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New National Curriculum from a SRE perspective

This is my initial thoughts in response to the governments launch of a new National Curriculum. But before we get into the details its important to remember that not every school in the country will need to follow the curriculum, academies do not have to follow the curriculum. As with every curriculum their will also be a fair amount of school interpretation for any part of the curriculum that does not make it onto a test. So I believe this National Curriculum should be seen as the governments rough idea of what it thinks should be happening. I think locally things will be delivered differently depending on Head Teachers, Heads of Subjects etc. This is my quick skim through with a SRE perspective please correct me if I make any mistakes of miss something important. 

***UPDATE 09-07-13***

The Sex Education Forum has released this short response  it does a great job of providing a clear summary of the key points, much more concise than my ramblings. It also says "the Sex Education Forum will issue a full statement shortly".


All the missing bits - the really Bad news
Below I have listed all the words which are completely missing from this National Curriculum. As a SRE worker I believe all of these topics/words should be mentioned within the framework. In no particular order

  • HIV
  • Consent
  • Sexuality (or anything like Lesbian, Gay, LGBT etc)
  • STIs
  • Abuse 
  • Romance
  • Contraceptives
  • Porn
  • Condoms
  • Virus
  • Infection
  • Pregnancy
  • Faithfulness 
  • Sexting
  • Marriage 
  • Self Esteem
  • Body Image
  • HPV
  • Abstinence 
  • Honesty
  • Intercourse 
  • The Pill
  • Managing Risk (apart from financial risk) 
  • Love (of anything other then reading or cooking)

A long list that shows just how out of touch I feel this National Curriculum is. 

But some Good Bits

Page 4 
It is clearly stated that  "All state schools are also required to make provision for ... sex and relationship education to pupils in secondary education." I am very happy to read AND Relationship. Not just Sex education. Not something necessarily new but very happy to see it is in here. 

Page 162 
Within the science guidelines (Non-statutory) for year 5 (9-10 year olds) it says 
"Pupils should find out about different types of reproduction, including sexual and asexual reproduction in plants, and sexual reproduction in animals." Because this is non-statutory we could find sexual reproduction in animals slipping lower on the agenda and by stating animals and not humans we could find lots of children hearing about fish, bird and lizard but ignore mammals especially humans. But the option is there and I trust some schools to teach human reproduction in this section. 

Page 174
In science/biology curriculum for KS3 it states the following "Pupils should be taught about reproduction in humans (as an example of a mammal), including the structure and function of the male and female reproductive systems, menstrual cycle (without details of hormones), gametes, fertilisation, gestation and birth, to include the effect of maternal lifestyle on the foetus through the placenta." Great to see this here but sadly I know this can be taught in a very abstract way and give some clear medical biological details whilst leaving some huge gaps like "How many holes does a girl have?"

Page 190 
In the computing section of the curriculum for KS3 it says pupils should "understand a range of ways to use technology safely, respectfully, responsibly and securely, including protecting their online identity and privacy; recognise inappropriate content, contact and conduct and know how to report concerns". I'm pretty confident this will be used as the time to teach about online safety around social networks etc and the term "recognise inappropriate content" could well be used as a way in to start the discussion about porn and sexual content online but equally a teacher could understand this to mean just online bullying and avoid anything about relationships or sex. This topic is repeated in KS4 but with the same possible problems and opportunities  "understand how changes in technology affect safety, including new ways to protect their online privacy and identity, and how to report concerns." KS1 and 2 also make use of the term "use technology safely," with similar positives and negatives. 

Some Worrying Bits 

Page 141 
within the science part of the curriculum for year 1 (5-6 year olds) it states "Pupils should be taught to identify, name, draw and label the basic parts of the human body and say which part of the body is associated with each sense" Some great teachers will use this time to also make sure all children understand correct vocabulary for their genitals and emphasis that these are private bits of our body. (read this NSPCC campaign, Launched today, about how important it is for children to understand the concept of private body parts). But the government seems to have intentionally avoided this opportunity to protect children by giving the (Non-statutoryguidelines of what body parts should be named. "head, neck, arms, elbows, legs, knees, face, ears, eyes, hair, mouth, teeth" but not penis or vagina. 

Page 146 
Again within Science Curriculum for year 2 (6-7 year olds) in the guidelines about reproduction and growth we get this sentence. "They should also be introduced to the processes of reproduction and growth in animals. The focus at this stage should 
be on questions that help pupils to recognise growth; they should not be expected to understand how reproduction occurs." Information on how reproduction occurs is core to helping children and young people stay safe.  

Page 163
Still in science Curriculum now up to year 5 (9-10 year olds). It says in the statutory side "Pupils should be taught to describe the changes as humans develop from birth to old 
age." but I think they have sadly pushed the most important part of this for this age group into the Non-Statutory section. "They should learn about the changes experienced in puberty." If this isn't statutory some skills will miss it completely or cover it very badly. 

Overall I'm disappointed. From an SRE perspective I think the Government has missed an opportunity to bring SRE into the heart of the curriculum. The best steps forward have been in recognising the need for online safety but even these sections are weak, failing to clarify the need to cover how the online world is shaping and influencing young people's view of sex and relationships. 

I wonder if now is the time for professionals in the SRE field to rethink our approach. With this curriculum and the growing number of academies who can just ignore this curriculum is statutory SRE in schools what we should be chasing? Should we take all the energy we have put into pushing for national high standards of statutory SRE and redirect that energy. Should we focus our energy on local SRE guideline. County wide or even school by school should we be offering to help shape the local agenda for SRE. Most school recognise the need for something but many just do a bad job (for many reasons). Should we focus all our energy on helping schools implement strong, holistic and evidence based SRE initiatives. Would this be a better use of our time and energy OR am I being defeatist?    


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