This section poses and answers a number of frequently asked questions about the resource.
Let us know if they are helpful, and get in touch if there are other questions we can answer for you.
In addition to text, some of the responses have links to short films that explain more about the importance of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood education and how using this resource can benefit children and young people. Interviewees include professional staff, young people and parents and carers.
- Why has the RSHP resource been created?
- How was this resource created?
- Why does RSHP matter?
- Who should receive RSHP education?
- How should an educator use the RSHP resource?
- Does the Scottish Government issue Guidance about the teaching of RSHP education?
- What do we know about what children and young people want from their RSHP education?
- What do children and young people learn about by using the RSHP resource?
- What is the role of parents and carers when it comes to RSHP education? How can parents and carers understand more about the RSHP resource and RSHP education in learning settings?
- Is the content of the new resource age and stage appropriate?
- What responsibilities do professional people have and what support is available?
- Why do children learn to use the correct words for parts of their body?
- Why does the RSHP resource have learning about ‘having sex’ in the primary school years? How is this done?
- Why does the RSHP resource have learning about abuse in the primary school years? How is this done?
- Why and how does the RSHP resource help children and young people to learn about sex and gender equality?
- Why and how does the RSHP resource help children and young people to learn about consent?
- Why and how does the RSHP resource help young people to learn about pornography?
- Why and how does the RSHP resource help young people to learn about different types of sexual activity?
Subtitled versions of all the films linked to in this section are available here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/6321964
The full set of RSHP resource films are available here: https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425
RSHP is a key element of the Health and Wellbeing area of Curriculum for Excellence. Health and Wellbeing is one of the eight curricular areas in Curriculum for Excellence. Its importance is reflected in its position at the centre of the curriculum and at the heart of children’s learning. Along with literacy and numeracy it is one of the three core areas that are the responsibility of all staff in learning establishments.
Learning in Health and Wellbeing is designed to ensure that children and young people aged 3 to 18 years old develop the knowledge and understanding, skills, capabilities and attributes which they need for mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing.
Young people have identified inconsistencies and gaps in the delivery and quality of RSHP education in numerous consultation and engagement exercises, research studies and evaluations. The RSHP resource was developed as a result of identified need for RSHP education to be fully modernised, a recommendation of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee in their report ‘Let’s Talk about Personal and Social Education’.
The resource can be used to support the delivery of RSHP education in mainstream and specialist settings and in non-denominational and denominational schools.
After some months of desk-research where current RSHP programmes and resources were identified, the new RSHP resource began to take shape online. To start the process of national engagement draft RSHP content was posted at the start of the 2018-2019 school year and educators and parents/carers were encouraged to comment and use the drafts. This allowed for a process of review and refinement until final content was agreed for the start of the school year 2019/20. As well as an open process that allowed anyone to contribute, a number of schools were recruited as pilot settings for this period of development. The attached infographic shows the development process.
All of the resources now available as part of the RSHP resource have been quality assured and peer reviewed by a partnership of educators, health professionals and third sector organisations. The managing partners are committed to an ongoing process of review and improvement to ensure the resource continues to be engaging and relevant.
Curriculum for Excellence acknowledges that learning for and about health and wellbeing is central to the educational experience of every child and young person in Scotland. When our curriculum breaks down what we need learners to explore, there is a recognition that learning about relationships, sexual health and parenthood is part of our national approach.
Learning about relationships, sexual health and parenthood has never been more important or necessary. It seems our children are exposed more and more to influences we would rather they were not, such as pressures relating to body image, the impact of negative behaviours on social media on their mental health, or the exposure to pornography. While this can feel overwhelming, if we present factual views of the world, based on respect and building the capacity of children and young people to understand what they see so they can decide for themselves to reject negative messages, then educators and parents and carers can help build resilience and positive values.
Further, research evidence shows that learners who take part in RSHP education at school are more likely to delay sexual activity until they are physically and emotionally mature enough to be able to manage sexual relationships, and are less likely to experience adverse outcomes compared to those who have not taken part.
Why does RSHP matter? https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425/video/361263347
All children and young people have a right to an education that meets their needs. This includes opportunities to learn about relationships, sexual health and parenthood. The RSHP resource acknowledges this learning begins in the early years and continues until a young person is 18 years old. Of course, how we deliver RSHP education is very much dependent on the age and the characteristics of the learners, Curriculum for Excellence encourages educators to plan and deliver learning that is designed for the context within which the educator works. However, we choose to deliver RSHP education, it is important to acknowledge it is central to our Health and Wellbeing curriculum.
Who should receive RSHP education https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425/video/361991277
Every educator – from those working in early years establishments, to primary and secondary schools, and in community or college settings – is expected to provide children and young people aged 3 to 18 years old with a health and wellbeing curriculum that meets their needs. As educators plan those aspects of the curriculum relating to RSHP education they can use the RSHP resource to identify content that will support them. There are activity plans and supporting resources, none of these are a set script but they are resources that have been developed by educators from across sectors and communities – the content has been reviewed and is supported by the key partner agencies so an educator can have confidence that it is appropriate and will help them deliver RSHP education in their setting.
Statutory guidance to support RSHP education was published in 2014. The Scottish Government is committed to updating this guidance in 2019, a recommendation of both the working group on LGBT inclusive education and the Personal and Social Education (PSE) review.
Young people in Scotland have stated their views and opinions in numerous consultation and engagement exercises, research studies and evaluations. RSHP education matters to young people. It sits alongside mental and emotional health as the issue of greatest importance to them. However, learners have also identified there have been inconsistencies and gaps in the delivery and quality of RSHP education.
Children and young people have said the role of the teacher is crucial to RSHP education. They want someone who is confident and happy to teach content, who has a sense of humour, who is open to discussion and exploring questions together. In a RSHP lesson learners ask that everyone is encouraged to be involved, that different opinions can be expressed, and that there should be no embarrassment. To do this, learners identify that lessons need to be interactive, discussion-based, draw on real-life experience and provide opportunities to acknowledge the growing maturity of learners as they get older. Finally, content needs to be relevant, and while there is a need to learn about sexual health topics it is important to learn and about relationships and parenthood too. These key themes have been central to the formation of the new resource.
What do children and young people want from RSHP education? https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425/video/361997291
The topics and themes explored in the RSHP resource are already expressed in the RSHP elements of Curriculum for Excellence. What the RSHP resource does is give educators teaching material they can use to practically deliver the curriculum. The content is primarily about relationships, it also covers sexual health and wellbeing, and it explores parenthood.
The content about relationships looks at friendships and getting along with others. It explores how we behave towards others both face-to-face as well as in our online relationships. In primary school learning, the content of the resource encourages children to have friendships with other children regardless of sex, it acknowledges that even at this young age children can face pressures to be in ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ type relationships. A message in learning about relationships is that we should be kind to others. As young people in secondary school, learning about relationships begins to explore loving, romantic and intimate relationships. Young people are encouraged to have aspirations for relationships that are respectful and kind. To help young people keep themselves safe their RSHP education also explores when relationships are unhealthy, with help to recognises signs of abuse or coercion. For older young people there is also some focus on online relationships, with support to identify how to stay safe.
It is unfortunate that this part of the curriculum is still referred to by some as ‘sex ed’ because it is much more than that. The content about sexual health helps children to understand their body, from the names of parts of their body to understanding the changes that comes with puberty. It is important children learn about their bodies so there is no shame, so they have the words they need to talk about any worries, and so they understand that puberty is a natural process everyone goes through. By the later years of primary school children can be curious about what sex is and how babies are made and so this is explained in very straightforward terms. (There is more detail about this later in this FAQ section). In their secondary school years young people are given the opportunity to learn more about how to ensure they keep safe and healthy when they eventually enter into sexual relationships, so they learn about sexually transmitted infections and reproductive health including condoms and contraception.
The resource also supports learning about parenthood. It does this by encouraging learning about what babies and children need for the best start in life and then as they grow. Young people of secondary school age are encouraged to reflect on being a parent and what kind of parent they would like to be, if that is something they choose. Young people also think ahead and are supported to understand parenthood will benefit from being planned.
Finally, throughout the material provided in the RSHP resource, is a key message about kindness and empathy in relationships, and the importance of love and respect be that in friendships or in adult relationships.
What practical learning do children and young people receive from RSHP? https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425/video/361998246
What does RSHP equip children and young people to deal with? https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425/video/361992291
9. What is the role of parents and carers when it comes to RSHP education? How can parents and carers understand more about the RSHP resource and RSHP education in learning settings?
Parents and carers are their child’s primary educator and RSHP education is a partnership between them and the school. The RSHP resource acknowledges parents and carers need to understand the content of the lessons their child will receive so they are able to reinforce and consolidate their learning at home.
Most parents and carers want their child to receive Health and Wellbeing and RSHP education and find it useful to know in advance what will be taught, what language or terminology is being used and what things they can do to complement their child’s learning. There may well be activities that a setting already does, such as parent sessions or regular communication about the curriculum. To support this, the RSHP resource provides the following:
- The resource is open access, so learning settings can point parents and carers to the resource to see any content they are using.
- There are information leaflets for parents and carers at every Level that can be used or adapted.
- At the start of every learning activity plan (or block of learning activities) there is text the educator can share with home about the upcoming learning.
- Learning activities also encourage learners to take activities home, supporting conversations between children and young people and their parent or carer.
- Booklists have been provided, these can be used to stock class or school libraries, borrowing and reading at home can be encouraged.
What is the role of parents and carers within RSHP? https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425/video/361996285
How do we acknowledge and respond to concerns about RSHP? https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425/video/361995322
In the development of the RSHP curriculum, work was done to ensure learning is entirely age-appropriate for the child learning at any given Curriculum for Excellence Level. The new RSHP resource has worked back from the stated Experiences and Outcomes and Benchmarks to provide resources that support delivery of this well-considered curriculum. All of the resources now available as part of the RSHP resource have been quality assured and peer-reviewed by a partnership of educators, health professionals, and third sector organisations. Our curriculum in Scotland is also informed by the World Health Organisation and the work it does on developing an evidence-informed approach to this learning.
Is the new teaching resource age and stage appropriate? https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425/video/361994410
World Health Organisation: Sexual and Reproductive Health, International technical guidance, an evidence-informed approach: https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/technical-guidance-sexuality-education/en/
The individual professional is expected to work within their context, with colleagues and in partnership with parents/carers to deliver an RSHP curriculum that meets the needs of their learners. Training and advice is available from Local Authority and Health Board staff, depending on your local area, this contact information is also provided in the RSHP resource. Education Scotland colleagues are also engaged in developing the training that will support the delivery of the RSHP curriculum.
What are my responsibilities and what support is available in local areas? https://vimeo.com/showcase/6310425/video/361993471
It is important to acknowledge that some parents and carers think that using words like ‘penis’ and ‘vulva’ with children is in some way inappropriate, this is because we adults can think these parts of the body are just to do with sex. Some parents/carers might also think teaching children the anatomically correct words may lead to awkward situations because a child might not know when to use the words or not. With this in mind, there are two main reasons why the correct words will be taught in school.
Firstly, the genitals are simply a part of our body and we can help keep children healthy and safe throughout life if we avoid giving the message that somehow we are ashamed of this part of our body, or that the genitals are something so embarrassing that we need to give them nicknames. From an early age, we can teach children that the parts of their body that are private have names that we can all use and understand without embarrassment or shame. This is just part of our efforts in RSHP education to encourage every child to have a positive view of their body.
Secondly, when children know the names for parts of their body they are safer. This is because when a child knows the correct words and has the confidence to use them, they also learn that if someone touches them or shows them their genitals, or shows a child pictures or film of such, then the child can tell a trusted adult exactly what has happened. This approach starts in Early Learning centres and takes place in schools from Primary 1.
13. Why does the RSHP resource have learning about ‘having sex’ in the primary school years? How is this done?
In primary school, by the end of P4, children are expected to understand where living things come from and how they grow, develop and are nurtured. This means that when it comes to human life they should know how life begins, grows and develops during pregnancy. Later in primary school, usually around P6 or P7, children are expected to develop further understanding of the human body and so learn more about human conception, sexual intercourse and giving birth. That’s what the curriculum says, but in addition, many parents and carers already know that around these ages children are curious and will ask questions like: How did the baby get in your tummy? How does the baby get born?
The approach of the RSHP resource is to be straightforward in terms of explanation and the words used. The information children need at this age is very basic, and they will be satisfied with honest answers. We also want children to be learning about their bodies and very natural human processes without embarrassment or shame. The content of the learning activities and PowerPoints made available for educators can be shared with parents and carers in advance and after a lesson, so messages can be consistent.
There is a final point here, which comes out of a worrying influence. Research tells us that a significant number of children have viewed pornography before they finish primary school. Childnet International says that 28% of 11-year-olds report seeing pornography, a number supported by research by the Children’s Commissioner in England. Of further concern, the NSPCC report that 53% of boys and 39% of girls aged 11 to 18 who had seen pornography thought it was realistic. What does this mean for parents/carers and educators? It means it is essential we work together to answer the child’s questions in ways that frame sex as part of loving adult relationships; by creating opportunities to talk and learn together from an early age we encourage them to come to us with their curiosity or if they ever see anything that upsets them online.
14. Why does the RSHP resource have learning about abuse in the primary school years? How is this done?
Curriculum for Excellence is explicit in its recognition that children should know all forms of abuse are wrong. To do so, children need to learn what we mean by abuse so potential or actual experiences they have can be understood as such.
The RSHP curriculum, supported by this resource, helps support children to understand their feelings and develop confidence and skills which help them to express and share how they feel. The learning activities in the resource acknowledge all different kinds of feelings, but for feelings that leave the child worried or anxious then the learning supports children to seek help.
With this in mind, children at around P5/P6 are encouraged to think about situations or circumstances in which they might feel safe or unsafe. They consider who the trusted adults are in their lives. Then they reflect on situations where they may feel unsafe – this might be if a child experiences bullying, physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse. The way these worrying situations are explored is sensitive, there is no need to alarm a child, and without doing so children can learn no one has the right to harm them.
Where activities are provided in the resource that addresses abuse or harm there is clear guidance that educators delivering these activities should have undergone up-to-date child protection training provided by their setting. Further, the educator delivering sessions must know the children in the class/group. Where the issues raised in such sessions may trigger distress or anxiety for a child, it is stated that discussions should take place with the child and parents/carers as appropriate as to whether the child wants to be part of the lesson and what support may be required.
15. Why and how does the RSHP resource help children and young people to learn about sex and gender equality?
The RSHP resource supports efforts to help children learn about themselves, what makes them unique and the idea of diversity. In doing so children consider stereotypes and gender-biased expectations. From learning at Early level through to Senior Phase, the resource encourages children and young people to know that they can be any kind of girl or boy they want to be.
In primary school children will learn that at school there is no such thing as ‘boy’s stuff’ or girl’s stuff’. The idea of equality is introduced in primary school in this way:
Equality is about being fair. Equality means making sure that every girl and boy, and every woman and man, has the same chances to make the most of their lives and talents.
Young people of secondary school age continue to reflect on sex equality, this also includes how rights can be infringed through narrow views of being a young man or young woman, direct and indirect discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based violence.
The RSHP resource acknowledges some young people may identify as transgender or in other ways such as being non-binary or gender non-conforming. In an educational context, we must acknowledge and respect the change that is taking place in terms of how young people understand and describe themselves in relation to sex and gender. In primary school lessons, the term transgender is described. In secondary school more discussion takes place about what we mean by sex and by gender.
There are limits to what can be expected from the RSHP resource. What is offered is a relatively limited number of learning activities that explore and promote equality. In every learning setting, there will be a need for a broader commitment to equality, beyond what is taught as part of the RSHP curriculum, however, the learning activities offered can help engage children and young people in this work. It is also important to acknowledge that as educators we need to maintain an openness to the differences of opinion or views young people will have, matters of gender and gender identity are played out in the media young people are engaged with. They might support or challenge the use of some of the language, they might have different views about gender and gender identity, all of this okay if managed within the normal parameters of discussions with RSHP learning – questions or challenges should not be discriminatory, personalised or unkind.
The learning activities that explore sex and gender also have this caveat attached for further consideration, addressing educators directly:
You may have a child/young person in your class who does not wish to be identified as either a boy or a girl. You may have a child/young person in your setting who experiences a marked incongruence between their experienced gender and the gender associated with their biological sex – you may have already been told by the child/young person themselves or by a parent/carer about the child’s gender dysphoria. In these circumstances, the duty remains to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for this child/young person, respectful of their and their parents’ wishes in terms of any changes they wish to make to things like name or dress or chosen pronouns. In any of these circumstances, the child/young person may experience prejudice-based bullying and while this set of learning activities seeks to promote kindness, empathy, and rights, the learning activities will only be a part of how you create an inclusive, safe space for all learners.
When we think about consent we often go straight to considerations of sexual consent, this is to be expected as this is a key concern and something that young people must understand as they enter into relationships that might become sexual. However, if we want young people to understand sexual consent at age 16, 17 or 18 we really must rewind and consider how we can help children learn about, understand and practice the idea of consent at the earliest of ages as they play, make friends and make their way with increasing independence – the idea being that if you understand consent as a child, you will be able to understand sexual consent as a young adult. So how do we do this in the RSHP resource?
In the early years, when children are at nursery school or in P1, children can learn about cooperating, sharing and manners. They can learn to express what they like and don’t like and they can listen to others, beginning to recognise when another child says yes or no – either verbally or with body language or their behaviour. All of this comes through those ‘teachable moments’ when children and educators are playing and chatting, or a particular event happens. Of course, we can create those teachable moments too, and so there are suggestions in the RSHP resource about how books, play, and other activities can support RSHP learning on consent at Early Level.
In the primary school years children can have fun exploring the idea of consent through playing games and thinking about the kinds of situations they find themselves in – children love to consider ‘real-life scenarios’. Children can develop language and behaviours that help them to express what they like or don’t like.
In both early years settings and in primary school the intention is to support children to learn that their body is their body, and begin to be able to articulate their rights to be safe and respected. A key idea in learning about consent is the idea of bodily autonomy, explained like this:
Body autonomy means your body is your body. It belongs to you. You are the boss of your body.
In the secondary school years, young people are given opportunities to think about what consent means in a relationship, and as they look to the future they learn more about what the law says about sexual consent and have time to consider the pressures that young people can face to be in relationships, including sexual relationships. By Senior Phase young people engaging with the RSHP resource are having conversations about consent in many different contexts as they talk about the kinds of loving and romantic relationships they want to have, and how to seek help when a relationship is not respectful of basic concepts such as consent.
We live in a world where pornography is easily accessible and where even if children do not want to see it they might find it or click to it by accident, or be shown it by an older child or adult. We also know that by the teenage years a significant number of young people, particularly young men, are choosing to view pornography. We wish it weren’t so. An important aspect of the RSHP curriculum and so the RSHP resource is to help children be safe, to understand what they see and to seek out a trusted adult to speak to if they are curious, worried or upset by something. This includes viewing pornography.
In primary school, there is only a brief mention of pornography. This is done in the context of learning about being online where we encourage children to consider their safety and to learn to seek out an adult to talk with if they see something that is upsetting to them. We do this because research tells us that almost one in three children will have viewed pornography by age 11. At around P5/P6 we explain to children what pornography is as follows:
Pornography is sometimes called ‘porn’. Pornography is a photograph, image, film or words that are about something sexual. Porn can show people’s sexual body parts or show people having sex. Some porn can be upsetting because it shows a person being hurt or abused. It is wrong for an adult or other young person to show you pornography. If you see something you don’t understand or is upsetting it helps to tell an adult you trust.
In the RSHP resource content for young people at secondary school, there is more about learning around the realities of pornography. This learning fits in to an explicit commitment in Curriculum for Excellence to help learners develop what is called critical literacy – this means being able to analyse and evaluate the meaning of what the young person reads, sees or hears and to do so in a way that they can understand how what they read/see/hear relates to issues of equality, power and social justice. With such an understanding they can then consider how do I feel and what do I want to do about this?
Throughout the resource, pornography is just one of the topics where we try to engage learners without embarrassment, shame, judgement or a hectoring tone. This does not mean being value-free but it does mean being creative, using humour, and accessing content of high quality from trusted sources, such as ChildLine.
When educators look at the resource content about pornography they first read about its connections to Curriculum for Excellence and then we have provided what is called Learning Intentions and Success Criteria – these describe what the purpose of the activity is and what young people should be able to understand, know or do as a result. Learning about pornography, via this resource, appreciates that many young people see it, and many may choose to watch it. What we try to do in this educational input is to be clear pornography often presents behaviours that are violent or degrading, and these behaviours are not appropriate in real-life relationships. Young people will also learn pornography needs to be is viewed as a medium through which people are objectified, hurt and exploited.
As adults, we might want a very different world for our children but the reality is pornography is a global business that is grooming our children and exposing them to material we do not want them to see. Our best response needs to be in the relationships we have with our children, supported by the provision of education in learning settings.
18. Why and how does the RSHP resource help young people to learn about different types of sexual activity?
As part of the RSHP curriculum young people of secondary school age are expected to learn about looking after their sexual health and understanding what the law says ‘sex’ is, this is the basis for learning about behaving appropriately toward others as well as understanding consent. To understand the law it is necessary to explain what constitutes sex in Scots law. It may be the case that young people think ‘sex’ is only penetrative penis/vagina sex, but in law, other sexual practices – oral sex, anal sex, mutual masturbation, and sexual touching – are also considered sex, and so if done without consent can be considered an assault.
In the context of talking and learning about sexual activity, there are messages throughout the RSHP resource about the age of consent. This is explained as something that protects young people, and they are encouraged to delay sexual activity.
As young people enter their Senior Phase of learning – S4, S5, and S6 or at college or in a community setting – there is further learning about sexual behaviours. A focus is given to considering anal sex for different reasons. Firstly, research and feedback from sexual health services is telling us young women are experiencing pressure in this regard. We do not fully understand why heterosexual young people are now more likely to have anal sex, but it may be influenced by the increasing presentation of anal sex in pornography (where 40% of pornographic scenes currently show anal sex). Secondly, in order for young people to protect themselves from rectally acquired STIs, which are on the increase in young men over the last few years, unambiguous information is essential. The RSHP resource seeks to offer a means by which young people can be provided with an educational input, which is factually accurate and prompts them to reflect on their choices and sexual behaviours.