So, I was quite unhappy with how things turned out. Mind you, I’m not angry at the school, the teachers or anything. They want to teach what they want to teach. I can respect that. I also can respect that they want to respect parents’ choices in matters.  However, and this is a big HOWEVER, giving someone a choice but not empowering that choice effectively, is not really a choice. I felt strong enough about this point to write to the head teacher about it.

To be honest, I was really in 2 minds about it. After all, school is finishing up in a week.  If I didn’t bother about, what would it matter. I couldn’t make the change for me. Any change that would happen wouldn’t benefit me. But then I felt that was also a selfish way to be. If the parent who was uncomfortable last year or the year before had spoken up, then it might have been easier for me, even if I didn’t know about it.  And, anyway, maybe they won’t do anything about it.  (So what’s new in England?)  But, they would at least take a minute to think about it and consider.  And, maybe from that, just improve their communication to parents on this issue.

Below is my letter. Names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent.

Don’t know the outcome. Maybe there won’t be any. But you know what, at least I did what I thought was the right thing to do. If I didn’t take the time to communicate the negative impact of these “series of unfortunate events”, well, the school simply wouldn’t know. How can they then know to do something different?

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Dear<Head Teacher>

Sex Education – Empowering the choice not to participate in the school’s curriculum

I am writing in relation to the sex education planned at the school this week.

Whilst I am grateful that opportunity was given to parents to review the video material, I would like to suggest that the school consider process changes to how they communicate and work with parents on this important subject.

My experience this year is that notice given was quite late and as a result, it was difficult to make alternative educational arrangements which could then run in tandem with the school. It is from this perspective that I am writing from.

Communication Timeline

  • Monday xx July – Letter sent home to parents
    • If the letter was home to parents earlier than this, then I did not receive it earlier than this. Perhaps then for such an important topic, a message could be sent via email also.
    • Wednesday xx July– Opportunity to watch the video
    • Thursday xx July– Sex education class.

Based on the messages being communicated in the video, we decided to hold our child back from the class.  This immediately left us in a very difficult position, as we only had a few hours to pull together material to fit the areas the school was covering before the next day.  This was not possible in one night. We then made the decision that he should not go to school. I appreciate the teacher’s offer to send Ben to KS1 to do other activity.  However, on reflection, we felt that our child would feel s/he was being punished or singled out. Given that s/he had done nothing wrong, we did not feel this to be an appropriate course.

However, we were asked the next day to bring her/him back to school as there was a full dress rehearsal. In the interests of teamwork and a commitment to the others in the school, we sent her/him to school. Again, we were left in an awkward situation:

  1. We had to have a conversation with our child which had not yet occurred.
  2. Our child felt awkward about going to school late and coming home early.
  3. We felt unhappy with the school at the lack of thought and sensitivity to the matter.

In my view, these series of events don’t empower the choice given to parents on Wednesday.  A choice may have been given, but there was little support structure in place for parents who choose differently from the main.

I would like to make the following suggestions for consideration next year:

Here is what would have made a difference:

    1. Organise a separate Year 6 parent meeting to inform them about a month before the sex education class to the children.  During this meeting, provide an outline of how the class will be delivered and the ability to watch the video.
    2. The school took the time to bring parents in to educate them about the SATs, the stresses this may result and the support we as parents could provide to our children. It surprises me that sex education does not deserve the same level of attention and effort as academic results.
    3. If there is no time in the school year, then combine or introduce this discussion at the same timeslot for this SATs meeting.  Distribute the curriculum, tell parents what video is going to be shown, tell them the date that the sex education class is going to occur, and organise a follow-up meeting.
    4. A reasonable notice period gives parents enough time to digest the information and for those who choose, to make alternative arrangements.  One night is simply not enough.
    5. Consider getting an updated video that is available to be purchased, accessible through libraries, or provide a link to the video online.
    6. Like us, some parents are not familiar with this school, or with the UK education curriculum. Sometimes we really need a “heads up” on these matters.
    7. It’s appropriate that parents should be able to meet the 2 teachers who will be conducting the sessions and answering questions.
    8. Don’t fix the sex education class on the same day that something compulsory (such as the school production) is occurring. In this kind of situation, it really doesn’t work to be told to bring your child back in for the school production and taken away again.   I don’t support absenteeism, however sometimes the needs of the child override.

The suggestions I’ve made are around planning the communication of when this class is taking place. This will better support parents who don’t want to go through the school’s curriculum on this subject.

I’m more happy to meet up with you, should you wish – simply let me know. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Yours sincerely,

Postcard Traveller