To nurture the skills of resilience is key to providing young people with the ability to cope with stress, adversity, failure and challenges. Resilience is evident when young people have a greater ability to ‘bounce back’ when faced with difficulties and achieve positive outcomes.
Resilience supports the individual to cope with changes in their bodies and understand how their bodies work. These changes are physical, emotional and social and individuals can experience puberty at different ages.
Learning about puberty and the changing adolescent body and brain is included in the newly statutory area of Health Education
Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk). Learning about puberty is most commonly covered as part of an RSE topic, at both primary and secondary levels.
The DfE guidance further states that ‘Puberty should be addressed before onset so, as far as possible, pupils are prepared in advance for changes they will experience’. It is sadly still the case that many young people experience fear and shame around puberty and are unsure about reliable sources of support. Through the provision of a spiral PSHE curriculum, delivering age-appropriate content and skills, schools can address this issue and support their young people to develop positive attitudes towards the amazing changes which their bodies will go through.
The NHS advise that children are experiencing puberty as early as 8 for girls and 9 for boys and the statutory guidance refers to teaching about puberty before it happens. Therefore the PSHE Association feels that Year 5 should the latest time at which the subject should be addressed by schools.
In addition to covering the science of what will happen to children’s bodies and brains and the emotions and attitudes associated with puberty, schools may also choose to address topics such as plastic usage and period poverty.
Puberty including menstruation should be covered in Health Education and should, as far as possible, be addressed before onset. Many schools choose to deliver an introduction to puberty in Y/3 with the main input in Y5. It is good practice to return to puberty in Y6 to ensure that practical concerns about imminent onset are addressed. In Y7, the next steps of learning include the changes which happen in the brain affecting choices, attitudes, relationships and behaviour.
Leaning about puberty should be delivered in the context of spiral PSHE curriculum which addresses identification of emotions, emotional regulation, skills for healthy relationships and problem solving, and accessing reliable sources of help.
In order to support young people as they enter puberty, schools ensure that hygiene facilities are offered effectively, including for those who begin menstruating earlier than their peers. Schools should consider ensuring that period products and disposal units are offered to all students who may need them, in ways which do not increase stigma.
Schools should use pupil voice to check out their provision in this area.
Schools should ensure that they access the provision of free period products to reduce the effects of period poverty amongst students.
Period product scheme for schools and colleges in England – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Puberty including menstruation should be covered in Health Education and should, as far as possible, be addressed before onset. This should ensure male and female pupils are prepared for changes they and their peers will experience.
The onset of menstruation can be confusing or even alarming for girls if they are not prepared. Pupils should be taught key facts about the menstrual cycle including what is an average period, range of menstrual products and the implications for emotional and physical health. In addition to curriculum content, schools should also make adequate and sensitive arrangements to help girls prepare for and manage menstruation including with requests for menstrual products. Schools will need to consider the needs of their cohort of pupils in designing this content. Schools should also consider putting bins in each toilet at school so that menstruators are not singled out.
Source: Relationships Education RSE and Health Education (DfE) insert link Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education guidance (publishing.service.gov.uk)
Best practise is to teach about puberty in mixed sex classes, as this enables pupils to develop respectful attitudes towards themselves and empathy towards others based on shared knowledge. This approach also reduces taboos associated with puberty. In some cases, schools may offer single sex groups in order to enable children at access the materials more comfortably. This may be in response to parental concerns from a religious or cultural perspective. Schools should ensure their Relationships Education or RSE polices reflect this provision.
Some parents/carers with religious backgrounds will want to discuss puberty with their children as there are religious expectations associated with puberty – for example Islam states that once a girl has her first period or a boy has had his first ejaculation they are regarded as fully accountable to Allah. Both boys and girls are required to follow certain hygiene rules once they reach puberty. We would therefore advise that schools take into account their pupils’ religious background as part of their teaching of the subject.
Source: PSHE Association