“The role of parents in the development of their children’s understanding about relationships is vital. Parents are the first teachers of their children.”
Parents and carers want their children to be safe inside and outside of school. They should also know their children better than anyone and their involvement is key if we want Prevention work to be effective and sustainable.
Keeping parents and carers informed
It is good practice for schools to let parents and carers know about their intention to adopt a Whole School Approach (WSA) to preventing gender-based violence (GBV), including its aims and approach and the school’s intention to involve parents and carers in the project.
Parents and carers are generally very supportive of Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), with less than 1% choosing to withdraw their children. 92% of parents support the teaching of PSHE education. Sometimes they have concerns about what their children are being taught and, in line with guidance, schools should work closely with parents when planning and delivering these subjects. Guidance also states that, ‘parents should be given every opportunity to understand the purpose of relationships and sex education’ and that ‘good communication helps to increase confidence in the curriculum.’
What parents can and can’t do
- Parents are not able to withdraw their child from relationships education in primary school or secondary school.
- Parents are able to withdraw their child from primary school classes which address sex education.
- Parents are able to withdraw their child from sex education at secondary school level, but a child has a right to opt in from the age of 15 (specifically three terms before the age of 15).
There are a variety of ways schools can involve parents and carers in a WSA. They include:
- Letting parents and carers know what is planned and seeking their consent for their children to participate in Prevention programmes.
- Sending home discussion notes and information, so parents can talk to their children about what they’ve been learning.
- Delivering workshops and courses for parents and carers around issues relating to GBV.
- Listening and responding to parents’ and carers’ views.
Parents can also be invited to campaigning events or you can send campaign materials and information home.
Support for parents and carers
Schools will be aware that some of the parents and carers are themselves in abusive relationships. A WSA can be an opportunity for schools to raise awareness about gender-based violence (GBV) amongst parents and carers, and to provide them with the support they need to find safety. Children who live in an abusive home environment are recognised by law as victims in their own right and at greater risk themselves of being abused.
Running workshops with parents and carers, sending information home and signposting specialist support can prompt victims of domestic violence to make a disclosure or access the support they need to leave an abusive relationship. Leaving an abusive relationship can escalate risk to the victim and their dependents. It’s important they get specialist support to leave the relationship, if that’s something they choose to do. As well as following your safeguarding procedure, they should also be provided with access to specialist support.
The Young Women’s Service at Women and Girls Network have produced this guide for parents and carers supporting young women around issues relating to gender-based violence.