Teaching children about the importance of having healthy minds and bodies is an important aspect of their learning, which we take very seriously at Pixmore School. Opportunities to learn about these aspects are embedded into the curriculum in order to provide real life contexts for the children so that children can link them to their own experiences.
In Year 3, the children do the NHPCC Pants Programme, which teaches them about body awarness and keeping themselves safe. As part of our PSHCE programme, we do Protective Behaviours work with all children every term in class, and through assemblies. We teach the children the key messages that everyone has a right to feel safe, that others have a right to feel safe with us, and that there is nothing too small or too awful that they can’t talk to someone about it. This is an important part of our safeguarding as we recognise that empowering children to be self-aware can help them to discriminate between safe and unsafe behaviour in their lives, and to recognise that adults in school will listen to them if they have a problem, no matter how big or small.
Through themed assemblies, cross-curricular linked work and PSHCE lessons, children learn about growing up, and changes that will affect them, bullying, esafety, healthy eating, exercise, health, and ill-health, including how medical conditions can affect people, personal hygiene and relationships. They learn to celebrate difference and to develop a healthy respect for individuality, including lifestyle and sexuality.
When to talk to your child about puberty
Children usually receive their first lesson about puberty at school in Year 5. Sex and relationships education (SRE) isn’t compulsory in primary schools, although most schools think it is important to tackle puberty, which is a live issue for them given that puberty starts for girls between the ages of eight and 13 and boys between nine and 14.
Those aspects of sex and growing up that form part of the national science curriculum do have to be covered. The 2015 National Curriculum for Year 5 Science includes bodily changes, saying that: ‘Pupils should be taught to describe the changes as humans develop to old age’ – which may well be interpreted as covering puberty.
Parents have the right to withdraw their children from lessons about puberty and sex where these form part of SRE, but not from lessons that form part of the national science curriculum.
A report by the Education Select Committee called for SRE to be made part of the national curriculum for the first time in all schools (secondary and primary) in February 2015 but this has not yet been approved by the UK government.
Will my child receive high-quality lessons on puberty and growing up?
There is currently no standardised SRE curriculum for primary schools, so it’s difficult to predict the quality of a typical primary school child’s education about puberty. Many people would argue that sex and relationships education, delivered in the right way, is an important part of a child’s personal, social health and economic education (PSHE).
The PSHE Association believes that Year 5 is the latest time at which puberty should be addressed by schools. They argue that a decision to withdraw a child from SRE can have a very negative impact on children, who will be unaware of the potentially alarming changes happening to their bodies if their parents decide not to educate them about it at home. A better-prepared child is almost certainly more confident to tackle life as a tween.
Even if your child is taught about sex education at school in informative and high-quality lessons, it is still a good idea to talk to them about growing up. It is important that they feel they can talk to you and come to you with questions in the confusing and challenging time that is puberty. We are aware that children are exploring their identity at this age. We respect the fact that children may need extra support with this, such as those confused about their sexual identity or orientation. Please come in to school and speak with us if you feel your child needs additional support.
Tips on talking to your child about puberty
- It is best to introduce the topic of puberty to your child as young as you are comfortable with, so they know about it before they start developing.
- Ask your child’s school about the kind of lessons they will have on the topic and when they will happen. You can then tailor your talk based on what they will learn/ have already
- Try to avoid making it a formal, daunting process. Keep the conversation light and short in a relaxed, comfortable environment. It doesn’t have to be a 40-minute lecture – a quick 10 minute chat about what happens to your body as you grow older would be a good enough start. Our piece on talking about sex might help you: the suggestions in this article can also be applied to talking about puberty.
- Let your child know you’re always happy to answer any questions they have, or, if they’d prefer, suggest they talk to another family member or trusted adult – maybe an older brother or sister or close family friend.
- Please make use of the resources below to help you and your child in the process.
The PSHE Association https://www.pshe-association.org.uk
Brook – articles on body parts, puberty, keeping clean and more http://www.brook.org.uk/your-life/category/my-body
Sex Education Forum – organisation that works to achieve quality SRE http://sexeducationforum.org.uk/
NSPSS Pants Programme:
Planned parenthood – information and advice:
Information and support for children, parents and carers of children who are transgender: