I knew introducing SRE to my multi-faith inner-city primary school would necessitate a carefully planned and holistic process. It was essential that teachers received high-quality training, were confident in our rationale, and felt supported by the ethos of the school and senior leaders.
The staff firmly believed in the benefits of SRE and, once introduced, became the drivers of the initiative’s successful impact.
To raise parental awareness of the benefits of SRE, we organised information sessions for parents of children in each year group, shared learning resources, and held open-door question and answer sessions with curriculum leaders and school health workers. There were some parents who I met with as Head and was able to reassure them of any concerns. However, there remained a few parents that, despite the above, requested to withdraw their children from SRE. These were parents of children who we felt would have especially benefitted from SRE, usually as they came from vulnerable backgrounds. Ultimately though, parents currently have the right to withdraw their children from SRE, a fact that has long frustrated Headteachers and educational professionals.
Perhaps though, change is afoot. The recent report by the Women and Equalities Committee exposes a shocking scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence that is not being tackled effectively in English schools:
- 29% of 16-18 year old girls said that they have experienced unwanted sexual touching at school.
- In 2014, 59% of girls and young women aged 13-21 said they had faced some form of sexual harassment at school or college.
- 71% of boys aged 16-18 said that they heard derogatory language such as ‘slut’ or ‘slag’ used towards girls at school on a regular basis.
A key recommendation of the Committee was that every child at primary and secondary school must have access to high quality SRE. They advocated that this could only be achieved through making it a statutory subject. Making the subject statutory would be a significant step forward in supporting schools to deliver high-quality SRE and give all pupils, regardless of their background, the opportunity to learn knowledge that will ultimately help to keep them safe.
Read the full report by the Women and Equalities Commission on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in Schools.
Authored by Fay Gingell.