Tonight I found myself briefly teaching my three year old, canine, incisors and molars and the difference between baby and adult teeth. Not because I am some insanely pushy mother but because she is always asking and wants to be able to name every part of her body and she can already name all the obvious ones and the less obvious ones (tonight she informed me “my throat is in my neck Mummy” and I don’t remember teaching her throat!)
Recently she has been very interested in nipples and the fact that males also have nipples but don’t have breasts, but she doesn’t have breasts but has nipples but she knows she isn’t a boy. She is aware boys have a penis and that she has a vulva and both have a bottom. She also knows that grown ups have pubic hair. None of this has ever fazed her and has been entirely led at her level when she asks a question (which she does all the time!) she gets an age appropriate response.
I was amused that I was teaching her year4 primary science curriculum in the new draft curriculum which mentions naming of body parts skilfully avoiding mentioning the genitals yet then goes on to specify the exact teeth (and digestive organs etc.) children should know. It also fails to make reference explicitly to puberty (although one might infer from the section on “life cycles”).
I’m a qualified science teacher married to an engineer so it’s a given the littlest Ukations are going to be science geeks, but tonight bought it home to me quite how badly the draft science curriculum doesn’t really meet children’s needs. They want to know what each part of their body does and what it is called. They want to know why their mummy has breasts, and how their baby sibling came into the world, they want to know the differences between boys and girls, why grown ups have hair where children don’t, why mummy sometimes bleeds. They want to know about why people get sick, about blood, vomit, poo and wee and why they need to wash their hands after going to the toilet. This can all be done age appropriately and at a level they can understand. It is basic human biology. Most parents will be happy with these conversations, others might not be/need more support to understand the aims of the lessons, some might need support to gain confidence in these conversations and that is okay and understandable, but I can’t seriously be the only parent who wants kids to be able to name penis/vulva (basic body parts) without shame or embarrassment before they can label a canine, incisor or a sodding molar (more advanced body parts)*!? Or am I!?
*P.S Sorry dear preschooler you may now be very bored in a Y4 science lesson 6years from now given that you know your teeth.
P.P.S Sorry future teacher of my child but I’m available for any SRE support you need 😀
I read this yesterday and was apopleptic that yet again this government are possibly heading on a course that will again do a massive disservice to our children and young people. Not only are children and young people disproportionately affected by the cuts but they seem to lack basic understanding about what children and young people actually need. (Not suprising when the secretary of state for education has never actually been a teacher or worked in a school or with young people. Sigh.)
Michael Gove seems to be labouring under a massive misapprehension that distracting kids with academia will distract them from thinking about relationships and/or sex or risky behaviour! UM what planet is this man on!? ! Was he never a teenager himself? (Don’t answer that- I suspect the answer might be rude ;))
In my experience of working with children and young people, they are far from the underage sex/obsessed drink fuelled hoodies the media would have us believe. They are wonderful, sensitive, passionate, articulate soon to be adults. They are desperate to succeed in life – but for them success comes in more ways than academic success- success for them is often being popular, having a boyfriend/girlfriend, having lots of friends etc. Being a teenager is a HARD path to navigate, with lots of pressures and temptations to negotiate, most of the time these pressures and temptations occupy alot of the teenagers mind (this is different to saying kids are obsessed with sex- I don’t think they are!). Ask any pastoral leader in a school in this country about what the most of the problems they deal with are and it will be bullying, behaviour, friendship or relationship issues, often the academic stuff comes second to all of that.
That’s the most frustrating thing about all of this- a student who is being bullied, or who has broken up with a partner, or who needs to get the morning after pill somewhow is next to useless in a lesson on any subject. Until that problem is sorted THEY CANNOT AND WILL NOT LEARN EFFECTIVELY. What they need is more not less PSHE and SRE to help them to navigate life- to help them to deal with stress, to help them know where to get help if they are being bullied, to help them know where to get the morning after pill, to help them to be more assertive and confident and so on and so on. It is no coincidence that schools where PSHE/SRE is central to the schools ethos tend to have higher academic achievement. Because the students in those schools are supported so effectively they are able to learn and thus academically achieve.
That isn’t rocket science- that’s very basic understanding of human nature and learning, what a shame our Education Secretary seems to lack understanding of both.
P.S But to cheer me up I am very heartened to read this about one incredible young person, fighting to stop 71% youth service cuts. Amazing- and you know what? I bet it was his PSHE/Citizenship lessons that gave him the information and confidence to start this.