Implementing Relationships Education and RSE – Case Studies

Developing the RSE curriculum – A secondary and a primary school journey.

Public Health funded the PSHE Service to work with 6 secondaries and 7 primaries across Cambridgeshire to develop their respective RSE and Relationships Education provision.

Each school met with an advisor to audit its current provision and implementation of the newly statutory curriculum.

What had you already done on RSE policy?

We had already sent out an electronic survey to parents/carers and were pleased with the response. Most of the respondents were supportive of the schools aims and approaches and we were able to follow up with people who expressed concerns. We used the PSHE Service model policy and adapted it to reflect our practice. This policy was published on our website, in accordance with statutory requirements. During our development work we looked again at the policy and made some minor amendments, mostly relating to equalities and inclusion.

How do you deliver the PSHE and RSE curriculum?

We are currently in the process of moving towards a timetabled lesson, enriched by a series of 6 conference days. Currently our Y7 and Y9 students receive an hour PSHE lesson per week and all students have a PSHE focused form time. Next year all KS3 students will have a weekly PSHE lesson. The form time provision and conference days will continue. During this development period we are working of building up our bank of resources, fine tuning our progression and building up the skills and confidence of a specialist team of teachers.

What do your students think about PSHE and RSE?

Our Year 8 and 10 students had all participated in the Health-Related Behaviour Survey in Summer 2021 and we find this a really useful tool for helping us reflect on our curriculum and meeting the needs of our students. During this development year, we took the opportunity to carry out additional pupil voice activities with representative groups of our Y9 and Y10 students. As always with pupil voice work there was the challenge of hearing forthright views, alongside the pleasure of seeing that for many students the provision was meeting their needs.

Both the Y9 and the Y10 groups said that the most important area of PSHE for them was Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing. We are going to consider how we can weave this into all our other topics areas, as a thread, enabling students to consider the different contexts and support for mental health. As many of our students pointed out, everything we do in PSHE has some connection to mental health and emotional wellbeing. Some of the more specific comments related to progression, relevant content and the atmosphere in lessons. All of these comments have helped us reflect on our priorities for development.

What do your staff think about PSHE and RSE?

We haven’t done any direct canvasing of staff views, but we do have some feedback from them. Previously resources were often not available until very close to the lesson delivery. We have worked hard to make sure all resources are ready at the beginning of each half term, so staff can familiarise themselves with them. We have also asked all Heads of Year to pass on feedback from their teams about whether the resources meet student need. Also, in response to feedback from staff we have tried to schedule the more sensitive areas of PSHE for conference days, so that staff have the opportunity to build up confidence in delivering a lesson several times.

What tools did you use to review your provision?

As a thorough audit of our policy and the pupil voice focus groups, we also audited our curriculum against the Cambridgeshire PSHE Frameworks to ensure that we are addressing all statutory areas and offering progression through different topics across year groups.

What changes or activities are you planning?

Our big change for next year is the provision of a weekly lesson for all KS3 students. This greater time allowance will enable us to focus on delivering the first two steps of the Cambs frameworks between Y7-9. We intend to use our PSHE form time to be more responsive to current issues in the news and concerns being raised by our safeguarding and pastoral teams, allowing us to be more responsive to emerging trends or behaviour patterns, whilst ensuring that all students receive their entitlement to statutory content.

What recommendations do you have for colleagues who are reviewing their RSE and PSHE provision?

In our school, we are very lucky to have strong support and guidance from a member of SLT who is fully committed to the implementation of PSHE and sees it as a essential element of us being able to fulfil our schools aims. We are also very lucky to be in a team of two, working closely together with a shared collaboration time each week. This has really helped us to hold reflective professional conversation about development and review tasks.

We found it really worthwhile to get some support from the PSHE Service. An outside view really helped us reflect and learn about good practice in other schools.

What had you already done on Relationships Education policy?

We had already reviewed our old policy and published it on the school website but following an audit process we found that there were lots of new requirements from 2020 which weren’t reflected in the policy. We worked with one of our trust partner schools, using the PSHE Service Relationships Education Policy model to create a new policy which met the requirements.

Our PSHE leader was new to role and so this development and support provision was perfectly timed to get her up to speed.

How do you deliver the PSHE and Relationships Education curriculum?

We deliver PSHE as a designated lesson on our weekly timetable to all classes. In the main, it the class teacher who delivers the lessons. We use the Cambridgeshire Primary Personal Development Programme and so we know all our lesson materials are up to date and reflect the new statutory requirements.

We have a two-year rolling programme, so in the main, children meet this topic every two years. However, at Y5 and Y6 they have some input in both years, in order to ensure that they have the information about puberty before they need it.

What do your children think about PSHE and RSE?

We have not used the Primary Heath Related Behaviour Survey and the new PSHE leader has not yet been able to explore children’s views and needs. It is something we will look at when the units are delivered in the summer.

What do your staff think about PSHE and RSE?

We felt that a positive approach to developing teacher confidence would be to offer some whole staff training to build understanding and confidence about the content of our RSE units. Prior to planning the training, we asked staff to share their views and attitudes towards RSE.

It was really pleasing to find that the majority of staff were very supportive of RSE. Most agreed with statement like ‘We should teach personal skills and develop attitudes, as well as giving facts.’ And ‘I recognise the value of teaching RSE for our pupils.’ Whilst most disagreed with statements like ‘RSE should be left to parents/carers.’ And ‘Children just need to know about the biology before they go to secondary school.’

Staff were not very confident in identifying what was classed a s ‘sex education’, sourcing resources or interactive strategies. They felt the greatest barriers to delivering high quality RSE were pressure on curriculum time, lack of staff knowledge and skills and lack of staff confidence.

What tools did you use to review your provision?

We used a staff survey to gauge needs and then used a review tool to assess the effectiveness of the training. We found that following the training the confidence levels in sourcing resources, understanding what was age appropriate and responding to children’s questions had increased. We used an audit tool to review our Relationships Education Policy.

What changes or activities are you planning?

The new PSHE leader will continue to support colleagues as they familiarise themselves with the RSE resources. We will also review our medium term plans to make sure that the RSE topics is delivered at a good time for the pupils.

We also plan to revisit our parental consultation on the policy after RSE has been delivered next. We feel that parents might be a bit more informed now and might be able to offer further views on our provision and what they need to partner us in their children’s RSE.

What recommendations do you have for colleagues who are reviewing their RSE and PSHE provision?

When we held our staff training, we found it really helpful to include our support staff. Often they are the people who children will go to with questions and it is great to know that all adults in school will now be able to offer consistent answers, or at least know who to speak to about a question.

We also found it really helpful to work with another school in the trust on our policy.