Frequently asked questions: about this section
As the largest charity provider of PSHE and wellbeing resources and training, we’re here to help you. Teachers contact us regularly to seek clarification and understand some of the detail behind the DfE statutory RSHE guidance (Eng) or RSHP requirements (Sco). Below are answers to the questions we're most often asked, alongside more general questions about SCARF. If you have a question that’s not covered here, then please contact us.
1. SCARF and the DfE Statutory Requirements for RSHE
No, from September 2021 you'll need to be delivering the DfE's Relationships Education and Health Education statutory guidance and it’s recommended that you do this within the wider, PSHE curriculum. This will require new or increased curriculum content for many schools, and new policies and renewed consultation with parents. But the new guidance doesn’t cover everything needed for a comprehensive PSHE curriculum. Vital elements such as the rights of the child, caring for the environment, economic education, and parts of British Values and SMSC are not included.
The statutory requirement to provide Health Education does not apply to independent schools. PSHE is already compulsory as independent schools must meet the Independent School Standards as set out in the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014. Independent schools, however, may find the principles in the guidance on Health Education helpful in planning an age-appropriate curriculum.
A SCARF subscription gives schools access to a comprehensive PSHE programme that covers all this. We also provide a free Relationships Education policy template and guidance document – you'll find this in RSE guidance and support materials under the My SCARF tab
SCARF supports schools in providing age- and developmentally-appropriate inclusive RSHE education through its carefully planned spiral curriculum. This will help your school to meet Ofsted's expectations in relation to the protected characteristics from the moment children start school, through to Y6. Our guidance on protected characteristics within SCARF supports all SCARF schools in understanding the requirements and how the SCARF curriculum aligns to these.
Teaching and learning about safeguarding is fully integrated into SCARF, with age-appropriate content across its spiral curriculum. Mapping of lessons to the safeguarding aspects listed in the Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance is available to all SCARF schools.
2. SCARF delivery
3. SCARF and RSE content
- In SEF's 2021 poll, young people said they would like to have more open conversations with parents and carers from a younger age
- There is strong evidence for the effectiveness of child sexual abuse prevention efforts, including teaching young children about body autonomy and communication
- Children who are taught lessons aimed at preventing sexual abuse at school are more likely to tell an adult if they have had, or were actually experiencing sexual abuse
- Where school-based programmes increased reporting of domestic violence, one of the most common benefits was an increase in children knowing how to identify a trusted person to whom they would report abuse
- Positive effects of RSE include increased communication with parents and carers about sex and relationships
- An LGBT+ inclusive curriculum was associated with higher reports of safety for individuals and lower levels of bullying in school; reports of adverse mental health among all young people, irrespective of gender or sexual orientation, were also lower
- RSE contributes to changes beyond health outcomes, including increasing gender equality, and building stronger and healthier relationships
- RSE works best if it is delivered in primary school onwards, starting with topics such as personal safety, bodily boundaries and friendships, and responds to the needs of young people as they mature
- Both primary and secondary school pupils, particularly girls, said they need RSE to start earlier
- 25% of girls did not know what to do when they started their period
- Addressing Sexual Harassment requires a whole-school approach that includes not only RSE but leadership strategies, policies and procedures, and myth-busting among staff
The full briefing from the Sex Education Forum is available for all. There are also one-page and two-page quick guides.
Teaching children about puberty, bodies, and sex can sometimes feel awkward for teachers and pupils. This can often be because as teachers many of us did not receive good sex education and so will not have seen good RSE modeled to us. Pupils too may find it awkward, as they may not come from families where they are able to talk openly about these topics, without feeling they are making their parents feel uncomfortable and so avoid bringing it up and asking questions.
Developing a class group agreement is a really good way of helping children to recognise what is expected of them in an RSE lesson, and indeed what they can expect from you. It helps put boundaries in place, so both you and they know how the lessons are going to run and protects both teacher and pupil from being put in an unsafe situation. Slides 17 and 18 of this DfE training module for the Changing Adolescent Body topic includes good practice, including model ground rules, such as:
- Respect privacy. We can discuss examples but do not use names or descriptions that identify anyone, including ourselves.
- Listen to others. It is okay to disagree with each other, but we should listen properly before making assumptions or deciding how to respond. When disagreeing, challenge the statement not the person.
- No judgement. We can explore beliefs and misunderstandings about a topic without fear of being judged.
- Choose level of participation. Everyone has the right to choose not to answer a question or join discussion. We never put anyone ‘on the spot’ (no personal questions or pressure to answer).
Here at SCARF, we've also created some helpful teacher training films to support you in creating that safe learning environment too. These cover topics such as:
- Developing a group class agreement with a class
- Presenting the ROCK agreement to a class
- Using SCARF values to create a safe learning environment
- Using a question box
- Responding to difficult questions when we don't immediately know an age-appropriate answer
- Answering difficult questions that are not relevant to the lesson, or not age-appropriate
- Using correct terminology
- Distancing techniques
By using a combination of techniques, you can ensure that both you and your pupils know how to talk about sensitive subjects without shame or sharing personal examples, whilst also showing respect for each other and ensuring children get the information they need at the right time, in line with their age and stage of development.
Although talking about viruses is statutory, talking about HIV specifically at primary level is not. Your school will need to make a decision as to whether there is any reason not to teach about HIV at this age. Your school is best-placed to assess the pupils’ needs and SCARF is flexible enough to adapt to meet their needs. You can consider whether the children have already mentioned it. If so, are they referring to HIV appropriately or inappropriately? Do they have a good understanding of how it can and can't be passed on? The answers to these questions will help you demonstrate the reasons for including this SCARF lesson in order to meet your pupil’s needs best.
N.B. We include sexual intercourse as well as some information about condoms in this lesson. It can be adapted to ensure no non-statutory sex education is taught (this would be by omitting the sexual intercourse and condom elements).
In SCARF we do not teach about Female Genital Mutilation - FGM - by name but cover this illegal and unsafe practice, using different language. We explain that very occasionally young people have things done to their bodies which are criminal in this country. These crimes involve cuts made to female genitalia - the external area around the opening to the vagina. This is taught in the context of conversations about our bodies and emphasising with all children that they are the person who should decide what happens to their own body. In turn, this helps to safeguard those children both in school and any female members of their family.
The Relationships Education statutory guidance doesn’t identify FGM as a statutory topic within primary schools – only secondary. However, the Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance does specifically mention FGM and states that Governing Bodies should ensure children are taught about safeguarding. Therefore you will need to decide how you are safeguarding children from FGM, bearing in mind that the majority of cases happen to girls of primary school age.
The SCARF lessons relating specifically to this can be found by searching FGM on our Subjects and Issues page. The wider issues around consent, personal safety and who to turn to for help, are covered widely throughout the SCARF curriculum.
At SCARF we believe that masturbation would come under the statutory requirements to teach Changing Adolescent Body under Health education, where children should know:
key facts about puberty and the changing adolescent body, particularly from age 9 through to age 11, including physical and emotional changes.
The statutory guidance states puberty should be covered in Health Education and should be addressed before onset so, as far as possible, pupils are prepared in advance for changes they will experience. However schools retain the freedom to determine an age-appropriate, developmental curriculum which meets the needs of young people, so can deliver themes at a later stage if that best meets their pupils’ needs.
We believe masturbation to be a physical and emotional change, where sexual development includes not just the genitals developing but feelings associated with ourselves, and others, change too. In SCARF we have two lessons that include masturbation. The first is in a Year 4 lesson in the Growing and Changing unit which is usually taught in the summer term, when most children are already 9 years old. It is referred to in this film clip provided by Amaze, which is an optional resource, so schools can choose whether to show it or not. It is included in the context of physical and emotional puberty changes for boys and explains that they may want to start touching their genitals for pleasure and that it is normal if they do, and normal if they don't. We also add a teaching note to acknowledge that the film clip about boys references masturbation but the girls' version does not. To ensure our RSE is based on equality, we encourage teachers to consider explaining to the children that an increased desire to touch themselves for pleasure is a private activity that everyone can choose to do and to again point out that it is normal if you don't do it, and normal if you do, and should be done in private, e.g. bedroom or bathroom. This not only helps children to keep themselves healthy and safe, but helps them to identify inappropriate behaviour in others too, either adults or peers, who may be touching their own genitals in public.
The reason why we first start talking about masturbation in year 4 is that we know that children can begin to get more curious about sex from the age of 9. This is supported by the NSPCC which has written an article on healthy sexual development where it states:
During these ages (9-13), children begin to get more curious about sex and relationships. They may start to be attracted to other people. Examples of typical sexual behaviour during this stage are...
...masturbating in private (National Sexual Violence Resource Centre, 2013; NCTSN, 2009; SECASA, 2017; Stop It Now, 2007; Stop It Now, 2020; Virtual Lab School, 2021).
All children go through phases of sexual development. As children grow, so does their understanding of what is sexual, and we must remember not to sexualize, or place unnecessary sexual meaning, on behaviours we observe in children. An infant who touches their genitals learns that when they move and touch their body parts, they experience pleasurable sensations; this is an exploratory, normative sexual behaviour. As we have mentioned above, once they reach puberty, they may have an increased desire to touch their genitals for pleasure. In our Year 5 lesson we explore a variety of feelings and emotions that may come up during puberty, and we reflect on and debunk the myth that masturbation is harmful to help reduce the shame, stigma - and related risks to mental health - a child might feel if they are developing an interest in touching themselves in this way. In line with statutory requirements, we also acknowledge that there are different opinions and beliefs about it too. Just like every other part of growing up, some children mature sooner or later than others. Therefore it is up to each individual school to design a curriculum that meets their pupils' needs best, so you have the flexibility to move the lesson to another year group if you feel that would meet all of your pupils' needs best.
Teaching children about this change so that they are prepared for puberty and the changes it brings, leads to better mental health and confidence and is supported by the statutory guidance which states puberty should be covered in Health Education and should be addressed before onset so, as far as possible, pupils are prepared in advance for changes they will experience.
Also, see our answer to Question 3.16 about pleasurable touch and how teaching about this safeguards children and Section 4 which highlights how we recommend you consult and engage with parents.
The DfE states in its non-statutory guidance that: “We are aware that topics involving gender and biological sex can be complex and sensitive matters to navigate. You should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality and interests or the clothes they prefer to wear. Resources used in teaching about this topic must always be age-appropriate and evidence-based. Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material. While teachers should not suggest to a child that their non-compliance with gender stereotypes means that either their personality or their body is wrong and in need of changing, teachers should always seek to treat individual students with sympathy and support.”
Being transgender is a topic that we touch on in our lessons that look at stereotyping, gender equality, and bullying. It may be useful for you to read our LGBT+ briefing to understand our approach. A whole lesson dedicated to gender reassignment would not be age-appropriate. Our Protected Characteristics across SCARF page highlights Ofsted's guidance which states that inspectors will gather evidence of how schools promote equality and pupils’ understanding of the protected characteristics, recognising that gender reassignment is one.
We are currently offering a teacher training webinar to explore this in more detail. SCARF covers - in an age-appropriate way - the foundations of education to prevent the kind of sexual harassment that's recently been widely reported in the media and picked up by Ofsted in their report about it.
The term 'sexual harassment' won't appear in lesson plans (in the same way that the term Female Genital Mutilation isn't named in the language that children are introduced to and taught about) but the principles that underlie prevention of it are very much included. The values of respect, kindness and caring that underpin these lessons thread throughout SCARF - too many to list - but the lessons that cover this issue more explicitly in the lower years are tagged in the Subjects and Issues page under the index headings: 'consent' 'appropriate touch' 'gender expectations' and 'safeguarding'. The DfE end-of-primary statements most closely linked to this issue in the guidance, is under the units Respectful Relationships, Online Relationships, Being Safe and Internet Safety and Harms.
The statutory guidance states puberty should be covered in Health Education and should be addressed before onset so, as far as possible, pupils are prepared in advance for changes they will experience. However schools retain the freedom to determine an age-appropriate, developmental curriculum which meets the needs of young people, so can deliver themes at a later stage if that best meets their pupils’ needs.
The NHS states that girls as young as 8 years old start menstruating. Children turn 8 in Year 3, so it is a timely point for them to receive the information before the changes take place. In a Sex Education Forum survey, nearly a quarter of respondents identifying as female did not learn about periods before they started having them. Anecdotally we hear of girls who thought they were dying when they first discovered blood in their knickers, because they had been unprepared. The shame and stigma surrounding menstruation has a big impact on a girl’s identity and mental wellbeing. Headteachers have told us of the positive impact that early teaching about the changes can have in reducing bullying and increasing empathy and understanding as children go through puberty.
We have been working hard to ensure our resources have been using language that doesn't reinforce messages about menstruation being dirty such as using the words menstrual products and period products rather than sanitary that can reinforce that periods are unhygienic and dirty. We've also been using this as an opportunity to raise awareness of reusable products too such as pads, pants and cups. When taking into account the religious background of all pupils when teaching this topic, it would be important to be clear, when you are teaching, what is fact and what is belief. The Royal College of Nursing has a useful section in this pdf about cultural and religious influences on page 22.
The statutory guidance states that both boys and girls should know about menstrual well-being including the key facts about the menstrual cycle. Best practice states that menstruation education should be delivered to both boys and girls, as learning about menstruation is a concept of reproduction, as covered by the national curriculum science and fosters good relationships by breaking down the stigma of going through these changes leading to less teasing and bullying.
Many SCARF schools have asked us why the lessons on puberty in year 3 focus mainly on menstruation and less on male puberty changes. You may have therefore noticed that we have added further content to these lessons so that they contain more information on male puberty too, to ensure we are preparing all children for the changes they will go through so they can manage them with confidence.
Schools retain the freedom to determine an age-appropriate, developmental curriculum that meets the needs of young people, so you can deliver themes at a later stage if that meets the needs of your pupils best.
What if a girl is likely to start - or has started - to menstruate especially early because of a medical condition?
Ideally, the school would foster a relationship between the parents and the school nurse, enabling both the parents and child to get the right support. It would also be good for the parents to understand that while the school wouldn't normally cover menstruation until Y3 (Eng) P4 (Sco) - depending on how the school delivers RSE - it would be important to prepare their child for this potential change so when it happens she knows that she hasn't hurt herself, she's not poorly, that it happens to all girls at some point, and that because of her condition, it's going to happen to her earlier than for most other girls.
A parent could say something like this:
"You know you have XXX condition and that sometimes it affects your body in different ways. Well, one of the ways it can change it is to speed up things, so you experience things earlier than other children. One of the changes that all girls go through is that they start to have blood that comes out of their vaginas. Can you tell me where your vagina is? Yes, that's right, between your legs. Now, this doesn't happen all the time, it will happen now and again, usually about once a month, but this can be different for different people. This is all totally normal and happens to girls. Usually, this could start at any time from the age of 8, but it's going to happen a bit earlier for you. We call this a period.
Now, when this happens we need to protect our clothes from the period blood, or it can stain pants and skirt or trousers. So to stop this happening, we can wear a pad in our pants. [We recommend that you have a period pad ready to show the girl how this works, using a teddy bear with pants and showing how to fix the pad in place. This YouTube film - watch the section between 2 mins 22 seconds and 4 mins 50 seconds - is a really nice way of showing how you can do this. We recommend that you only watch this section of the film as it contains lots of information for older girls that would probably be too much for a younger girl to take in at this stage. Please check the film before showing it to a child.]
Continue the conversation as follows:
Sometimes when the bleeding happens a person can have a stomach ache too, so it's important to let an adult know if you're in pain so they can give you some medicine or a hot water bottle, if possible, to help reduce the aches."
The school could let the parents know about period pants and swimming costumes and this will definitely be the easiest way for this child to manage their periods at such a young age. The challenge will be if any brands make sizes small enough for a young girl. Initial research shows that Cheeky Wipes do a small size in incontinence pads that can be used for wee or period blood for age 5-6 but no swimwear until age 9, although their spokesperson confirmed that they are considering launching two-piece swimwear in summer 2023.
Finally, it's important to signpost the parents to our parent's page so that they feel a bit more prepared to manage what's to come.
Whilst it's not statutory to teach children Relationship and Health Education until Year 1, every school is responsible for helping to keep all children safe. It's important that children are taught the correct words for their genitals so that they may report abuse, as supported by the Cochrane Review (2015). It should also be remembered that every child will be taught by their parents' different words for their genitals, and it would be impossible for the teacher to teach a lesson where there are potentially 30 different words for the same part of the body, without teaching them the correct words so everyone knew what was being discussed.
We recommend that the correct words are used and taught from Nursery/Reception. This ensures all children know the correct words to use, and have the language to communicate to any member of staff, if they need to, about anything related to their genital health, as well as for safeguarding purposes. However, if the parent wants to withdraw their child from Relationships Education lessons in Reception they can. Once parent consultation is complete and a school’s RSHE programme is agreed then its implementation is statutory. Parents can’t then request that their child be withdrawn from the lessons, except for any non-statutory sex education elements that the school have decided to include.
The statutory guidance states that children should know:
"How to report concerns or abuse, and the vocabulary and confidence needed to do so".
Teaching programmes should be designed after considering the needs of the pupils and the feedback from the parent consultation; this will help to determine the right time to teach correct vocabulary. Best practice is to invite into school any parent who is considering withdrawing their child, to discuss their concerns and explain to them that this approach has been taken to keep their child safe.
Using the phrase 'private parts' might tackle this issue, but unfortunately, it doesn't go far enough in keeping children safe. During RSE parents' sessions, parents have disclosed to us that they were abused as children, but their cases never resulted in prosecution because as a child, they didn't have the vocabulary to give a specific and exact account of what happened. An uninformed child is therefore a vulnerable child.
The Department of Education (DfE) acknowledges that the RSHE guidance is only statutory for Y1 onwards, but strongly recommends that teachers introduce it, in an age-appropriate way, as soon as children begin school and the guidance stresses the value of a whole-school approach. The EYFS non-statutory curriculum guidance sits alongside the Early Years framework. The sections on “understanding the world" (pages 60-68) and “personal, social and emotional development” (pages 26-34 – see p32 in particular for reception) contain recommended content that closely matches that of the Relationships Education guidance. It forms the basic building block for the RSHE curriculum.
Normalising the use of correct anatomical language from an early age helps reduce the stigma that comes with talking about bodies, puberty and sex. It lays the foundations for children to be able to talk openly about these topics and helps create a safe learning environment that allows questions to be asked and answered in an age-appropriate way. The alternative is that children adopt nicknames for their body parts - often unique to their family. This can lead to confusion and embarrassment in later years. It can also lead to missed opportunities as trusted adults are unable to safeguard children who haven't been taught to use the correct vocabulary. An example of this can be seen in this social worker's account of child abuse.
In order to meet statutory Relationships and Health Education requirements, you'll need to deliver all the six half-termly units within SCARF (you can choose the order of units and lesson plans) because the 67 end-of-primary statutory requirements are covered across different units. The Growing and Changing unit focuses particularly on changes at puberty, it ensures that you meet most of the requirements within the Changing Adolescent Body theme within Health Education. However, many of RSE requirements are covered in other SCARF half-termly units as part of a spiral curriculum.
The DfE teacher training: changing adolescent body guidance recommends that schools "Avoid segregating by gender unless there is a clear rationale for doing so in order to meet the needs of pupils (e.g. giving girls a chance to ask questions about menstruation in a female-only environment). Ensure pupils have opportunities to ask teachers questions in small groups or individually if they have personal concerns about topics."
In schools where learning about the changes at puberty before their onset takes place, headteachers have reported to us the positive impact this has on their pupils; children show more empathy and understanding towards each other, leading to a reduction in incidences of teasing and bullying. Teaching boys and girls together provides a more inclusive environment for transgender children; it ensures they are receiving information and makes it easier to ask questions related to the type of puberty they will go through e.g. male or female, rather than being in a lesson with only children who are the same gender as them but who will not experience the same puberty as them.
By talking to children about pleasure, we can help foster an understanding of pleasurable touch before we talk to them about pleasure in the context of sex. This mirrors how we talk to children about consent before we talk to them about it in the context of sex. We know that it's important (as well as statutory) for children to learn about appropriate and inappropriate touch, and learning that some touches feel nice, for example their hair being brushed or plaited or having a foot or head massage, will help them to distinguish between when a touch feels nice and wanted, and when a touch feels unpleasant, inappropriate or wrong. This helps lay the foundations for when talking about masturbation as a normal part of growing up and puberty - healthy if a person wants to do it, and healthy if they don’t - but explaining that it is a private activity that should be done in a private place. Again, this helps children to keep themselves healthy and safe.
Teaching and learning about misogyny, toxic masculinity, and social media influence is fully integrated into SCARF, through age-appropriate content across its spiral curriculum - find out more.
Preventative work starts with children developing a healthy relationship with themselves, their sense of identity and belonging, what makes them feel good about themselves, and positive role models. They should then learn how to respect others, even when they may be different from themselves, to recognise bullying, in all its forms, and how they can safely play their part as an active bystander. This provides them with skills to judge when people are presenting harmful attitudes online, often based on destructive stereotypes of what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl. In turn, this can help reframe masculinity to give young people the best chance of forming healthy, long-term relationships with others, and to develop good mental health.
However, these issues cannot be tackled through PSHE lessons alone. They need a whole-school approach. The KCSIE guidance (2022) expects schools to have a clear set of values and standards that pervade all areas of school life. They should be underpinned by a behaviour policy and pastoral support system, as well as a planned programme of evidence-based RSHE. Staff should be supported with effective and regular training in how to be role models themselves, and how to identify and expose harmful attitudes and behaviours then take appropriate action to challenge such attitudes.
4. Parental Consultation, engagement and right to withdraw
As part of your consultation, you must consult parents when developing and reviewing your RSE policy.
To consult means to have discussions, typically before undertaking a course of action. Therefore you must have a discussion with parents when developing and reviewing your RSE policy and planned programme. You should provide examples of the resources that you plan to use; this can be reassuring for parents and enables them to continue the conversations started in class at home. Maintained primary schools that choose to teach aspects of sex education which go beyond the statutory elements of the Science National Curriculum must set this out in their policy and communicate with parents what is to be covered.
Schools are free to determine an age-appropriate, developmental curriculum that meets the needs of young people and is developed in consultation with parents and the local community. If you choose to deliver sex education then you should have discussions with parents about the detailed content of what will be taught, before their child reaches the final year of primary school. This process should include offering parents support in talking to their children about sex and how to link this with what's being taught in school. Once the consultation process has been completed it's still important that you have ongoing engagement with parents throughout the school year, providing regular information about what will be taught and when.
Schools are expected to communicate with parents about their RSE policy’s content, including providing examples of resources they plan to use. The key to making this effective is to use this as an opportunity to dispel any myths about what might be taught and to build trust. Consider running workshops and training with staff before talking with parents, so that staff can talk confidently about the subject as the questions arise. We provide a variety of teacher training workshops for individuals or all staff to attend.
It's important for parents to have a chance to learn what we mean by Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) to help dispel any myths they may have heard from the media. Historically some newspapers and websites have created the myth that sex education for 5-year-olds involves teaching them how to have sex; this clearly isn’t the case.
Letting parents know what's covered in each year group will help them to see the role RSE has in keeping their children safe, whilst laying the foundations to build on in an age-appropriate way. In order to communicate these messages to parents, schools themselves need to feel confident about the importance of delivering RSE; not just because of its statutory status, but because it keeps children safe and healthy. We encourage schools to take advantage of the support available from Coram Life Education and our local delivery partners by accessing staff workshops, including parent consultation guidance and our other RSE teacher training courses.
Coram Life Education & SCARF has prepared a suite of resources to share with parents during periods of consultation and engagement. SCARF schools can find our guidance for parent consultation by reading supporting documents 2 and 3 from our managing your parent consultation: step-by-step guide under step 6. You can share supporting documents 2 and 3, and the SCARF and RSE PDF, all of which are suitable for sharing in virtual meetings or on school websites with parents, but we do not permit the sharing of lesson plans without prior permission. Whilst we do not consider the lesson plans prepared for teachers to be an appropriate or helpful resource to share with parents, schools have the option of inviting parents to review our resources on school premises. In offering this, CLE is following government guidance, arising from a recent parliamentary debate, during which the government said that ‘schools can show parents curriculum materials, including resources provided by external organisations, without infringing an external provider’s copyright in the resource. For example, it is perfectly possible for a school to invite parents into the school to view materials on the premises’.
Parents can only request that their child be withdrawn from lessons that include non-statutory Sex Education. (See SCARF and RSE content questions 3.3 and 3.5 to see how SCARF defines Sex Education and which lessons include non-statutory Sex Education.)
Our Growing and Changing Unit covers the majority of requirements listed within the Changing Adolescent Body unit under statutory Health Education, however, we must recognise that the DfE expects schools to deliver a spiral curriculum. Therefore, content in the early years, such as the difference between girls' and boys' bodies and the correct words for external body parts is covered before content later on about how our bodies change and why. The lessons grow in complexity and maturity, in line with children's development, supporting them every step of the way.
If a parent has concerns about what is included in our Growing and Changing Unit then it is important to explain to them that you have chosen to use SCARF resources as they meet the needs of the pupils at your school best. You may, of course, move the lessons around into an order that you feel meets your pupil's needs best. The content of SCARF has been written using a variety of evidence including:
- This NSPCC guidance on healthy sexual development. helps us to recognise which sexual behaviours are developmentally typical and at what age. The DfE statutory guidance supports schools to teach content that ensures male and female pupils are prepared for the changes they and their peers will experience and should, as far as possible, address them before their onset.
- This Sex Education Forum Curriculum Design Tool. tool supports us in designing a developmental, spiral, and comprehensive programme of relationships and sex education (RSE) which starts early in primary school. It maps out the core content of a comprehensive RSE programme by age and stage and shows how core concepts are developed and revisited with increasing complexity.
- This UNESCO International technical guidance on sexuality education (known as RSE in England and RSHP in Scotland) promotes structured learning about sex and relationships in a manner that is positive, affirming, and centered on the best interest of the young person. By outlining the essential components of effective sexuality education programmes, the guidance has enabled us to design comprehensive curricula that will have a positive impact on young people’s health and well-being.
Using these sources above helps to ensure that young people make the transition from childhood to adulthood receiving accurate, comprehensive and non-judgemental information that positively impacts on their physical, social and emotional development. Failing to inadequately prepare children not only exacerbates the vulnerability of children and youth to exploitation and other harmful outcomes but also represents the failure of society’s duty bearers to fulfil their obligations to an entire generation.
This would be recorded as an unauthorised absence. If a school agrees with our definition of sex education (see our answer under SCARF and RSE content, Q3.3), then everything else within SCARF becomes statutory either under Relationships Education, Health Education or Science from Year 1. The school should meet with the parent or carer to determine exactly what they are unhappy with, in order to allay fears, and help them to recognise the benefits of their child learning with their peers from a trusted source; this ensures that the child receives correct information rather than other children's version of the lessons. It's important to also focus on the positives and the norms: the vast majority of parents want their child to have this information. Over time this parent may decide how important it is for their child to receive this information.
The statutory requirements expect schools to deliver content that is: “…age and developmentally appropriate. It must be taught sensitively and inclusively, with respect to the backgrounds and beliefs of pupils and parents while always with the aim of providing pupils with the knowledge they need of the law.” (DfE statutory guidance, 2019.)
The RSE content of SCARF was written with guidance on designing an age-appropriate curriculum from the Sex Education Forum. This guidance is based on the international evidence about what constitutes comprehensive RSE. Schools have the flexibility to design and plan age-appropriate subject content, but the statutory guidance sets out core areas for health and wellbeing that are appropriate for primary and secondary aged pupils.
Schools are encouraged to deliver puberty, including information about menstruation and wet dreams, before its onset, in order to ensure pupils are prepared for changes they and their peers will experience (see SCARF and RSE content Q10 for further information). Schools are also free to decide on an age-appropriate, developmental curriculum that meets the needs of their children. This gives flexibility as to what should be taught and when, making sure that everything is taught by the end of Year 6. Every school must consider the views shared by parents and others in the school community before deciding on the content of its curriculum. Ultimately it's for each school to decide this, based on the needs of its pupils.
We recommend that you read our LGBT briefing. This highlights our approach to lessons that have LGBT content; it also lists lessons that address some of the issues relating to difference. A lot of these lessons focus on the fundamental British values of tolerance and respect for others who are different from ourselves; this is a statutory requirement of Relationships Education and part of the Ofsted Inspection judgements. Giving same-sex relationships equal status with heterosexual relationships is not promoting; instead, it ensures that these relationships are recognised in the curriculum, as they are in law. In paragraph 82 of its 2019 statutory guidance, the DfE states that: "Pupils should be made aware of the legal provisions when relevant topics are being taught," and gives examples that include sexuality and gender identity. Same-sex marriage and civil partnerships have been legal for some years; this is also the case for the rights of same-sex couples to create families. Schools are responsible for deciding when they will introduce the teaching of LGBT identities to pupils.
We advise that you include something in your RSE policy to support the inclusion of LGBT content in your curriculum, for example: "Our school has made the decision to ensure that it provides a safe, inclusive environment where children are safe to learn, free from bullying, by teaching a curriculum that acknowledges families of many forms."
We have produced a parents page for schools to share with all parents. Originally written for Year 6 parents but feedback from schools indicates that it could also be useful for parents of younger children. Parents don't need a SCARF login to access this page, please share the direct link with them. The page has lots of information to help them support their child. Our Managing your parent consultation page also contains a suggested book list can be downloaded and shared with parents.
5. Tailoring SCARF to suit your school/pupils
SCARF has resources to support Pupil Voice, including age-appropriate ways of consulting with children such as Anonymous Question Boxes, which can be adapted for use with children of all ages. Go to our Pupil Voice page to find out more
The suggested half-termly units have been produced to help you deliver an age-appropriate spiral curriculum that meets statutory requirements for both Relationships Education and Health Education.
However, you have the freedom to adapt this and determine your own age-appropriate, developmental curriculum which meets the needs of your pupils, in consultation with parents and the school community. To help you create a more tailored curriculum, we've created flexible planning tools. This enables you to create your own bespoke programme by changing the order of the lesson plans; we've also created a range of additional resources that support you further in tailoring your programme . Find out more about the SCARF flexible planning tools in our Preparation and Planning section of Whole school SCARF under Part 2: Planning your PSHE (including RSHE) curriculum.
SCARF lessons are designed to be approximately 45 minutes of teaching time per week. Where units have more lesson plans than weeks in the half term, you can:
- Teach more than one lesson that week
- Check that a lesson hasn’t been taught the lesson in the previous year, e.g. the lesson ‘Secret or Surprise’ appears as an option for either Y3 and Y4 - P4 and P5 in Scotland.
- Use the pre-unit assessment to help determine which lessons to prioritise
- Ask the children to rank the lessons in order of preference using a diamond nine activity.
Schools with mixed-age classes use SCARF very successfully. Our guidance SCARF and mixed-age planning guidance will support you in using our resources for such groups.
We recommend that you use the pre-unit assessment, located within the half-termly unit pages, to assess how the children are progressing and to decide which lessons from the previous years may need to be covered prior to teaching the current year’s lesson. It may also be useful to ask the children to rank the lessons in order of preference using an activity called the as part of your decisions about this. You could also use an 'Ask-it basket' or anonymous questions box to find out what they want to learn about or what questions they have. Film no.14 explains this in our RSE guidance and support materials section. The Pupil voice page, located in Part 1 of the Preparation and Planning section of Whole-school SCARF brings together wider guidance for consulting with pupils.
We recommend the Amaze resources, which are free to access. You can explore the Amaze vidoes to find the right ones to suit your class. Resources from Amaze can be useful for showing all the different ways couples can create families*. All the videos that Amaze create are inclusive, showing a variety of skin tones and gender.
*Please note that the word queer is used several times in this film clip. The word queer is sometimes used as a derogatory term, in the way that the word gay is sometimes used. Both queer and gay, if used in the wrong context, are regarded as homophobic.
However, many people from the LGBTQ+ community have reclaimed the word queer because it helps define them and their identity. Find out more information about LGBTQ+ terminology. If you choose to show the last video it will be valuable to discuss the term queer with them and to think about the use of language, which - if used in the wrong context - can be seen as derogatory.
The key point learning point is that if someone is not sure which word people use to identify themselves, they should ask, rather than deciding for themselves the label.
The RSE elements of SCARF are based on the SCARF values of Safety, Caring, Achievement, Resilience and Friendship. We believe that all children deserve to be safe, cared for and to learn the skills they need to develop healthy relationships. We feel there is a natural fit between these values and the ethos of faith schools.
The themes within the RSE elements of SCARF help children from all backgrounds to build positive and safe relationships, and to thrive in modern Britain. Schools of religious character must deliver Relationships Education as described in the statutory guidance. The guidance also states that schools can teach a distinctive faith perspective on relationships too, whilst being clear what is opinion or belief and what is information regarding the law and legal rights. Further useful reading regarding faith schools, children and families from a religious or belief background and RSE can be found in these documents:
- Church of England - Valuing All God’s Children
- Church of England - Living in Love and Faith
- British Muslims for Secular Democracy – Advice for schools
- The Muslim Council for Britain - RSE: Constructive Engagement
- PaJes- Supporting Jewish Schools - Guidance for Schools to be compliant with RSE Guidance
- Hampshire Services – Blog on RSE and GRT communities
- A PAVEE Perspective - Travellers' Attitudes to sexual relationships and sex education
Children with SEND may not have the cognitive ability to access some of the SCARF lesson content, but it's also important to recognise that children's bodies will still be developing in line with their age. They need information to help keep them safe and also help them to understand how and why their bodies will develop. This means that the statutory requirements should be taught to all children by the end of Y6 in an age-appropriate, accessible way. You may find it useful to support the SCARF lessons with further visual resources. We have recommended some organisations (below) which have resources aimed at children with SEND. You'll find that some will suit your pupils more than others:
- Health Ed Co have a number of resources you might find useful to support the lessons including:
- Learn and Thrive has a range of resources to help you to adapt your RSE programme for pupils with SEND
- My Education World also produces puberty resources such as
- The FPA also offer videos (NB: not all of these are age-appropriate but the sections on puberty and menstruation and wet dreams will be useful): Kylie's private world and
Finally, you may also find the free NHS Leeds resource, Puberty and Sexuality for Children and Young People with a Learning Disability helpful to use alongside SCARF. It's aimed at 9–18-year-olds so will be suitable from Y4 onwards.
SCARF’s values of Safety, Caring, Achievement, Resilience and Friendship, which underpin all its content, align strongly with the key principles of SMSC.
SCARF supports you in teaching this valuable area of children's learning. See our SCARF and Supporting SMSC page for resources, planning and guidance on this.
Many schools use a metacognitive approach to teaching and learning.
SCARF supports schools doing this both through its curriculum content and related guidance about teaching and learning strategies. SCARF schools - find out more about SCARF and a metacognitive approach.
Yes. SCARF has collaborated with UNICEF UK to create guidance that shows how SCARF supports schools in meeting the Rights Respecting Schools Award (RRSA).
We've created mapping tools to show how SCARF supports the three strands of the award. This is available to all schools. Find out more about SCARF and UNICEF UK's RRSA.
6. Answering children's questions
You could signpost the parent to our parent information page which is suitable for parents of 8-11-year-olds. It was originally written for Y6 parents, but based on parent feedback we make it available for parents of younger children, too. Parents don't need a SCARF log in to access this page, schools should just copy and share this direct link with them: https://www.coramlifeeducation.org.uk/RSE-for-Y6-and-P7. This page contains lots of information to help them support their child.
The decision about whether to help an 8-year-old child understand how an egg and sperm meet depends on their understanding of what they've already been taught as the foundations for this information, such as learning about healthy relationships, consent, puberty and how reproduction occurs. A parent may wish to use the resources suggested above to help them answer this question. We also have a suggested booklist at the bottom of this parent page. The book Let’s Talk About Where Babies Come From, by R H Harris, is a good resource to start with, if the parent is beginning their journey in talking to their child about this.
We have a template letter that informs parents of the changes to the statutory status of the subject, which can be found on the Managing your Parent Consultation page - step 2. The letter can be adapted to suit your school’s needs. It's a statutory requirement for you to consult and then share with parents your RSE policy, which should include a statement about their rights to withdraw a child from non-statutory sex education.
7. SCARF staff training and pupil workshops
In some regions of the UK, we have teams of educators who can deliver specially designed workshops covering puberty, relationships, human reproduction (including conception) and being safe. Some educators also model teaching SCARF lessons, to support teacher skills and confidence.
Statutory RSHE guidance (2019) states that the contribution of external agencies should be to enhance and not replace the teaching of the subjects by an appropriate member of staff. Therefore we encourage you to look at how you can build the confidence and skills of your staff to deliver RSE. Some of our educators also model teaching SCARF lessons, including RSE, to support teacher skills and confidence. Please contact your local delivery partner to arrange this, or contact us directly to explore options.
Please take a look at our training page. We run a variety for different training courses, webinars and workshops. We also offer bespoke RSE-related training, tailored to your school's needs. Please contact us directly to arrange this.
Examples of our RSE training offers
- Developing a school culture to prevent sexual harassment and abuse
- Managing your RSE parent consultation
- SCARF and implementing PSED from the EYFS Framework
- Introduction to effective PSHE education
8. SCARF free trial or subscribe
SCARF online resources offer exceptional value for money. Prices quoted are for an annual subscription, enabling teachers to access over 365 easy-to-use curriculum-based PSHE, Relationships and Health Education lesson plans, planning and assessment tools. There are no hidden or additional costs, so schools benefit from updated and additional content within their subscription. View SCARF pricing.
Schools booking Life Education workshops, where available in their local area, continue to receive a year's subscription to SCARF at no extra cost, worth up to £730.
We offer a free six-week trial that gives you access to a complete half-term set of primary school resources, focusing on positive relationships and includes key SMSC and British Values elements.