AYP statement in response to the non-statutory Department of Education RSHE Guidance
From this school year (Sept 2020), it is a statutory (legal) requirement as part of the Relationship and Sex and Health Education (RSHE) curriculum that all secondary schools in England are required to teach about sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition to this all primary schools in England are ‘strongly encouraged and enabled’ by the Department for Education (DfE) to teach about LGBT families.
The DfE's statutory guidance for Relationships, Sex and Health Education can be found here and Allsorts fully supports this step forward for an inclusive RSE curriculum to be taught in schools.
The DfE has also published some non-statutory guidance to assist teachers in planning and implementing the statutory RSE curriculum. We wanted to clarify our position and approach to working with children and young people in schools and the wider community and have therefore responded specifically to the section in the guidance titled: Ensuring Content is Appropriate.
We have carefully considered each point to offer clarity on the issues raised. We also hope this provides useful insight into Allsorts Youth Project's collaborative approach to working with children and young people, schools, the local authority and other organisations.
Guidance states: ‘We are aware that topics involving gender and biological sex can be complex and sensitive matters to navigate.’
We agree, which is why schools should access informed specialist education and pastoral support where available. This will enable them to:
All children and young people need opportunities to learn about and explore the difference and diversity in their school and wider communities. For many reasons, these complex topics are sensitive for children to learn about and explore, which is why it is important that external organisations and professionals, with greater experience and more in-depth knowledge, are able to assist schools with the delivery of their PSHE curriculum. This will include, but is not limited to, different religions or beliefs, cultures, disabilities, ethnicities, sexual orientations and gender identities, and the teaching of sex education and sexual health.
For over 20 years, Allsorts has been developing and delivering specialist workshops in these topics and delivering them in PSHE lessons at schools throughout Sussex. Our approach is to facilitate open, honest and informed conversations, supported by teachers, to help children and young people develop their understanding and respect for the diversity of their communities, and to leave them feeling more confident when engaging in conversations about these subjects.
Our workshops are delivered in an accessible and age-appropriate manner, and we continually work collaboratively with teachers, school leaders and the local authority to ensure the content is appropriate and current – and that required delivery standards are always met.
We believe it is vital that children and young people are aware of their rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Article 13 - Freedom of Expression: “Every child must be free to express their thoughts and opinions and to access all kinds of information, as long as it is within the law.”
Guidance states: ‘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.’
Allsorts believes that all children and young people should be free to explore and express themselves in ways that feel congruent and comfortable for them, including both their gender identity and gender expression, which are two distinct qualities.
This exploration and expression may manifest in a child or young person in either stereotypical gender-norms, non-stereotypical gender-norms or somewhere in between. We are clear that a child or young person’s gender expression and their gender identity may not be related in any way.
Most importantly we believe that they should not be subjected to other people’s assumptions, harmful stereotypes and discrimination as a result of either their gender expression or their gender identity.
Allsorts does not produce any classroom resources for RSE lessons. We deliver specialist PSHE workshops in schools. In developing the content of these workshops we draw upon data and findings from sources such as the Stonewall School Report (2017) and Brighton & Hove City Council’s Safe and Well at School Survey (2018). This is blended with feedback, information, and knowledge acquired by our project over 20 years’ experience of listening to and supporting LGBT+ children and young people.
Guidance states: ‘Materials which suggest that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity should not be used….’
We are committed to ensuring children, young people, and those who teach them, have access to information covering an array of gender expressions, gender identities and/or sexual orientations, reflective of the diverse communities that make up our society.
Allsorts does not produce, use or recommend any materials which suggests that non-conformity to gender stereotypes should be seen as synonymous with having a different gender identity. Any materials that do suggest this are diametrically opposed to our view of such matters.
Guidance states: '...and you should not work with external agencies or organisations that produce such material.'
For more than 20 years, Allsorts have been successfully and collaboratively working with local authorities, schools, colleges, universities, public health and youth organisations to ensure children and young people have access to information and teaching about the diverse communities and society they are part of, with a particular emphasis on understanding diverse gender identities and sexual orientations.
Our youth support and education work in schools is focussed on ensuring that children and young people know that exploring their gender expression (masculinity/femininity/androgyny) will, for many of them, be a natural and common part of their development, and does not mean they are necessarily trans or LGB+.
Furthermore, it is healthy to empower them to explore many aspects of their identity, and be listened to and supported by other people, including adults working in education settings – regardless of how they identify at any particular stage of their development. Our work directly supports them to do this confidently and safely.
Our PSHE workshops encourage children and young people who may not be exploring their own identity in the same way, to nevertheless develop awareness, knowledge and acceptance of the difference and diversity within their peer group and wider society. Our workshops help them to recognise, challenge and report incidences of homophobic, biphobic, transphobic and sexist bullying.
Guidance states: '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.'
We entirely agree with this statement.
We believe adults working with children and young people should do so in a person-centred way, and should never attempt to direct them towards a particular outcome with regards to any aspect of their identity. This means listening carefully to what the child is saying, and how they are presenting, and supporting them to explore their next steps. Then, if necessary, connecting them with the appropriate specialist support.
Children and young people must be heard, be respected, and be free to explore their identities without fear of prejudice or discrimination. We trust teachers to support them in ways that best meet their needs, and we know that teachers do an incredible job offering empathic support in all areas of children and young people’s lives, whether that be related to their identity, home life or any other challenges they may face.
These principles are in line with UNCRC Article 12 - Respect for the views of the child which states: “Every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. This right applies at all times, for example during immigration proceedings, housing decisions or the child’s day-to-day home life”
Feedback from our Schools Work:
"I just wanted to say that I thought the talk today was amazing. I already knew most of what he was saying and talking about, but I know lots of people at Lancing didn’t. He covered so many important points in such an effective way and in such a short space of time. I thought covering misconceptions about choices and bisexuality were done really well, and so crucial to people’s understanding of the LGBT+ world. I’ve already had people say to me that they didn’t realise what it was like to be LGBT+ and that the talk has actually taught them a lot."
Year 11 Student, Lancing College
"The workshop was so concise and aimed appropriately at the children who were in the group whilst allowing the children time to think about their own feelings & the opportunity to ask questions"
Year 6 teacher, White Meadows Primary School
"I was so impressed by the way you created such a safe learning environment; enabled the children to explore key learning about difference; identity and LGBT identity and prejudice as well as challenging assumptions and sharing personal experiences so meaningfully. It was a privilege to be a part of this learning"
Year 6 teacher - St Luke’s Primary
The Allsorts' team has always enabled the LGBTU young people at Longhill to feel empowered, safe and valued. Their individual and group actions have benefited the whole of the school’s community, not just in terms of their invaluable one to one and small group support, but also in terms of every year 7 students access to the annual 'LGBTU Awareness' days; whole staff training; the completion of The Rainbow Flag Award as well as the tools to start and support offered to continue students and staff LGBTU Allies groups.”
Head of PSHE, Longhill School
"Allsorts is a truly outstanding organisation in every sense. Their pioneering staff have sensitively and skilfully reached out to schools and the local communities over the last 20 years and are making a tangible difference in shaping attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. People in schools now talk openly about LGBTQ issues and 20 years ago they did not. At Roedean we are immensely proud to support the Allsorts mission to make Brighton and Hove a community where all LGBTQ young people can feel safe, valued and accepted."
Senior Deputy Head: Pastoral, Roedean School
For more than 20 years, Allsorts has been successfully and collaboratively working with local authorities, schools, colleges and universities to ensure children and young people have access to information and teaching about the diverse society they are part of, with a particular emphasis on understanding diverse gender identities and sexual orientations.
We have also provided emotional support to children and young people who have faced difficulties and challenges relating to their gender identity and sexual orientation, and trained education professionals, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to better support these children and young people.
Contact our trainer to enquire about Allsorts Schools Services here