live happily ever after- it’s a cute story with lovely illustrations.)

I’m also uncomfortable with the notion of “a marriage” in the classroom because of popularity/bullying- elevating two children in the class to status of Bride and Groom, is akin to the equally distasteful electing a “prom king and prom queen” which seems to be increasing in the UK. School absolutely should not be a popularity contest- and although I recognize it often is- schools and teachers should not be facilitating that. Likewise adults facilitating such a “marriage” could lead to the children taking such roles far more seriously than they should. I envisage a period after the lesson of the “bride and groom” negotiating their “relationship” in the playground and with their peers once the honeymoon is over. Obviously this would depend on the personalities involved and the teacher drawing names at random out of a hat would mitigate that in some way. Also how far should this role play go? Hen and stag do’s? A drunk best man speech? A honeymoon? A baby? An affair? A divorce? Are they not also common features of many partnership celebrations?

Hosting wedding ceremonies in the classroom is entirely different to children playing at wedding ceremonies in their own playtime- in a non adult directed space you will find the kids want to marry their favourite dinosaur toy or teddy, marry their mummy, marry their best friends, marry about 5 people at once, marry no-one- all an entirely normal and appropriate developmental role play and OBVIOUSLY NOT examples of future bestiality, incest, homosexuality, polyamory or asexuality etc. from these kids!* But when adults take over these role plays we only feel safe if we teach the societal notions of “normal and acceptable”, and I worry about the kids growing up to be gay or trans or who never wants to marry as all this lesson seeks to reinforce is how “not normal” they should feel, even though in according to the laws in this land (Equality Duty 2010 and hopefully soon the equal marriage bill once it finally passes) these kids have the right to be included and accepted throughout their school lives.

One final reason this unsettled me was in a country which has a forced marriage unit and has issued guidance for professionals on dealing with forced marriage including child marriage I am uncomfortable with children roleplaying marrying other children.

What do you think? Is this good practice in Primary SRE or is this an excellent example of Too Much Too Soon and what about letting children be children?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Note here for anyone stupid enough to think my point there was equating being trans or gay to bestiality and incest. Obviously I wasn’t but those are all genuine examples of people/things primary and nursery kids I know have wanted to marry! Bestiality and Incest are ILLEGAL. Being gay, trans, poly or asexual isn’t. *Awaits DM headline about me trying to “promote” somesuch at primary schools. Sigh.*

N.B. The title of this blogpost is my attempt at a daily mail style headline- out of interest does it instil a reaction akin to “Pupils aged 11 to learn about gay sex? 😉

Does the DfEE SRE Guidance 2000 meet the Equality Duty 2011?


Thirteen years ago the 2000 the government published the Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) guidance (DfEE 2000).  In 2013 the government restated that this SRE guidance document was still in force when it published the outcomes of the PSHE review (Truss, 2013). The table below outlines the key areas where sexuality is referred to within that document, a brief analysis of key words for the document the underpinning legal framework to SRE.    This document preceded the repeal of Section 28 and hence several times throughout the document “It is not about promotion of sexual orientation- this would be inappropriate teaching” is mentioned (Highlighted in Red in the table below).

What does “promotion of sexual orientation” even mean? Not about promoting one identity over another? The inference that many teachers would take from this is you shouldn’t talk about different sexual identities, but perhaps you could interpret it as you should not promote heterosexuality as superior to other sexual identities? Is this really appropriate for a guidance document that teachers and schools are expected to pay due regard too in 2013? I think not!

Since 2011 Public Bodies including DfE are required to comply with the new equality duty which places an obligation on public authorities to positively promote equality, not merely to avoid discrimination on protected characteristics including sexual orientation.  Does the statement “it is not about promotion of sexual orientation- that would be inappropriate teaching” repeated throughout the document mean they are clearly not meeting their legal duties in 2013 by expecting teachers and schools to follow this guidance? I’m not a lawyer- what do you think?

 The DfEE (2000) Sex and Relationships Guidance Document. Key aspects relating to Sexuality and challenging homophobia.
Key aspects of the text  Page 5 of SRE Guidance“What is sex and relationship education? 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 or sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching.”        
Page 11 of SRE GuidanceRelationships “Within the context of talking about relationships, children should be taught about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for bringing up children. The Government recognises that there are strong and mutually supportive relationships outside marriage. Therefore, children should learn the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society. Teaching in this area needs to be sensitive so as not to stigmatise children on the basis of their home circumstances.”
Page 12 & 13 of SRE Guidance“Sexual identity and sexual orientation It is up to schools to make sure that the needs of all pupils are met in their programmes. Young people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationship education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment is clear that teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support. There should be no direct promotion of sexual orientation.

 

Sexual orientation and what is taught in schools is an area of concern for some parents. Schools that liaise closely with parents when developing their sex and relationship education policy and programme should be able to reassure parents of the content of the programme and the context in which it will be presented.

 

Schools need to be able to deal with homophobic bullying. Guidance issued by the Department (Social Inclusion: Pupil Support Circular 10/99) dealt with the unacceptability of and emotional distress and harm caused by bullying in whatever form – be it racial, as a result of a pupil’s appearance, related to sexual orientation or for any other reason.”

(N.B this has now been superceded by Education and Inspections Act 2006 and Equalities act 2010)

Page 19 of SRE GuidanceSRE within PSHE in Primary Schools Expects pupils to

“developing good relationships and respecting differences between people.”

 

Page 20 of SRE GuidanceSRE within PSHE In Secondary Schools Expects pupils to:

“be aware of their sexuality and understand human sexuality”

Page 25 of SRE Guidance

Parents need support in:

  • “answering questions about growing up, having babies, feeling attraction, sexuality, sex, contraception, relationships and sexual health.”
Page 27 of SRE Guidance

Youth Workers:

 “It is inappropriate for youth workers, as with any professional, to promote sexual orientation. They will be expected to respect this guidance when dealing with school age children. Individual views should not affect the independent advice given to the young person concerned.”

Page 27 of SRE Guidance

Peer Education:

“Particular life experiences of the educators can help young people understand how sex and relationships can affect people positively and negatively. Examples

include:

  • young teenage mothers talking about their experiences of having a child and offering advice and support to their peers;
  • young Asian women talking about their experience of learning about sex and relationships at home and from the wider community including school;
  • young people talking about their experience of living with HIV; and
  • young people who are physically disabled talking to other young people with a disability.”

Note the complete omission of people who are LGBT as possible educators.

Page 31 of SRE Guidance

Confidentiality:

The section on confidentiality at the end of the document  does not clarify that a young persons developing sexual orientation is NOT a child protection issue. I know of cases of LGB students engaged in consensual sexual relationships both over the age of consent have been referred to child protection leads which should not have been.

Analysis of the use of key terms Overview of key terms used

Homophobia appears 0 times in the document.

Sexuality appears 9 times in the document

Sexual Orientation 7 times in the document

Heterosexual, Homosexual, Straight, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, transgender do not appear at all as terms in the document.

Prejudice appears twice in the document

Equality or Discrimination do not appear as terms in the document.

Bullying appears three times in the document, one of those mentions being “homophobic bullying”

Underpinning Legislation to this document(adapted from FPA,2011 and SEF, 2011) Legal framework for SRE

Legislation relating to sex and relationships education (SRE) are contained within the Education Act (1996) and the Learning and Skills Act (2000).

The Education Act 1996 consolidated all previous legislation, and key points related to SRE are:

  • It is compulsory for all maintained schools to teach some parts of sex education i.e. the

biological aspects of puberty, reproduction and the spread of viruses. These topics are

statutory parts of the National Curriculum Science which must be taught to all pupils of

primary and secondary age.

  • Secondary schools are required to provide an SRE programme which includes (as a minimum) information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.
  • Other elements of personal, social and health education (PSHE), including SRE, are non-statutory.
  • All schools must provide, and make available for inspection, an up-to-date policy describing the content and organisation of SRE outside of national curriculum science. This is the school governors’ responsibility.
  • Primary schools should have a policy statement that describes the SRE provided or gives a statement of the decision not to provide SRE.

The Learning and Skills Act 2000 requires that:

  • young people learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and bringing up children.
  • young people are protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate, having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.
  • school governing bodies have regard for the SRE guidance.
  • parents have the right to withdraw their child from all or part of SRE provided outside national curriculum science.

* N.B. Schools are also legally required to comply with the new Equality Duty. The Act also makes it unlawful for the responsible body of a school to discriminate against, harass or victimise a pupil or potential pupil in relation to admissions, the way it provides education for pupils, provision of pupil access to any benefit, facility or service, or by excluding a pupil or subjecting them to any other detriment. In England and Wales the Act applies to all maintained and independent schools, including Academies and Free Schools, and maintained and non-maintained special schools. (SEF, 2011)

 The Equality Act 2010 covers the way the curriculum is delivered, as schools and other education providers must ensure that issues are taught in a way that does not subject pupils to discrimination. It is also a legal requirement for schools to teach a balanced view of any political issue. Schools must ensure equal opportunities in the education they provide, so it would not be lawful for schools to provide SRE only for girls or only for boys. An example of good practice given in guidance for education providers on the Equality Act (EHRC,2010)  is that PSHE education should cover  equality and diversity based subjects including gender equality and non-violent, respectful relationships between women and men.

As the SRE Guidance does stateYoung people, whatever their developing sexuality, need to feel that sex and relationship education is relevant to them and sensitive to their needs…. teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support.” & “Schools need to be able to deal with homophobic bullying”.  The legal duty for teachers/schools to combat all forms of bullying is now enshrined in the Education Act 2006 and the Equality Act 2010 

Therefore regardless of what the SRE Guidance says about “promotion of sexual orientation” (whatever that even means!?)- schools and teachers can and should talk about sexual and gender identity and challenge all forms of bullying and discrimination.

Sex and Relationships Education- A political hot potato game of piggy in the middle.


The government on the one hand says “we have full confidence in our teachers to teach their students what will be best for their education” but on the other hand says “the guidance note on reproduction is included to make sure pupils are not introduced to age inappropriate material”, and thus it lobs the hot potato of SRE into the hands of the teachers.

The teachers whom without statutory status of PSHE, without proper guidance, training and support are just not able to teach SRE to the standard it needs to currently needs to be so they either quietly drop the potato and hope no-one notices or they lob it back to the government demanding change from on high.

Meanwhile the children and young people continue to miss out on their entitlement to high quality age appropriate SRE. Another generation of poor piggys in the middle. IT IS STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

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An open letter to Matthew Offord MP re. same sex marriage, teachers and schools


Dear Matthew Offord,

I was genuinely shocked to read your response to Nick Lansley’s partner about same sex marriage, as it seems you are suffering from some very basic misconceptions about how schools and how sex and relationships education should work. As I am not one of your constituents I thought I would write an open response to you on my blog.

Before I go into your problematic response about schools I need to ask you about your statements:

“It is my strong personal, moral and religious belief that the institution of marriage is to provide the foundation of a stable relationship in which those two people of the opposite sex procreate and raise a child. That is physically not possible for same-sex couples so I don’t see the point of introducing a law to allow this”

Can I just ask you where you stand on opposite sex couples who are infertile? Who don’t ever want children? Who marry past the age of menopause? Should they still have the legal right to marry? Based on your statements I would assume you would be campaigning for an end to marriage in these cases, or do they get an exemption because they are heterosexual?

In your letter you stated:

“In regard to education, Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 places a legal requirement on schools to teach children about “the importance of marriage”. If marriage is redefined, schools will have no choice but to give children equivalent teaching on same sex marriage, even those children of a very young age, including those at primary school.”

Can I ask you exactly what you think is wrong about that? The 1996 law is sixteen years old and needs updating as does the whole of the legislation and guidance relating to Sex and Relationships Education. We currently only have the 2000 DfE SRE guidance (twelve years out of date) and we are still waiting on the outcomes from the PSHE review. Both the law and guidance pre-dates the Section 28 Legislation (which only actually ever applied to local authorities not schools directly) and also needs to be updated in light of that. There is no mention of civil partnerships in the guidance for example. I absolutely agree with you that teaching about marriage is very important, but I would argue that teaching about equality, tolerance and respect is even more so.

What exactly is your issue with primary school children talking about same sex marriage? Are you falling for the classic ignorant assumption that discussing sexual orientation means you also have to talk about sexuality and sexual activity? You really can separate the two out you know- talking about gay marriage to primary school children does not mean you have to talk about “gay sex” at all. (By the way the concept of “gay sex” is erroneous anyway. Being a sex and relationships educator I do feel I have to point out that the spectrum of sexual activity is NOT confined to one particular sexual orientation. Any sexual activity you can think of can be carried out whether you are in a same sex or opposite sex relationship.)

Alternatively are your worries that talking about same sex marriage to primary school children might make them gay? I have worked with young people for 12 years now, let me tell you that talking to young people about different sexual orientations DOES NOT MAKE THEM GAY. What it absolutely does do is make them more tolerant, respectful and understanding of people’s differences. Can I ask you if you think it is acceptable for a young person to be bullied because of their perceived sexual orientation? To live in constant fear of persecution by people who don’t understand them? One of my proudest teaching and learning moments was covering a lesson on homophobia with a class, a boy with strong faith views shouted out “I WANT TO KILL ALL GAYS” he was angry and convinced this was a course of action they deserved. By the end of the lessons he came to me and said “Miss, I still don’t like it and neither does my faith, but I get what you mean now about not being mean to someone because of it.” For him that was the most monumental shift, and he was a violent angry young man, I have absolutely no doubt that he would be the type to beat someone up for acting “gay” whether or not they actually were. I strongly believe widespread teaching of such lessons would go a huge way in reducing incidences of homophobic bullying and violence. Surely you agree that a reduction in hate crime is a good thing?

Your letter makes it clear you are a man of faith however all major religions teach tolerance and respect and you absolutely can teach about different sexual orientations in a way that does not conflict with faith views. What you seemed to be advocating was that schools be absolutely silent on the issue of sexual orientation, which can only lead to more bullying and violence against individuals who may or may not turn out to be gay but they are perceived to be “different”.

Thanks to addressing issues of homophobia within my previous school, a girl who had previously contemplating drastic steps because of her sexual orientation, had the confidence to confide in me she was a lesbian and from there was able to come out to her mum. Her mum later said to me “I’m glad that she could talk to someone when she couldn’t face me with it, and I’m grateful and relieved that the school were there to support her, without the support who knows what she could have done.” I made a difference to that girl’s life and since then I have devoted my teaching career to supporting young people and the people that work with them around issues in Sex & Relationships Education. It is not over the top to say it really can save lives. Thankfully schools now have a moral and legal duty (see Equality Act 2010) to support all students regardless of ability, gender, sexual orientation, race or religion, and when given the opportunities they do this very well indeed.

You asked “So what will happen to parents who because of religious, or philosophical beliefs take their children out of lessons? ” I also would very much like an answer to that. Parents currently have the right to opt out of Sex and relationships education lessons (but less than 1% do). I would argue that young people should all have an entitlement to sex and relationships education lessons- and if it is not provided by the school then I would expect parents to provide it including teaching about different sexual orientations. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual (LGB) people EXIST, parents simply cannot deny that. They have existed for more than the 2000 years you are glad that “homophobia” has been enshrined for. Well you actually called your homophobic beliefs “views” you stated:-

“Discriminated against and persecuted because they hold views that have been enshrined in our laws and have been the cornerstone of our society for two thousand years.”.

Can you please give me a “for instance” where someone with “views” such as yours has been “persecuted or discriminated against” to the same level as someone who is LGB (or Transgender). Has your stance in life ever led to Verbal abuse? Violent assaults? Being disowned? Murder? Suicide? No? Then please do not be so insulting as to be speaking from a position of privilege and claiming the same level of victimisation. Because it simply IS NOT TRUE.

Your letter asked:

And what of the teachers who object to teaching about same sex marriage. Will they face disciplinary action? How will it affect their careers?

Currently all teachers are expected to have the ability to teach Sex & Relationships Education. It is enshrined in QTS 21 of the Qualified Teacher Standards (although this is likely to change following the current review of teacher skills requirements). However thankfully many schools only ask for teachers willing to cover such topics to cover them, usually they will get additional training for this. This is important. I strongly believe no teacher should ever be forced to teach a subject they are not comfortable or trained in. All teachers are expected to uphold the law and school policies. This includes the Equality Act which “makes discrimination against someone for their real or perceived sexual orientation illegal in the provision of goods, services and facilities. Section 13 of the Sexual Orientation Regulations says that all students have an equal right to education, regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation.” Therefore I would argue that teachers absolutely should teach about same sex marriage as part of sex and relationships lessons, but I absolutely agree it needs clarifying in law for those teachers in schools expecting all teachers to provide sex and relationships education. Having an ignorant homophobic bigot deliver lessons about homophobia could be incredibly damaging for the young people in those lessons and they are my priority. Not the tiny minority of teachers who may have views that conflict with their duties and responsibilities as teachers and who damage their own careers accordingly. Thankfully the vast vast majority of teachers I know are very supportive of challenging homophobia in schools when given sufficient support and training to do so. They know the damage homophobia can do to our young people.

You also asked:

Will same sex marriage be covered under such subjects as citizenship forming part of the main curriculum taught to our children and tested through examination?”

PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education) and Citizenship are two very distinct but complimentary subjects. The law and curriculum surrounding both of them could definitely do with clarifying and updating, but I think you will find that the current debate about changing the law around same sex marriage has already been covered in many citizenship lessons across the land already. It is relevant to the subject and topical. I suspect some students may end up doing coursework on it. It’s already happening. Is that a problem for you?

You stated you have a “strong personal, moral and religious belief” in “the institution of marriage”, As a happily married heterosexual woman I also have a strong personal moral and faith in marriage, I strongly believe it is an institution all couples in loving relationships should be able to enter. In fact Chief Justice Margaret Goodridge said it far better than me:

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.”

Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition. Tangible as well as intangible benefits flow from marriage. The benefits accessible only by way of a marriage license are enormous, touching nearly every aspect of life and death. It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a civil right. “

It was my personal and professional values and attitudes that compelled me to respond to your letter. Finally you stated “I do not believe that same sex marriage would serve to enhance British society or its values.” Could you please explain to me how same sex marriage would affect “British Society and values” in any other way than show we are a tolerant and accepting nation that recognises and celebrates individual human rights?

Yours Sincerely

A Teacher of Equality, Compassion, Empathy and Respect.

Relationship Advice for Tweens


So today an article I wrote for JumpMag was published. JumpMag is an inspirational online magazine for girls. No lipgloss or JustinBieber to be found.

The article I wrote was about good relationships. Although written for tweens, I personally think the 5ideas hold true for all relationships of any age so I am also reproducing the advice below:

Relationships are hard at any age.

Remember relationships isn’t just about having a boyfriend or a girlfriend, but it’s about how you get on with your parents, your friends and other people important to you.

There are certain basic ideas that are important to developing good relationships, you master these and life suddenly becomes a lot less stressful!

I have some ideas that may help you have better relationships with the people you care about

Communication

Communication is the most important aspect of any relationship. Sharing things with people in your life is important. We do this mostly by speaking and listening. It is important to share how you feel about things and to listen and try to understand how others feel about things (this is called empathy).

How good are you at both talking AND listening? If you favour doing only one of them in a relationship then this isn’t as balanced as it could be- you probably need to work on doing both and so should the other person.

Also sometimes people might say something but their body language (how someone uses their body or their facial expression) maybe saying something different. Take some time to consider what is your body language saying when you talk? What is their body language saying? Do you make eye contact when you talk?

A key to successful communication is to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements- eg. “I feel sad when you call me silly” is better than “You calling me silly makes me sad” because the second one can put the person on the defensive straight away and the conversation can go badly after that.

Negotiation and Consent.

Negotiation means developing an agreement together and consent basically means agreeing to something.
Think about the last time you agreed to something- was it willingly (eg. let’s go to the cinema) or unwillingly (cleaning your bedroom so you could get your pocket money). Did you negotiate to do those things?
Think about why you agreed to do those activities and what the benefits and costs were to you. In the first example, the benefits were that you had fun and got to see a film. Was there a cost to you? Not really, unless you had to pay for your ticket. In this situation, you probably willingly and happily consented to the plan.

In the second example, there were some benefits such as a nice tidy bedroom and getting pocket money, but perhaps there were costs too. You had to stay in and perhaps missed seeing a friend. You might not have been quite so happy to consent to that.

Sometimes we have to consent to something, because it is expected of us, such as doing our chores. Other times it is acceptable to withhold consent. For instance, your friend might ask to borrow your iPod. You do not have to consent to this. The iPod belongs to you and you can decide if you want to lend it.

Or a friend might tell you to do something that you don’t want to do, such as be nasty to another person in your class.

In relationships consent is very important, a relationship where people are constantly forcing you to do things against your will is a negative one. Ask yourself why are they trying to make you do that.

Honesty

Lies and deceit often end up in heartache, it is always best to be truthful and honest, if you don’t feel you can be honest- ask yourself why.

Is it because you are worried about hurting the other person? If so consider ways of saying what you need to say so it is less hurtful. If it is because you are trying to protect yourself from hurt then consider what is going on within that relationship that is making you lie. Consider ways of strengthening the honesty in the relationship. Commit to being honest with them and ask them to be honest with you.

Trust

In order to feel safe, comfortable and relaxed with someone and to develop a close relationship with them, we need to be able to trust the people closest to us. Remember being open and honest with people helps them build up trust in you. If you can’t trust someone close to you- ask yourself why and consider what you might need to do to develop a trusting relationship. Discuss trust with the other person and what it means to both of you.

Respect

Do you respect yourself, or do people “walk all over you”, do you respect your friends? Your parents? Consider what respect means to you. Is it being clever? Popular? Pretty? Are these positive or negative things. How do people earn respect? Consider why it is important to be respectful in relationships. What might happen if you don’t have respect in a relationship? Remember Eleanor Roosevelt once said “remember no-one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.

Start applying these 5 ideas to your life today and see what happens! We’d love to hear how you get on with them!

The Obsession with Penis in Vagina (PIV) Sex


A discussion tonight on twitter about Gina Ford and her postnatal sex advice got me thinking more widely about societal obsession with “penis in vagina” sex as the “be all and end all”.

*rant alert* that’s a very narrow definition of what sex is. The wonderful Scarleteen have written many a marvellous article about this (which I will try and come back and link to when I get a moment) but I just wanted to highlight to those teaching sex education in schools that solely offering such a narrow perspective on sexual activity does your students a disservice (also is not very inclusive of LGB students). Also here is an interesting report from Kinsey exploring what sex is to different people.

Remember your lessons should always cover the foundations of a healthy sex life- trust, communication, respect etc. but I really think it is really important that teachers try to address this narrow perspective on sex where PIV sex is the only type of sex discussed. Not least so any budding Gina Ford’s in your class can be more informed 😉

Happy Educating!

International Woman’s Day- Teaching about Consent.


Happy International Women’s Day!

“Today Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg shows his support for The Home Office’s Teenage Rape Prevention campaignlaunched on 5 March. He warns that rape is not just about violent attacks by strangers but also includes non-consensual sex within a relationship and highlights the need to get young people talking about the importance of consent.”

Taken from my Sex Education Forum Bulletin I just received via email- you can get it too by signing up here.

Consent can be a tricky thing to teach.  As well as covering the legal aspects of consent it is important to discuss notions of active consent and what abuse and coercion can look like. I really really love the way Scarleteen do this here (About navigating consent) and here (about body boundaries).

An interesting way to explore consent with young people is to discuss different scenarios with them with giving them traffic light cards (a red, amber, green card) and reading out a lengthy scenario and asking them to hold up the card as to whether the point in the story is Consenting (Green- good to go), Consensual grey area/ unsure (Amber) or Non-Consenting (Red -Stop).

The main scenario types you should explore are:

a) “Consent” under the influence of drink or drugs.

b) “Consent” under the influence of one partner’s coercion.

c) “Consent” due to previous sexual activities being consented to.

It can be very interesting to do this with the young people closing their eyes to remove peer pressured responses, and to compare the responses from the different genders. It can be tricky sometimes to come to a “consensus on consent” so allow plenty of time for discussion.

Also very interesting to use the Haven’s Where is your line? Campaign Video using the traffic light cards. (bewarned it is a hard hitting video so view it first to assess suitability for your class).

These are just some of the ways I like to explore consent with young people. I have many more ideas but I am supposed to be on maternity leave and no time to blog them all!!

If you have any more ideas for exploring consent with young people please do share them.

Happy Educating.

Putting the R back into SRE- as a teacher and a mother.


A bit of a teacher twitter discussion last night about being good at the S but not at the R (the current hashtag #whatsexedtaughtme is interesting to follow).  In schools sex and relationships education can often focus on the sex stuff and not so much the relationships stuff and I thought it would be timely to unpick this a bit more in a blog post.

Firstly teaching about sex is so much easier than teaching about relationships as so much of it is based in facts.  You have facts about contraception, facts about STI’s, facts about reproduction etc etc.  Whereas relationships is so much harder concept to teach as facts are really limited in this area and its more about teaching about certain relationship principles such as trust, honesty, communication, negotiation etc etc and the trouble is that even us wise old adult teachers and parents are still grappling with many of these principles in our own relationships so no wonder it’s quite hard for us to cover it well with students.

Also lets face it- Sex is inherently interesting to young people (and everybody!), Sex Education lessons are the ones where you can almost guarantee every student is interested, on task and you will not have any behaviour management issues (so long as you have set the lesson up right and are working withinthe ten basic tenets) whereas relationships being such wooly concepts can often be quite dry boring lessons and can give the subject a bad name.

So how can we sort out these relationships lessons?  Well firstly I do think there is an issue with Relationships education falling solely within SRE (and I blogged some further ponderances about that here) as they are such huge concepts and actually they don’t just fall into the remit of SRE (although obviously they are important here) but they need to be universal- modelled by parents, teachers, family, friends etc.  If we want to teach young people how to listen we need to listen to them.  If we want to teach young people how to respect each other we need to respect them and so on.  I’m not saying these are easy things to just do overnight but I think we do need to recognise that relationships education is universal, continuous, ongoing and heck we are all still learning about relationships everyday until we die, so it’s not like we can simply come up with a quick fix curriculum.

I was thinking about what I want to teach my own daughters (one toddler and one due in January!) about relationships.  I want to teach them to stand up for themselves, to communicate their wants, feelings and desires but also to listen and respect other people’s.  I want them to be happy and not messed around and to be able to recognise and walk away from negative relationships. I want them to be able to deal and manage changes in relationships and understand that relationships can be flipping hard work but can offer so much.  I want to teach them all of these things but I’m not sure how or if I can achieve this with them.

I have so many relationship lesson activities in my repertoire, some awesome, some boneachingly dull so I have decided it is time to take some time to sort them out and at some point soon I will try and blog some ideas.    This post is a “coming soon” post as I want to take some time to gather thoughts and ideas from other awesome educators and write a bit of a humdinger of a post. But in the meantime for the insatiable impatients  amongst you there is always “A dozen ways to explore what is love” I blogged about last year.

Please do comment on this post if you have any fab innovative ideas for how to explore the lofty concepts relationships with children and young people.

Sex Education for children and young people with special educational needs- resources


A discussion on twitter prompted this blog post. Thought it might be helpful to have a linked list of useful resources/starting points for parents/teachers.

Firstly start with “Sex and Relationships Education for children and young people with learning difficulties” a forum factsheet produced by the sex education forum.   And their very comprehensive and updated resource list.  (They also have other useful stuff on their site so have a browse!).

Of those resources I do have a copy of Puberty and Sexuality which isn’t a definitive resource but as a FREE starting point resource (with session plans/resources etc) for parents and teachers I think its great!

Also leonard cheshire disability have produced some fab resources around sex and relationships education for young people with disabilities (as part of their In Touch Campaign) and is another fab place to have a look around.

In terms of best practice for special schools- David Stewart head of Oakfield Sports College in Nottingham (formerly Shepherd School) is absolutely phenomenal.  He does do some training around SRE and special education and if you can ever go to some I strongly suggest you do! I observed an SRE lesson at the school and was so so impressed. Kids who go there are very very lucky.

This blogpost could be endless but these are some of the things I have found useful to my work.  Do let me know about anything you come across or find useful and I may add to this list.

Happy educating.