Consulting with parents on relationship and sex education

Posted by Ewa Jozefkowicz on Nov 8, 2019 9:30:14 AM

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Requirements for RSE are changing from September 2020. Last week, we wrote about consulting with your pupils and staff if you’re planning to update your curriculum or policy. In this week’s blog post, we’ll take a look at the tools needed to consult with parents. We worked with education experts Malcolm Groves and Bill Bolloten to develop this toolkit.

How to consult with parents

The best way to consult with parents about changes to your RSE curriculum is through a focus group, or series of focus groups. 

That's because:

  • Aspects of RSE can be sensitive and contentious - discussions will often be more nuanced than survey responses
  • Meetings or group discussions may be more accessible for parents who can't read well
  • Focus groups allow you to have open conversations about what parents feel their children should get from RSE, or concerns they have, without the level of feedback becoming overwhelming
  • Focus groups are more likely than surveys or open calls for feedback to help you get buy-in for your new curriculum from parents and the wider community

Make sure your focus groups are as representative as possible

Once parents have expressed an interest in taking part, identify any other parents you could approach who would help make the group more balanced or representative of your school community. For example, you may need to approach parents of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) to take part if none have volunteered.

Keep your focus group(s) to between 8 and 10 people. 

What to talk about, and what you'll need

Keep the conversation open; don't go into these focus groups trying to convince parents to agree to an approach you like. 

The focus groups should be about building a shared understanding of how RSE can best serve pupils' needs. 

You’ll need: 

  • A focus group presentation on the key themes for discussion
  • A summary of the new expectations for RSE in each phase (so parents know what the requirements are)
  • An outline/map of your RSE and PSHE curriculums
  • Examples of curriculum resources

Prepare for challenging questions

Some topics within the RSE curriculum are likely to be more contentious, or need to be treated sensitively:

  • Menstruation
  • Birth control and abortion
  • LGBT+ relationships and sexual health
  • Honour-based violence
  • Female genital mutilation

You may get questions about why you're teaching these, or why you're doing so at a certain age. For example, parents may have questions if, as a primary school, you decide to teach about menstruation before any pupil would likely have her period.

Prepare for your focus group(s) by thinking about how you'll answer these questions. 

When considering your answers, lean on:

  • Your school's vision, values and mission
  • What you know about your pupils' physical, mental and emotional development
  • What you know about the cultural and religious backgrounds of your pupils and the wider community
  • Previous behaviour incidents or safeguarding concerns that suggest your pupils may need certain aspects of the RSE curriculum at a particular point

Have your own suggestions to share about SRE consultation? Contact us on:

Interested in finding out more about ScholarPack? Book a demo here to find out more.

Topics: relationship and sex education, consultation