The Family Education Trust reports : Mandatory Relationships Education (Reled) in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in secondary schools officially came into force as of 1 September 2020.
However, owing to the covid crisis, schools have been given a temporary reprieve. In early June the Department for Education issued a ‘Communication to schools on the implementation of Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex and Health Education’. Taking into account school closures due to coronavirus, schools are now not required to start teaching the new subjects until the summer term of 2021.
The DfE’s ‘communication’ states:
The subjects will still become compulsory from 1 September 2020. However, schools have flexibility to decide how they discharge their duties effectively. If a school is unable to begin teaching until summer term 2021 they will need to decide how much of the content they will be able to cover and should still be able to demonstrate how they will cover the entirety of the curriculum in the future. Furthermore, as the subjects will be compulsory from 1 September 2020 the new parental right to withdraw provision will apply.
This new ‘parental right to withdraw provision’, which we have discussed in previous bulletins, allows parents to withdraw their children from RSE following discussions with the head teacher, who is encouraged to honour the parents’ wishes. However, this right of withdrawal ends three terms before the child’s 16th birthday. There is no right to withdraw from primary school Relationships Education.
Given the new limitation on parental rights with regard to Relationships Education, it is essential that teachers have access to decent, wholesome and family-friendly material for this subject.
The new Relationships Matter online resource produced by Lovewise qualifies in this respect. This is a resource for primary schools aimed at key stages 1 and 2. It fulfils the government’s statutory guidance and the five required units: Families and people who care for me, Caring friendships, Respectful relationships, Online relationships and Being safe. It is free for teachers to use. The great thing about this resource is that it fulfils all the legal requirements for Relationships Education while containing age-appropriate, morally suitable material for children.
Marriage and the family are covered in substantial detail. Children learn that marriage is a legally recognised and formal commitment which is intended to be lifelong. They learn the characteristics of a healthy family life, how families love and care for each other and the importance of families spending time together. The importance of parents and the nature of the marriage vow are examined and a particular emphasis is given to the role of marriage in creating an atmosphere of love, security and stability for children and in teaching children values like consideration and gratitude. Children are encouraged to learn the wedding vows from both the religious and civil ceremonies. The section dealing with marriage illustrates that marriage is so much more than just romantic love and that couples must work daily to strengthen their relationship. Children learn words of wisdom such as ‘The best way to be a good parent is to be a good husband to their mother or a good wife to their father’.
In the section on ‘Caring Relationships’ children are taught the nature and characteristics of friendship including trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness and mutual respect. The golden rule on how to treat others is inculcated. Children learn how positive friendships are good for wellbeing and how to discern when a friendship has become unhealthy.
The resource also teaches the conventions of courtesy and manners, respect for parents, teachers and those in authority, the importance of laws and rules and of self-respect. In the age of the internet, children are taught how to stay safe online, rules for safe online relationships, the importance of parental controls and how to detect harmful online content. Additionally, children learn useful skills in computer literacy and safe use of the internet. Other parts of the resource deal with such things as road safety, avoiding strangers, discerning bullying and taking care of physical and mental health.
Each course unit instils key concepts and encourages the learning of a specific vocabulary of words related to the topic in hand. The resource is attractively presented with slideshows featuring vivid pictures and useful work exercises which help children to memorise the most important values.
This resource would be ideal material for any teacher, whether in a state or independent, religious or non-religious school, wanting to promote decent values among pupils from a wide variety of social, ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds.
Relationships Matter can be accessed for free on request from Lovewise at the following link: https://lovewise.org.uk/relationshipsmatter.html