On 19 April 2021, Ofsted updated their guidance on Inspecting teaching of the protected characteristics in schools. The document laid out what inspectors will look for when gathering evidence on how schools promote equality and pupils’ understanding of the protected characteristics.

The guidance said this:

Schools are not required to teach about all the protected characteristics in every year group; that is a matter for the school to decide, and how it plans its curriculum. However, the curriculum should be planned and delivered so that children develop age-appropriate knowledge and understanding during their time at the school. In secondary schools, this includes age-appropriate knowledge of the protected characteristics of sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

There are a range of ways schools can choose to teach about these issues in an age-appropriate way. Primary schools could, for example, teach pupils about the different types of family groups that exist within society. Secondary schools could, for example, teach pupils in more detail about sexuality and gender identity as well as the legal rights afforded to LGBT people. As stated in the DfE’s statutory guidance, teaching on these matters should be integrated appropriately into the curriculum, rather than addressed separately or in one-off lessons.

In the accompanying guidance, Equality and diversity impact assessment: inspecting protected characteristics, Ofsted addressed concerns that some schools may feel conflicted in their teaching due to the religious beliefs at the core of the schools’ ethos. It said:

[We note] that: “All schools, including faith schools, will be able to teach the new subjects in accordance with their school values and ethos while also having due regard to the guidance and being consistent with the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.” (DFE Statutory guidance). Our guidance does not go beyond the statutory guidance or stipulate how schools must go about teaching this content. …Inspectors will expect to see that pupils ‘develop age-appropriate knowledge and understanding during their time at the school’.

For schools following the Life to the Full programme for their RSHE curriculum, how does this updated guidance impact on a school’s delivery of the programme?

We are pleased to say that we believe the content of Life to the Full is already pretty robust; moreover, we have some new developments planned for 2021/22 to support you and your school in your teaching of the statutory curriculum.

Life to the Full and Protected Characteristics: CURRENTLY

In Life to the Full, we take a holistic approach to the teaching of all RSHE subject matters including teaching on the Protected Characteristics. We provide spiral teaching from primary schools to secondary schools, with one programme feeding into the other. This means that there is a continuous, age-appropriate approach to the teaching of the subject from 4 to 18.

  • In KS1, we look at family structures (particularly KS1, Module 2,  Unit 2: Special People) and provide guidance for schools on talking about different family structures.
  • In Lower KS2, we explore similarities and differences (LKS2 Module 1, Unit 2: We Don’t Have To Be The Same) and deepen children’s exploration of family and others in LKS2 Mod2 Unit 2: Family, Friend and Others.
  • In Upper KS2, we explore difference once again through the Paradise Street series, including discussion around ‘two mums and two dads’ etc.
  • From Year 7, we make it clear to students that the teaching of Relationship Education is for all, irrespective of sexual orientation, and we begin to introduce scenarios that include people with the protected characteristics.
  • In Year 8, we provide substantial teaching on the Protected Characteristics, an in-depth look at transgender people, and homophobia.
  • In later years in secondary schools, we return to these topics in age-appropriate ways, ensuring that the teaching is appropriately integrated into the curriculum.

A quick reading of the Ofsted should give you assurances that the programme is meeting the statutory expectations as it stands. However, as an ever-evolving programme, we are also planning new and updated content.

Life to the Full: New Developments

We are currently planning a number of areas of development in regard to the Protected Characteristics which you will see across the programme from 2021/22. Life to the Full is a responsive programme that will change and grow over time, so we are constantly creating and updating material.

  • We will review the entire programme from primary to secondary, taking into account the Oftsed guidance, ensuring that teaching on the Protected Characteristic is appropriately integrated into the programme.
  • In Autumn 2021, we will put together new guidelines for primary and secondary schools on how Life to the Full meets the Ofsted expectations around Protected Characteristics so you can evidence this in future inspections.
  • We have been working with a SEND specialist who has been helping us to integrate disability into the programme more fully (such as images and scenarios). These subtle changes will rise to the surface over the coming months, fulfilling the DFE stipulation of appropriate integration.
  • Building on our Black Lives Matter assembly that we created last year (part of Collective Worship), we will adapt this resource and add it to the Life to the Full programme.
  • We plan to highlight Deaf Awareness Week next year and will hope to introduce subtitles and resources for the hearing impaired on all of our video content.

These are some of the plans we have in place right now, and you should expect to see these and more added to the programme over the coming 12 months.