Some primary schools introduce sex and relationships education (SRE) for children, most often in year 6 and sometimes in year 5. SRE is a legal requirement for all pupils of primary and secondary school age as it is part of the National Curriculum Science Order. Most schools will have put down what they are going to do and why, in a Sex and Relationships Policy. You can always ask to see this.
What is covered in SRE?
- sexual reproduction
- relationships and family life
Most schools feel the way they teach it will help children make sense of the world around them, inform and support them through puberty, and help them understand and value of relationships with family and friends. This can also help your child to develop more confidence and build their self-esteem. The more confident a child is, the more likely they are to get the most out of their school life. Most schools are very keen to work with parents on how they teach these topics. They might arrange a meeting with parents to tell them about SRE and their policy. If you are at all worried about SRE, contact your child's head teacher and ask for a chat.
What happens in secondary school?
In secondary school, the focus can switch to social and emotional responsibility as well as learning the science of sex education through biology. Other than what is on the curriculum, some schools may differ in their approach and may try to educate teenagers on keeping safe, peer pressure and sexual bullying. You can speak to the head of year and ask if any of these issues are raised with the pupils at any time. They should be able to discuss this with you further.
Your concerns about sex and relationships education
You may be concerned about what your child is being taught about sex in school. Be assured that your child’s school should contact all parents a few weeks before any planned sex education lessons and give them the chance to look at the material they will be teaching and to opt for their child not to be included. Being told that their child will be learning about sex can be unsettling for some parents, who may feel they are too young. You should, however, try to avoid excluding your child from these lessons. This not only risks making your child feel different from their peers but will also make sex into an even bigger issue when you do come to tackle it. Instead of exclusion, consider becoming more engaged by looking through what your child will be learning and then talking about it with them afterwards. Asking them what they think and answering any questions they may have will help create an honest and open environment and may lead to them making better informed decisions about sex in later life.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at email@example.com or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.