Kate Hewson, Head of Personal Development for Consilium Academies, discusses clear links between excellent RSHE curriculum and the improvements of student behaviour and attendance at Consilium Academies.
About Consilium Academies
Consilium Academies have been using Life Lessons since early 2022. They were approved as a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) and academy sponsor in January 2015 and have three hubs and nine schools supported by a Central Team.
Specific Challenges and Problems Consilium Academies Faced before Life Lessons
The first thing that drew us to Life Lessons was the up to date content in the videos. Previously, when we had used RSHE resources, we found they were quite outdated. Our students didn’t recognize people that looked like them or sounded like them. The resources seemed very old fashioned and lacked inclusion for LGBTQ+ students.
I have found that when it comes to sourcing resources it can be a minefield, and when it comes to trying to find something appropriate that can take an awful lot of teachers’ time. So instead, teachers were planning and creating their own resources but with that comes the problem of confidence and subject knowledge. Our PSHE leads really struggled with confidence in knowing that what they were putting out there for the students was accurate as well as being inclusive and diverse enough.
Purchasing Life Lessons for Consilium Academies Schools
When we found the Life Lessons resources, we felt that they ticked all the boxes. It was real life, it was relatable. There was that diversity and the security of knowing that a team of people who are experts in the field have thought about what’s going into each resource and ensuring all bases are covered.
When it comes to teaching RSHE, there was always a lack of confidence from teachers regarding knowing what to say, concern about saying the wrong thing or conversations going down an unexpected path as teachers can never anticipate a question that a student may ask. Therefore, having reliable resources that help manage those conversations is vital to keep conversations on track and give the teachers support.
What are the consequences of RSHE materials not being relatable to students?
Issues in Student Confidence
The inability and lack of opportunity to speak about certain issues lead to confidence issues in many of our schools. Especially where the cohorts are extremely diverse in terms of ethnicity, sexuality and advantage versus disadvantage. We get pockets of students who stay in their own groups and who do not feel confident talking about their differences. This lack of confidence was correlating directly with a lack of engagement in RSHE lessons.
We have noticed that since we changed our PSHE provision to Life Lessons our students have become more confident to talk and give their own opinions. They are more involved in discussion, debate and speaking to people who aren’t in their social circles because the resources allow them to understand someone else’s point of view, that just because someone’s different to you, it doesn’t mean that they’re totally unrelatable.
Changes in Student Behaviours
We also saw changes in behaviour when we switched to Life Lessons. Previously if students weren’t engaging with the subject matter or felt that topics that interested them were not being discussed, it led to behavioural issues. For example, we had students who were struggling to understand their own sexuality and wanted to discuss this topic in a safe classroom environment. When the resources are not accessible or relevant to the diversity of them and their community, it can lead to frustration, behavioural issues and attendance issues in school.
Therefore, getting the diversity and inclusivity right in RSHE/PSHE lessons and the curriculum is so important for all of the other parts of school.
Benefits Consilium Academies have Gained from Having a Number of Schools use Life Lessons
As a trust it is massively advantageous for me as the curriculum lead, knowing that there’s consistency. Since the schools in our trust are very geographically diverse there can be a lack of opportunity for sharing, peer visits and seeing teachers seeing practice and best practice in other places. We do have an online community but it can be difficult to share things online, so having knowledge that the same high quality resource is being used in all our schools makes that job a lot easier.
With the resources we can focus as a trust on how we are adapting the Life Lessons resources to make them unique for our context. We discuss the lessons, if they have been used, which activities have been taken and if there was any feedback from the students. Having the resources makes those conversations between schools a lot richer. Before we were using resources that had been created by staff or sourced online. That made it difficult to talk about quality assurance and to share best practice. At trust level there is a massive benefit to have that alignment of one resource.
The other benefit of all the schools in our trust using the same resources means we always have available material to use. Some of our staff use Life Lessons resources for form time and assemblies. If we have an issue we are experiencing in school or in the wider community we can also address it using Life Lessons resources. Schools can communicate about how they have used the resources to address these issues and that makes all of us more reactive and proactive when it comes to exploring these issues. For example, in one of our schools we had a bit of a spike in play fighting and other sorts of silly behaviour and we tackled that in terms of looking at Life lessons resources that centered around consent, looking at inappropriate and inappropriate touch. It was easy to know that we could do that really quickly because we have resources that were there and available to use.
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