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Engaging with parents to make RSE a success

Thanks to a careful approach to strengthening children’s relationship skills and strong parent engagement, Bankside Primary School pupils are learning about big issues in their community, like knife crime, consent and when a trusted adult becomes untrusted.

Bankside Primary School is based in a diverse community in Leeds. For ten years, the school has been running its RSE programme, Living and Growing. This is supported by a whole-school approach to teaching relationship skills, talking through difficult subjects with pupils and using restorative justice.

Parent engagement has been key to making this programme work. At Bankside, Parent Council meetings are needs-led, taking place when there is a live issue in the community, or if there is going to be a change of content in Living and Growing that needs parent support. In the meetings, parents learn about the school’s approach to RSE, what the children will hear and why. They also learn from staff and guest speakers about the risks that children are facing today.

Engagement doesn’t end at the meetings – Bankside holds community events where any local parent, carer, religious group or business can attend and hear about the issues children may have to deal with and how RSE can help.

Assistant Head Teacher, Kauser Jan, heads up this work at Bankside. She believes it’s the most important subject of all, ‘We need to lay the foundations to prepare our pupils for the world they’ll grow up in. If they find themselves in danger or in an emotional crisis, they won’t worry about square roots or punctuation, they’ll need emotional resilience, self-awareness and the skills and understanding to form positive relationships. RSE helps them with that.

'Due to [stories in the media], some of our parents have been worried about relationships education, but once we talk it through, we overcome those concerns. It’s common sense; if you want to take a community with you, you need to keep them informed. You can’t expect people to support you if they don’t understand what you’re doing and why it matters.'

Bankside works hard to build trusted relationships with parents and carers. Staff are at the school gates at the beginning and end of the day so parents can take them aside. They have an open-door policy as well, so parents can pop in and ask questions in private.

‘We need to work together. We hold meetings with parents about the challenges their children might face. One thing we’ve talked about is social media and the risks that brings. Some parents were not aware of the risks. Our pupils will go home and talk about what they learn in class; we need to know their parents are prepared for those conversations too,’ Kauser says.

The Living and Growing programme has changed over the years – it’s been adapted and shaped to reflect the challenges facing the local community at the time. The curriculum is responsive and no year of delivery has ever been the same. Kauser is proud of how they adapt and change.

Ofsted commented that this is a school that gives a big hug to all who come in. Kauser agrees and says that’s the one thing they have no plans to change.

Learning points
  • For an RSE programme to adapt and stay relevant to the changing world of children and young people, it’s important for the lead teacher to keep informed of local and national events that come under the umbrella of RSE

  • All staff at a school need support to update their knowledge and adapt lessons – modelling delivery can help with this

  • Keeping parents and communities engaged and making staff available when they have questions that are key to effective delivery of RSE

  • When staff provide opportunities for parents to get informed and ask questions, parents welcome learning more about the challenges their children could face

This case study has been provided by The Family Stability Network (FASTN)

FASTN is the national champion of family stability and committed relationships for all families and individuals. It brings together a wider range of relationships and RSE practitioners to campaign on Relationship Education in schools.

FASTN has been working with teachers, schools and practitioners across the country to gather stories about RSE in Action. The stories aim to inspire and spark a debate about how we can make the most out of RSE.

Follow them on twitter: @fastn_org

Reviewed: December 2019

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