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.
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
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.
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. The NSPCC has written an article on healthy sexual development where it identifies that 9- to 13-year-olds are beginning to get more curious about sex. Examples of healthy sexual behaviour during this stage include masturbating in private. Of course, 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.
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. A whole lesson dedicated to gender reassignment would not be age-appropriate.
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.
The statutory guidance states that both boys and girls are to be prepared for the changes that adolescence brings. 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.
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 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.
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 it’s 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.
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, Q2), 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 brief . 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 Key Stage 2 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.
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:
SCARF lesson plans have a degree of flexibility and opportunities to differentiate built into them, so teachers report to us that they don’t have any problems working through – for example – the Y1 and then the Y2 half-termly units on a two-year rolling basis. Also, the half-termly units within SCARF contain lesson plans with similar themes and learning outcomes – and the themes are the same across each year group’s units. These work as a spiral curriculum, with progression, mapped across the school. For further information and sample small-school plans go to the Policy and Planning page. (For reference, this is located via My SCARF >Guidance – England > Policy and planning.) Here you'll find planning for 2 class or 3 class schools, based on the half termly units. These plans organise all of the SCARF lessons within a rolling programme, ensuring breadth of coverage and progression.
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:
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:
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.
You will see in our puberty glossary that can be found at the bottom of the RSE guidance and support materials page that we include the definition of sex as:
Sex – A term used to describe someone’s biological sex or can be used to describe all the different ways two individuals can touch each other in a sexual way; that includes touching their genitals, in a way that feels nice to them.
It's really important not to stereotype, based on sexual orientation, the ways in which people may have sex. The focus should be on touch that feels nice and exploring touch with a partner; this may include consensual touching of the sexual organs/genitals.
We also encourage you to make sure that you include in your RSE policy how you answer children's questions so that parents are informed of your approach. Suggested wording, depending on your school’s approach could be:
"We answer children's questions in an honest, factual, age-appropriate way. This will provide them with the information they need from a trusted adult to help keep them safe and reduce the risk of them looking online for the answers to their questions, which is likely to lead to them coming across inappropriate content. Recent research produced by ChildNet tells us that 28% of children have seen their first pornographic image by the age of 11-12 years old; it's really important that we help children learn about healthy relationships before they could be exposed to this content."
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.
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.
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.