Shropshire has adopted an entitlement, county-wide approach, ensuring all young people regardless of the area they live in and the school they go to, have the opportunity to receive good quality RSE.
Public health curriculum adviser Alice Cruttwell has developed the programme for years 1 to 11 over the past six years with the aim of not only tackling teenage pregnancy, but also addressing safeguarding issues and improving the self-confidence and selfesteem of young people too.
It includes training for teachers, support for non-teaching staff about use of language and responding to pupils’ questions as well as running parents meetings and working with governors on policy and whole school issues. A comprehensive set of classroom resources are also provided. They cover assessment tools to identify pupils’ baseline knowledge and confidence before and after lesson delivery, guidance on establishing a safe and comfortable learning environment and lesson plans.
“In return for this, we ask for a commitment from the school,” Ms Cruttwell says. “We want to make sure that sufficient curriculum time is allocated, so we ask secondary schools for a minimum of five one-hour lessons for each year group and that staff attend training, have an opportunity to reflect and review delivery and develop as part of a specialist team.
“The primary curriculum is in three sections with flexibility across the key stages to address choices and challenges, changes and celebrate. “The message to our schools is that this work needs to be taken seriously, it is about developing pupil’s skills and self-esteem as well as knowledge in an age appropriate way. Long gone are the days of the one-off lesson delivered by an outside speaker.”
To date 85 per cent of primary schools and all secondary schools, as well as a number of independent schools are signed up. In addition a Catholic Consortium of seven schools from Shropshire and Telford and Wreken are receiving training and support. “It’s a myth that schools are not interested and don’t want to make it a priority,” adds Ms Cruttwell.
“Teachers were concerned they weren’t doing enough, governors were keen to ensure a consistent whole school approach and parents welcomed an opportunity to strengthen the home-school partnership. Parents welcomed an opportunity to strengthen the home-school partnership. Having a council approved, award winning curriculum which is PSHE Association quality assured, has ensured all schools are working in a consistent and agreed way.”
The classroom work is supported by strong pastoral support and co-ordination with local services, including school nurses providing confidential, open access services in secondary schools. The CHAT service (confidential, help, support and advice) has different levels of sexual health provision, and can, following governor approval, include condom distribution, pregnancy and chlamydia testing. Schools that have taken part are full of praise.
Mount Pleasant Primary School deputy head Steve Morris says the programme has become a ‘key element’ of the school’s approach to PSHE and he would ‘unreservedly recommend’ it. Meanwhile, Andrew Smith, head of Mary Webb School and Science College, says one of the strengths of the programme is that it encourages a ‘whole school approach’ by involving teachers, governors and other staff. He says staff at his school are very satisfied with the programme. Senior staff and councillors are also delighted. Public Health Director Rod Thomson says the work “directly contributes to corporate priorities and departmental objectives such as the emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people”.
Councillor Ann Hartley, Chair of Shropshire Council, former portfolio holder for Children, Young People and Safeguarding, says the programme plays an important part in protecting children. “We take our responsibility to safeguard our children seriously, RSE is vital to ensure they are protected. We are doing all we can at a local level.” Shropshire’s under-18 conception rate has now fallen by 55 per cent since 1998.
The Shropshire Respect Yourself RSE resources are available via www.healthyshropshire.co.uk/sexualhealth/RSE
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