With the extra focus on positive relationships in primary and secondary schools, more related safeguarding concerns may become visible
09 October 2019

Relationships and sex education in schools
With the new statutory guidance from the Department for Education requiring all primary schools to deliver ‘relationships education’ and secondary schools to deliver ‘relationships & sex education’ (RSE) from September 2020, children and young people will be discussing sensitive issues which may, in turn, lead to an increase in teacher and self-reported safeguarding incidents. 

Consider the following scenarios, which could become fairly typical:

  • After a lesson on consent in sexual relationships a pupil Googles 'sexual consent'. Is the material they view informative, accurate and age-appropriate?

  • A pupil comes away from a lesson that covered LGBTQ+ relationships. It prompts questions about their own sexuality which they explore online.  Are they simply exploring their sexuality or are they suffering from anxiety as a result of their feelings?

  • An open discussion in an RSE lesson leads to a pupil being bullied on Facebook because they are less experienced than their peers.

Your team at eSafe is anticipating an increase in young people exploring the web for related content and discussion groups, and is, of course, geared up for detecting the early warning signs of the vast range of related safeguarding concerns. NHS stats show that poor levels of mental health among LGBTQ+ people have often been linked to experiences of discrimination and bullying. And while a person’s sexual or romantic orientation or gender identity may not be the source of distress, people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or any other orientation or gender identity, may find that the social stigma of living as a minority is a source of stress or anxiety. 

Parentzone provides support and information to help both parents and young people on a variety of LGBTQ+ related issues.  Click here to visit their LGBTQ+ hub.

Getting ready for the new curriculum

1. Understand the new legislation and what it means for your school.

2. Gather pupils’ views; consider how your provision will need to be tailored.

3. Audit your current provision; define what needs to change.

4. Assign a working team to oversee the implementation of the new provision.

5. Create a policy that reflects your aims and reinforces your school ethos and values. Schools must have a written policy for relationships education and RSE.

6. Develop a comprehensive and flexible curriculum that can respond to your pupils’ needs at different points in time.

7. Review safeguarding policies to consider potential issues that may arise as a result of the new curriculum. Particular attention should be given to SEND and vulnerable students who may be at risk of sexual exploitation.

8. Equip staff through sharing and training sessions as all staff have a role to play. Some staff will need specialist training given the sensitive nature of this area, especially when dealing with incidents picked up in the digital environment by eSafe.
• For example, eSafe incident reports involving LGBTQ+ and non-binary young people must be treated with extra caution, especially if the involvement of parents is being considered: there’s the risk of ‘outing’ them before they are ready to tell their parents/that their home may not be a safe place for the user to be gender variant or LGBTQ+.

9. Bring the whole school community with you, including governors and parents, through effective and ongoing communication as well as consultation opportunities. This will help ensure the smooth transition to the new provision.
• Consider timely points to share progress and development about your plans, and garner community-wide feedback.

10. As with any subject, monitor and evaluate the provision (ongoing); make refinements as needed.

Pupils should be able to understand the world in which they are growing up, which means understanding that some people are LGBT, that this should be respected in British society, and that the law affords them and their relationships recognition and protections.

Department for Education, 2019b

Three examples of markers of anxiety/stress:

  • “I stress about passing”; “I might not pass”

A trans young person who is concerned about whether or not they will ‘pass’ as their intended gender.

  • “Trangst”; “I’m feeling transgsty today”

The angst that comes with the transgender status. 

  • “Deadnaming”; “I’ve been deadnamed”

A deadname is the birth name of a person who has since changed their name. This term is commonly used in the transgender community. 'Deadnaming' a trans person can cause offence and distress.

Good to know

  • From September 2020, all schools will be required to integrate relationships education/RSE into their new curriculum.

  • Relationships education is focused on the dynamics of positive relationships, with a focus on relationships with friends, family and other adults. Children will also be taught how to recognise physical, sexual and physical abuse and that they have rights over their bodies.

  • Parents do not have a right to withdraw their child from relationships education.

  • RSE is taught in unison with sex education at secondary level and aims to give young people the information they need to develop healthy, respectful and nurturing relationships of all kinds, not just intimate relationships.

  • Parents do have the right to withdraw their child from some aspects of sex education although it’s the headteacher’s responsibility to the discuss the value and importance of RSE before granting this request.

  • A child can request sex education without their parents’ consent from 3 terms before their 16th  birthday.

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