Best RSE teacher, Jo Morgan who works at Portsmouth Grammar School talks to Sex Education Forum Trustee, Liam Beattie about the importance of inclusive RSE lessons and what winning at the RSE Awards 2020 meant to her.
In 2020, Jo Morgan wowed the judges at the Sex Education Forum RSE Awards with her teaching that was described as being delivered with the ‘utmost honesty and transparency’ by a colleague in the school. Her approach to RSE was recognised by students as creating a ‘safety bubble around sex and relationships that has spread across the majority of the faculty and school.’
One year on, Jo remains as passionate and determined as ever to ensure all her students get the very best experience at school when it comes to RSE and she is now helping to share best practice with other schools in Portsmouth.
‘I am very lucky to have a timetabled pastoral curriculum that means every pupil gets time with a specialist teacher, usually 50 minutes every two weeks and a massive component of that is RSE. We survey pupils every three years to make sure the lessons are of high quality and meet their needs. Where things change or new challenges emerge that are relevant to RSE lessons, we work with pupils to incorporate it into lesson plans.’
Jo explained that RSE lessons in her school are tailored around development stages for pupils, starting at Year 7 through to Year 12. The RSE programme gradually builds content from discussions about online safety, including dating apps, pornography, sexuality, gender, safer sex, and consent.
‘As we get to Year 10, there is a strong focus on issues around rape culture, gender, and making a clear link between sex and wellbeing. Following recent events in the news, it’s even more crucial that pupils are learning about these issues in the classroom in a safe and supportive environment. RSE is our greatest weapon against rape culture and sexual violence. Empowering pupils, starting with the basics such as having discussions about sex, body parts, and being able to identify possible risk and harm, are vital in this.’
Jo added, ‘RSE is a massive remedy to some of the problems we’re seeing in wider society. For too long male sexuality has been viewed as unbridled, while female sexuality is still considered a taboo subject. If we can support all pupils to know the facts about sex, including pleasure, we can start to change attitudes towards sex and tackle harmful gender stereotypes.’
‘Engaging parents and carers in this work also matters. We work closely with them by publishing the subjects covered in RSE lessons. This is a key way to tackle misconceptions about RSE by underlining the positive impact lessons can have, such as better sexual health and delaying sex.’
June marks LGBT+ Pride Month, Jo spoke about the strong focus on inclusive RSE lessons.
‘All our lessons are LGBT+ inclusive, we always try to avoid heteronormativity. I’m passionate about ensuring every single aspect of what we cover - from consent to sexual health - applies to every single one of our pupils and their needs. Our lessons also touch on gender studies and we look at issues around sex, gender, and sexuality, including the different labels used around these terms by LGBT+ people. I’m proud that our school champions inclusivity and RSE lessons have a key part in tackling bullying and poor mental health that can impact LGBT+ young people.’
Jo works closely with other schools across Portsmouth to support their RSE delivery, including guiding lesson plans and resources.
‘Implementation of statutory RSE has been a long-time coming and I’ve seen first-hand the life-changing impact it can have for our pupils at Portsmouth Grammar School. But I know that RSE is often a hugely under-resourced subject area in some schools, this not only impacts teachers but it has a knock-on effect for pupils. I am positive that every school wants to do right by its pupils and sharing best practice on RSE is a great way to do this.
‘My school allows me to do this with schools in Portsmouth and it’s so satisfying to share our approach to RSE with other educational professionals. Making time for RSE is a big challenge I encounter when working with other schools. Whilst I am (somewhat!) biased, RSE teachers are some of the unsung heroes of schools but its vital funding is made available to make RSE lessons the best they can be.’
Reflecting on winning Best RSE Teacher at the Sex Education Forum’s RSE Awards, Jo said, ‘It was such an honour and a privilege to receive the award. I was contacted by former pupils who nominated me and included such wonderful and positive feedback about the RSE lessons they received. I honestly believe so much that RSE can change the lives of young people for the better and give them the very best start in life.
She added, ‘The RSE Awards are a fantastic recognition of the hard work RSE teachers and other educators do year-round. During the last 12 months, schools have had to be even more creative and innovative in delivering RSE lessons, and shining a light on their incredible dedication and hard work is such a great opportunity. I’d encourage fellow RSE educators to get involved in the awards and celebrate the amazing work you do!’
Nominations for the 2021 RSE Awards are now open.
You can nominate here
Nominations close on 24 June 2021.