“Girls as young as nine told my team about strategies they employ when strangers ask for their home address online.”
If we want to end gender-based violence (GBV) it is vitally important we talk to children about these issues from a young age; equipping them with the skills they need to develop equal and respectful relationships with their peers, supporting them to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy behaviours, and ensuring they know where to go for support if they need it.
It’s true this work needs to be age- and stage-appropriate, but achieving this balance is easier than some people fear. What’s more, children want (and need) to have these conversations. The NSPCC estimates that 1 in 20 children in the UK have been sexually abused.
Relationships education is compulsory in all primary schools and although sex education isn’t, many primary schools choose to teach some aspects, something the NEU recommends. Primary schools are required to teach children ‘the fundamental building blocks and characteristics of healthy, respectful relationships’, creating opportunities to ensure children are taught about emotional and mental wellbeing and how friendships can impact this. An NSPCC summary of statutory guidance goes on to say:
‘Children will also be taught to recognise and report different types of abuse, including emotional, physical and sexual. This will include focusing on boundaries and privacy so that children understand that they have rights over their own bodies and know how to seek advice when they suspect or know something is wrong.
There will also be opportunities to teach children about boundaries with their peers, including when they are online, and ensuring they learn that where abuse takes place it is never the fault of the child who is abused.’
- You can find the NSPCC briefing from which the above statement is taken here.
- The NEU has produced ‘A model policy for primary schools in England’.
- The Sex Education Forum (SEF) has outlined how teachers in KS1 can deliver a meaningful and age-appropriate foundation curriculum for Relationships Education in their article, ‘By the end of primary…’
- The Department for Education (DfE) has produced these support and training modules for primary schools to help train teachers on RSE.
- NSPCC ‘PANTS’ resources for schools and teachers.