Puberty is mentioned in the latest draft of Science National Curriculum

So I do believe we are now on Draft 3 of this 224 page National curriculum document.  There is yet ANOTHER consultation on it which ends in August.

The big news is Puberty is now mentioned in Year 5 which is absolutely when it should be at least (not left until last days of Summer term of Y6 which is far too late given many will have started puberty by then) – so I’m really pleased about that.

The other changes we need to see to support young people have not been made. Here are my previous blogs on the issue-

A letter from Liz Truss

A Political Hot Potato

Naming of the Teeth Versus Naming of the Genitals

I also note there is nothing really on microbes, disease and vaccinations in the doc. (Not just for teaching about HIV and other STI’s, and about the HPV vaccine (which most girls have at secondary school now) but also for general health and hygiene- things like Swine Flu and other pandemics are not going to stop happening- we need to teach kids about them.)

So erm this is the document to catch us up with the worlds best, but misses so much crucial scientific info out it is not even funny (I’m speaking with my Science Teacher hat on here). Plus academies don’t even have to follow this document and they now that they make up 45% of secondary schools and since Gove seems to want all schools to become academies, then I’m not entirely sure what the point to a “national” curriculum is any more.

Le Sigh.

There are lots of other issues with the doc which I will link to as the orgs I work for publish their responses. Watch this space.

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.


Help for educators in dealing with sexualised media including pornography.

Today an article of mine was published in the TES-

Should we panic about Pornography?

Alongside this Spencer Williams and I wrote a guide for Teachers with some ideas and tips on how to cover it in lessons. This document also covers reference to the two main commercially available educational resources dealing with Porn and links to training courses and further reading.  It is a collaborative working document and will be updated as we go along so if you have any ideas or resources you want to share please do!

Pornography- Tips in how to address in SRE lessons.

It can be downloaded as a PDF – all you need is a TES Login.

Happy Educating.

Mumsnet sex ed survey- The results

I didn’t have time to do a proper post on this when it first came out, but whilst doing some housekeeping on the blog I found the draft post so I shall quickly finish it and post it.

Mumsnet did a survey of their members about sex and relationships education back in November 2011 and the results came back with overwhelming support for SRE which is really positive. Admittedly Mumsnet is not the voice of ALL parents but nevertheless I was really heartened by the results, parents are often a lot more supportive of SRE than the media and government usually give them credit for thanks to the tiny minority of vociferously anti-sex education types who seem to have the ear of the media and certain MP’s.

The survey revealed just how supportive Mumsnet members are of comprehensive sex education.

  • A very high proportion (98%) were happy for their children to attend SRE lessons
  • 92% think SRE should be a compulsory subject in secondary schools
  • 69% think SRE should be a compulsory subject in primary schools
  • 90% think there should be a statutory duty on all schools, including faith schools and academies, to deliver comprehensive SRE

So although I am posting this several months later, I am just adding it as a gentle reminder for us parents to show their support for their schools SRE , to show the media and the government that parents want this for our children and to support those delivering it in our schools.


Why Michael Gove is WRONG about SRE/PSHE

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.

Using Music in SRE lessons

Following on from a twitter discussion about the powerful effect of music and how this could be harnessed in health education,  the awesome and lovely @DrSchroe was kind enough to email me a list of suggestions around using music in SRE lessons.  I was so inspired by this I wanted to adapt it into a blogpost for you  (but Elizabeth deserves most of the credit for this post- all her fab suggestions are in italics! Thankyou so much!)

1.  Having music playing when students come in.  “Sounds so basic, but I’ve used music anywhere from just setting a welcoming environment, to having a song that’s a preview for the topic we’ll be discussing that day.  For example, I might have “She bop” by Cyndi Lauper or “I Touch Myself” by the Divynls playing if the topic is masturbation.  I do this with video clips, too.  Also, for students with the musical learning intelligence, it helps to focus them — we so overlook this intelligence when we educate, no matter what topic area it is!”.  

Music can be so effective as a mood setter. If I need the mood to be sombre and serious particularly if I am doing visualisations with the group around what it feels like to be LGBT or having a positive pregnancy or STI test then I might play something by Ludovico Einuadi- which is all instrumental. I especially like this one. Yann Tiersen is also good for these types of activities.  Remember though at the end of the activity it is important to also break a sombre mood created with a very upbeat song such as this or this.  I love the idea of using the song “I touch myself” to introduce the topic of masturbation with certain groups  and I might have to include that next time I teach it if appropriate for that group!  Other sex ed related songs you could think about using/discussing might be “every sperm is sacred”, or “let’s talk about sex”– do you any other suitable suggestions?  One I suggest you DEFINITELY DON’T USE use with young people (well unless you have a career ending death wish 😉 is Consolidated (featuring the Yeastie girls): You suck!

2.  Analyze the music, lyrics and video.  “One of the things I’ve noticed is that a lot of the times what is communicated through the video for a song is not what’s in the song itself.  The examples I’ll give you are outdated ones, but I’ll share them for context:  Madonna’s Express Yourself is a song about empowerment and strength, but the video is all about being trapped, chained, etc.  Another is “The Reason” by Hoobastank — it’s a beautiful song about someone trying to be a better person for his partner — yet the video image is about a jewelry heist.  Talking about what the visual and music communicate then leads into discussions about relationships, communication or whatever the topic is that you’ll be discussing.

One thing I caution people about, though, is to not set up the students by showing them an image or listening to a song and labeling what they’ve seen or heard as negative.  This is really hard for me, especially when I use rap lyrics.  Every part of me wants to say, “Isn’t this SO misogynistic?” but that would shut them down.  So I ask them questions about how they feel about/react to it, which they gets us into our lesson on gender roles, norms, etc.”

Again I love this idea (any other video suggestions dear readers?) and think certain current artists- (eg. Rihanna) have a lot of video content that is definitely worth exploring and discussing with young people, to try and help them gain skills in critically analyse some of the explicit messages in the videos.

3.  Require them to integrate music into projects. ” A lot of times, this is a given — but if they are using technology anyway, or making a voiceover, or a video or a blog, etc., ask them to integrate music.  Sometimes, this can be connected to the topic — such as, “find me a song that communicates to me what you think a healthy relationship is” — or, it can be, “If you were mapping the path of an egg going down a fallopian tube, what kind of theme music would we hear?”  Makes it more fun and engaging — and is surprisingly revealing on how they think/feel about a particular topic.”

One thing we’ve done successfully on a vulnerable girls project I support is ask the girls to bring a piece of music that really speaks to them and do a short presentation about what the music is and why it means so much.  This really increased the girls confidence in sharing stuff as a group. A strong team bond was built from this and the deeper work around sex and relationships was much more effective as a result.

Developing educational materials using music “creating raps, songs, asking the room to write a song, create rhythms, etc.  It’s so creative, and again, gets them to think about the often overlooked musical intelligence.”

I think teachers often shy away from using music in lessons but getting students to create their own stuff is brilliant, for world AIDS day one year we had some really impressive poems, songs and raps written about how what the students had learned and how they felt about the pandemic.  Really impressive.

All in all I hope that provides you with some ideas about how to incorporate music into your SRE lessons. If you have other ideas please do share them, we’d love to hear them!

A plea to parents who support school sex and relationships education- Updated

*Updated*- Please Follow @P4SRE on Twitter

 On Facebook

and for more information about being SRE supporting parent

In my experience the vast vast majority of parents are supportive of schools delivering Sex and Relationship Education.  They may have some concerns about the material or how to support their child with it, but by engaging with the school about the content of the curriculum then many of these fears can be alleviated.  I have only ever had two students (out of the hundreds possibly thousands I have taught) who have been withdrawn from the lessons following discussions with the parents (and one of these students actually chose to withdraw himself although his parents didn’t mind as much! In the end  I decided he deserved this right to withdraw himself on this occasion although technically legally he probably didn’t!).  Other parents seeking to withdraw were reassured after meetings with me and viewing the materials etc.  Parents and schools have to work together on sex and relationships education, to ensure it is the best possible learning for their child.

Something I have always been aware of is that those who shout the loudest are getting heard.  The thing is in sex and relationships education those loud voices are often the very anti-sex education voices, these voices are in a minority but they sometimes have the power to sway the content and curriculum in their favour so that it no longer represents the majority view, and it’s the children and young people who miss out as a result (don’t forget young people often complain sex and relationships education is often “too little, too late, too biological“.)

So what I am asking is if you are a parent supportive of your child’s school delivering Sex and Relationships education- get involved. Champion it in your child’s school. Work with the school to develop it so it is the best it can possibly be for your child.  Get your voice heard too- Please for the sake of the children!