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  • Writer's pictureSophie Manning

Parents, tell us what you need

Updated: Jan 27, 2020

A piece of paper with the words "Schools should support parents' rols as Relationships and Sex educators" and 7 dots near the word "Agree"
On the dot: Outspoken workshop at the Statutory RSE & Health Education: Supporting Student Wellbeing conference

Education professionals gathered together on 22 January 2020 to work out how to bring in new relationships, health and sex education (RSHE) policies seamlessly and – crucially – with parents’ approval.

At the national SecEd conference held in central London, teachers, school leaders and sex education professionals helped each other plan for the implementation of mandatory RSHE in schools in September 2020. Time and time again professionals asked themselves how they could get parents interested, involved and content with curricula covering bodies, puberty, sex, families and healthy relationships.

So what do parents need to engage well with their children’s sex education? You tell us!

Do we need to bring parents face-to-face with reality?

As every teacher knows, things go on in schools that would make parents’ hair stand on end – from sexting to smack talk. Experts in parental consultation were encouraging colleagues to show parents evidence of their children’s advanced understanding and appetite for learning more.

Do you think your 10-year-old is asking their year 5 teacher: “When will I start my periods?” Prepare to be surprised, says Dr Pooky Knightsmith. Try: “What shall I do if someone does something I don’t like on TikTok?”

• Are you confident that you’re aware of what your child already knows and does?

Do we need to help parents explore their family values?

Yoan Reed pointing at a slide
Yoan Reed explains how a child’s sex and relationships learning spirals over time if parents talk openly at home

At the Outspoken Sex Ed workshop Parental Engagement, Involvement & Consultation, Yoan Reed, Outspoken director and founder of Teaching Lifeskills, spoke of the need to explore family values and shared community values before imposing an RSHE policy within a school. Really high-quality parental consultation could start with an exercise in normative learning: to what extent do parents agree on fundamental questions like “Is sex without love OK?” and “Should sex education include abstinence teaching?”

• Do you think your values align with those of the other families at the school gates?

Do we need to go where you are?

Dr Pooky Knightsmith recalled countless poorly attended consultation sessions with parents: at one school, she recalled, no one came until they held it in the local mosque. Schools need to know: when and where works for you?

• Should meetings be in school or out? Pre- or post-3pm? Online or face-to-face?

Do we need to furnish families with better resources and support?

What would it take for you to feel confident to take up the role of being your children’s primary sex educator?

• Is it more “starters for 10” like the ones in our News You Can Use section? Is it a range of model responses to life’s trickiest situations? Is it a once-and-for-all understanding of what is age appropriate?

Help us answer these questions or contribute your ideas – email

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