Head's Blog - Paul Dwyer | Redmaids' High School
By Alice Hinks, Head of PSHE
If you were asked, ‘what is your memory of PSHE at school?’, you might conjure images of awkward sex education lessons featuring cucumbers and condoms, or uncomfortable teachers handing out sample packs of tampons without explanation of how to use them.
I’m pleased to report we have come a LONG way since then. PSHE lessons at Redmaids’ High, cover everything from self-defence, The 2010 Equality Act, budgeting, mental health, sexual health and much, much more.
The study of PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) has experienced somewhat of a revival in recent years. Following the introduction of the statutory delivery of health, relationship and sex education in the summer of 2020, the subject has been given a real opportunity to evolve.
The range of skills developed in PSHE is enormous. These are skills and attributes which help students to stay healthy, safe and prepare them for life and work in the modern world. Students are encouraged to express their opinions and feelings, whilst listening to and respecting those around them. They are taught how to build safe and healthy relationships.
Our lessons are varied and engaging, encouraging learning in different ways. Below are a few examples of what PSHE at Redmaids’ High looks like.
We welcome speakers from numerous fantastic organisations. We host talks from student ambassadors of the charity, Just Like Us who speak to Year 9 about their journey as part of the LGBT+ community. We invite representatives from The School of Sexuality Education to talk to students in Year 9, 10 and 11 about sexual health and consent, and host Deanna Puccio of The RAP Project to discuss topics like the Everyone’s Invited movement and public sexual harassment. We host other specialists too, who are often part of our parent or alumnae community, such as police detectives, medical professionals and NGO employees. These volunteers have all delivered engaging and thoughtful talks which successfully support our curriculum.
Reacting to the current climate
The past eighteen months has seen a sharp increase in mental health concerns amongst teenagers across the country. In response to this, key members of school staff have trained as youth mental health first aiders, learning how to deal with an array of mental health concerns. The curriculum has also been adapted to recognise this need. Having qualified as a Mindfulness in Schools Practitioner myself, the Year 7 programme has been adapted to include a specific mindfulness theme to support the transition to secondary school during this unpredictable climate.
Listening to our students
We regularly ask the students for feedback on their lessons and visiting speakers. This allows us to adapt content accordingly and strengthen delivery of sensitive topics. We also use this as an opportunity to assess their progress in the various topics, which in turn can direct future lessons for the cohort. Due to the relative flexibility in content delivery, we ask students at the start of each year what topics are important to them and adapt our schemes of learning to incorporate these. An example includes looking at the menopause and pelvic floor health which Year 11 students felt was an important addition to their learning.
Students learn in a variety of different ways. Some are visual learners, whereas some prefer kinaesthetic activities for example. PSHE lends itself extremely well to ‘hands on’ activities. This could be parenting a ‘baby simulator’ for a weekend (a highlight of the Year 10 programme for students, perhaps not the ‘grandparents!’), learning the importance of self-checks using medical grade anatomy models, or weighing the sugar content in some of our favourite soft drinks. We use ‘drunk goggles’ to simulate inebriation and provide opportunities for students to explore a variety of contraception models. We know that these activities are successful ways of developing their knowledge and understanding in the classroom.
Tutor programme and beyond
Our strong pastoral system acts as a perfect vehicle to continue the work covered in the PSHE classroom. Each year group follows a well-planned pastoral programme and works closely with the PSHE department to ensure a collaborative approach. Across the wider curriculum, subject leaders have identified where their schemes of learning also support PSHE and share resources appropriately. Where PSHE is successful, topics covered at school continue to be discussed at home providing another viewpoint, experience and even expertise on certain subject areas. We share details of upcoming units of work at the beginning of each half term in the school bulletin and regularly update the PSHE page on the school hub.
We understand that content for this subject can be sensitive and even trigger unexpected emotions for students and also for parents. We would always encourage you to get in touch if you have any questions or would like to discuss our lesson content further. Schemes of learning and our PSHE/RSE policy is all available on the policies section of the school website.
Learn more about of PSHE programme and everything else our school has to offer at our next Open Morning on Tuesday 9 November.