Chestnut Grove Academy
45 Chestnut Grove
Balham, London SW12 8JZ

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'Some schools shy away from controversial issues or trends, out of a misplaced sense of not trying to offend or disadvantage any particular group of people. Chestnut Grove Academy shows that schools can explore such topics in ways that are challenging and thoughtful. This is vital if society wishes to ensure students are open minded, inquisitive and informed about issues and debates that may directly affect their lives, and those of others. Chestnut Grove provides up-to-date and exemplary curriculum for preparing pupils for citizenship and adult life in our increasingly diverse society. The panel is delighted to award it first place.'

Rabbi Dr Johnathan Romain MBE, Chair of the judging panel and the Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education



Health is a broad subject encompassing personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and citizenship. PSHE includes sex and relationships education (SRE).

  • Citizenship education develops the knowledge and skills students need to play a full part in society as active and responsible citizens. It is the study of politics, the law, the economy and human rights.
  • PSHE develops the knowledge and skills students need to understand themselves, their relationships and the world around them. It covers a broad range of topics including healthy lifestyles, economics, employment and relationships. Good quality PSHE education contributes to young people living healthier and safer lifestyles.
  • SRE is the study of the emotional, social and physical aspects of puberty, relationships including but not limited to sexual relationships, human sexuality and sexual health.


Health lessons seek to cover issues that affect the physical and mental wellbeing of young people, helping them to be safe and happy, as well as to assist them in becoming well-informed and valuable citizens. High-quality Health is essential in ensuring that students are able to learn in their other subjects and remain safe in and outside of school. It seeks to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to make safe and well-informed decisions in their everyday lives, from the expectations they place on personal relationships to the factors they should consider when voting or organising their finances. The subject helps students think critically and practise debating moral issues, as well as reflect on their own identity in a safe space.

The Health curriculum aims to ensure that students develop a sound understanding of:

  • Finances, including tax, budgeting and debt
  • How laws are developed in the UK, how the UK is governed, the importance of voting and British institutions such as the NHS and police force
  • The role of law and the justice system in society
  • Democratic means of creating positive social change, campaigning for rights and challenging injustice in society, including through volunteering
  • The effects of drugs on individuals and their communities
  • The importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle, including physical activity, the importance of hygiene and the effects of puberty on the body and on wellbeing
  • Sexuality, gender identity, race, disability and other factors that affect identity
  • Ways of reducing stress and improving self-esteem and mental health, including ways of accessing support
  • Wellbeing in relationships including the use of contraception, consent, respect, abuse and exploitation
  • How to protect themselves from grooming, including into gangs, terrorism and prostitution, and how to stay safe online

The Health curriculum also provides numerous opportunities for the school to meet other statutory duties. Schools have duties in relation to promoting pupil safeguarding (Children Act, 2004). Keeping Children Safe in Education (2018)  outlines the responsibility of all school staff in safeguarding young people, stating ‘schools should consider how children may be taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities’.  
This includes having and awareness of the indicators of abuse and exploitation, including potential warning signs relating to female genital mutilation (FGM), radicalisation, gang involvement, trafficking, domestic and peer-on-peer abuse and sexual exploitation. Health lessons may provide opportunities to identify causes for concern as well as opportunities for students to identify risk factors and ways of seeking help.

Under section 78 of the Education Act (2002) and the Academies Act (2010), schools must provide a ‘balanced and broadly-based curriculum’ which promotes the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of pupils and ‘prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.’ The revised Ofsted inspection handbook (2018)  also emphasises the responsibility to promote in schools. Health lessons make a major contribution to schools fulfilling this duty. For instance, students reflect on their own identity, consider moral dilemmas, identify features of healthy interpersonal relationships and learn about the various identities that make up British society. 

The mandate that teachers should all receive Prevent training, should report ‘at-risk students’ and promote ‘Fundamental British Values (FBV)’ was made in law in 2015 (DfE, 2015) . Extremism is, according to the government, ‘vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values’, defined as ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs’ (HM Government, 2011: 107; DfE, 2015) . Health lessons directly address different forms of extremism as well as each of the fundamental British values, within a much broader context of learning about different forms of exploitation and the human rights that each child is entitled to.  The school is a UNICEF Silver-accedited rights-respecting school and, as such, is focused on raising awareness of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which outlines the rights all children have. Again, Health lessons are able to contribute to these aims by informing students of their own rights, how the rights of others are violated nationally and globally and ways of addressing such injustice through the democratic means. 

The Equality Act (2010) places duties on schools to prevent and tackle prejudice-based bullying and to demonstrate how it is tackling disparties between protected classes. The school was awarded the DfE Equalities Award in 2016, in part, based on its work in Health. In Health lessons, students are regularly taught about the protected characteristics, different forms of discrimination and ways of tackling inequality in society.



Health lessons are compulsory but students may be withdrawn from modules that cover sex education only. Previously, parents or guardians were able to remove children from any lesson relating to sex and relationships education (SRE). This has now changed. For this reason, all students in all year groups are expected to take part in Health lessons. 

Citizenship has been on the national curriculum in England and Wales since 1991 and a statutory National Curriculum subject since 2002. A revised national curriculum was published in 2014 outlining the programme of study that all students must be taught . Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is currently a non-statutory subject but all schools are currently expected to make provision for it on the curriculum. This expectation will be strengthened from September 2020 when the duty to teach relationships and sex education (SRE) will also become compulsory in all schools. The new guidance also limits the power of parents and guardians to remove children from the subject. The Children and Social Work Act (2017) committed to compulsory relationships and sex education in secondary schools and, in 2018, the former Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced that the physical and mental aspect of PSHE would also be compulsory from 2020. New health, sex and relationships education guidance was published in February 2019 following consultation  . These changes will not change how Health is delivered at Chestnut Grove Academy since the school already covers all the prescribed areas of study as well as many other factors that affect health and wellbeing. 

Parents and guardians can, however, continue to withdraw their children from modules that address sex education until three terms before they are 16; from this age, students can opt-in to all sex education lessons against the wishes of their own parents or guardians. Parents and carers may not withdraw their children from relationships education or health education in primary or secondary school. This includes lessons on different types of families, friendships, respectful relationships, online relationships, intimate relationships, healthy eating, exercise, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, menstruation and puberty, hygiene and basic first aid. 

The school strongly advises against removing children from any Health lesson. Effective sex and relationships education does not encourage early sexual experimentation or seek to influence student sexuality. Rather, it recognises that, no matter when or if a young person engages in sexual behaviour, they should be given age-appropriate knowledge to help protect them and make well-informed decisions about their own health and wellbeing. The Health curriculum rarely focuses on the ‘mechanics’ of sex but, rather, the importance of respect and consent in healthy relationships. Where a parent or guardian has concerns over what is being taught, they should speak to their child's tutor, the head of Health (Jo Taylor-Campbell) or the Headteacher (Christian Kingsley).

If a parent or guardian, following conversations with the relevant staff and against the advice of the school, decides to withdraw their child from sex education lessons, they should write to the headteacher. It is important that a record is kept of these conversations and that parents and guardians are advised of the risks of withdrawing children from the subject, including a subsequent lack of awareness surrounding risky sexual behaviour and exploitation, and the likelihood of their children hearing misleading information from other students rather than being given the facts in class. During lessons where sex education is covered, students will be asked to bring work to the library and complete it there during the time in which these lessons are covered. Students will remain in Health lessons when sex education is not being covered. Parents do not have the right to withdraw their children from science lessons on reproduction and human development. This is of note since only Health lessons require that students reflect on the emotions involved in sexual relationships and ways of staying physically and mentally safe in them.

Health aims to provide a holistic approach to understanding relationships which can make it difficult to identify where exactly sex education is being taught within the curriculum. For instance, in a scheme on sexual relationships, students may cover ideas surrounding gender, consent, self-esteem and, eventually, the ‘mechanics’ of sex and different types of contraception. Lessons where sex education is explicitly covered are marked on the curriculum guide below so that parents and guardians are able to make a better informed decision about which lessons they do not wish their child to attend.



All students receive 45 minutes of Health every week (Monday Period 1). Health is taught by tutors wherever possible within tutor groups. If lessons are not completed on Monday, content may be taught in other tutor time sessions. Many schemes of work are re-visited each year, developing student knowledge further in a timely and age-appropriate manner. Teachers can ask for additional guidance on how to teach a particular topic each week via email or in a meeting. Some lessons, such as the condom demonstration lesson, may be taught by outside agencies as needed.

Lessons can be found on the T Drive under Teaching and Learning / Health. They are labelled by year group, term and lesson. In most cases, these lessons will be printed for teachers. Teachers will be informed if they must print their own lessons. They should check that the right lesson has been printed by Friday at the latest as well as go through the powerpoint to check it is clear and that video links work. Any concerns should be emailed to Jo Taylor-Campbell by Friday morning to give enough time to address them. Teachers should also email if they are going to miss a lesson so that advice can be given as to which lesson they should miss so as not to fall behind. Worksheets are kept in folders outside reception. These must be returned as soon as possible following the Health lesson and no later than Wednesday morning.

Each lesson has a starter activity (5 minutes), note-taking (2-3 minutes), discussion questions, a main activity and a plenary. The information is mostly given in the main activity making this the most important activity to complete. Discussion serves the purpose of encouraging students to reflect on their own feelings and sharing ideas about the information they have learnt. For this  reason, it is important that students are encouraged to complete and use the material given in lessons so they can debate accurate information and leave the classroom having gained more knowledge over the course of the lesson. Teachers should use the questions in the powerpoints and prepare their own open-ended questions that stretch student learning. Guidance is given in the section on pedagogy on questioning, debate and teacher neutrality.

Content is subdivided into social health, physical health and mental health, although much of the content relates to all three. Students will be asked to complete an ‘ambassador’ project every half term which encourages them to raise awareness of the issue they have been studying.


Ofsted (2010) state that assessment is vital in challenging misconceptions and checking student learning. It can also reveal safeguarding concerns, provide an opportunity to reinforce correct literacy, and show students that their voice is being heard. As such, teachers are asked to read all student work and to correct any misconceptions and SPAG errors every half term. Best marking includes MRI questions which stretch student learning further or ask them to correct their own work. Teachers should aim to include 1-2 MRI questions per half term as well as a Gold, Silver or Bronze sticker based on the extent to which each target is met. Marking will be monitored termly by the RSL to ensure consistency and checked during learning walks. Assessment can also be verbal and it is important that teachers ask questions to check student learning throughout the lesson. 

Students are also asked to complete a homework project every half term which encourages them to raise awareness of the issue they have been studying. These ‘ambassador’ projects are designed to promote democratic spirit and give students an opportunity to get involved in the issues that affect them and others around the world. Teachers must check that this work is done and issue a detention if it is not, ensuring that students complete the work properly during this time.

Learning walks will take place 1-2 times per term. One learning walk will always be completed by the RSL and a second learning walk may be completed by SLT. This allows the provision of Health lessons to be monitored effectively. In addition, teacher assessment will be monitored every term by the RSL in the form of a ‘booklet look.’ Student voice will be collected at the end of the year on forms as well as verbally throughout the year. Teacher feedback is welcome and should be emailed to Jo Taylor-Campbell.


It is important that all teachers responsible for delivering Health lessons have a shared understanding of pedagogy. All teachers follow the same lesson plans and use the same resources based on these ideas. Teachers must also familiarise themselves with the guidance on debate, neutrality, the use of rights in the classroom, teaching about pleasure vs risk and the teaching of controversial issues in the classroom. 


Teachers of Health are in a unique and fortunate position of being able to provide pastoral support for young people in their care. Studies show, however, that the majority of young people want to receive sex and relationships education at school and that this is their preferred method. Whilst it is not their role to advise, particularly in relation to sexual matters or politics, Health lessons provide an opportunity to signpost useful agencies and pastoral systems in the school. Students should be made aware of all the people in school that can help them when they encounter problems. They should also be taught about the ways in which a GP can help with mental or physical health, the role of GUM clinics in helping with genito-urinary testing and infections and contraception as well as other voluntary organisations that can provide support, such as the Terrence Higgins Trust, Barnados, the NSPCC, the Samaritans and Childline. Useful websites include:

Includes descriptions of mental health conditions and advice

Contain tips for staying safe online

Contains information about sex and relationships

Allows young people to order STI testing kits and find out about GUM clinics

Teachers have a legal duty to report safeguarding concerns to the designated lead. However, they should, in lessons, provide general guidance on what support is available for young people. Whilst rates are declining, the UK continues to have the highest rate of teenage conception in Western Europe (UNICEF, 2007) and high rates of sexually transmitted infections, including rising HIV rates. 15-24 year-olds are most likely to be diagnosed with an STI, accounting for 62% of new chlamydia cases and 11.51% of new HIV diagnoses ; rates are higher in London than other areas of England . It is vital, then, that students know where to go for free contraception, testing and treatment.


The Use of 'Spiral Programming'

Ofsted (2013)   in their report, Not Yet Good Enough, found that more than a third of schools lacked high-quality, age-appropriate sex and relationships education and that this left children ‘vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation. This is because they have not been taught the appropriate language or developed the confidence to describe unwanted behaviours or know where to go for help’ (p:7). Guidance on PSHE emphasises that teaching must be age-appropriate and delivered in a timely fashion.  Consultation on the new guidance revealed some public concern over the new guidance, mainly in relation to sex and relationships education at primary level.  Some of these concerns, specifically in relation to discussion of same-sex relationships, have received widespread attention following protests outside primary schools in Birmingham. However, the majority of people who responded to the government, including the Church of England, the Catholic Education Service, Barnados, Stonewall and the vast majority of teachers, parents and young people, argued in favour of discussing different types of relationship, safety in relationships, physical health, mental health and politics within school. 

There is also a great deal of evidence demonstrating the benefits of teaching young people about puberty, sexual health and healthy relationships. In their summary of the evidence,  the Sex Education Forum report that quality SRE education had a significant impact in three aspects of behaviour: delaying the initiation of sex; reducing the number of sexual partners; and increasing condom or contraceptive use. None of the studies hastened the first experience of sex. Evidence shows that SRE works best if it starts before a young person has their first experience of sex and if it responds to the needs of young people as they mature. Ofsted (2010) found that many pupils in primary and secondary schools, particularly girls, felt they wanted SRE to begin earlier.  Good quality sex education has been linked to increased awareness of abuse and studies and better mental health.  Thus, age-appropriate and timely Health lessons should prepare students for future challenges that they may or will face, equipping them with the knowledge they need to stay safe.


Pleasure Vs Risk

According to WHO , sexual health is a state of physical, social and emotional wellbeing that includes the right to have pleasurable sexual experiences, free from harm and coercion. They argue that successful sex education should not focus solely on risk and the negative aspects of sex. It is important to acknowledge that, for most people, sex is pleasurable and denying this aspect of sexual behaviour is dishonest and does not adequately prepare young people for sexual encounters. Evidence, such as that provided by Brook, suggests that young people are safer if they are taught that sex can be both good and bad, and that the steps they must take to ensure it is pleasurable. These include making sure that they are emotionally ready as well as safe during sex. Sex and relationships education must address risks but should be holistic, emphasising that sex can and should be pleasurable for those wish to have it. Sex education should explore the factors that can make sex pleasurable or not. Brook also argue that sex is often too focused on pregnancy and STIs which, in turn, often focuses on penetrative ‘penis and vagina’ sex. This fails to be LGBT+ inclusive and does not prepare young people for the range of sexual experiences they may have, many of which carry no risk of pregnancy or STIs. McGeeney (2016), who works for Brook as part of the ‘pleasure project,’ argues that focusing on pleasure, rather than just risk, helps students to better understand consent, particularly when female pleasure is also considered, as this can help young people to demand better relationships. Evidence suggests that attempts to shock children, to make them feel guilty or to only teach that sex is risky are not successful in protecting them from risky sex.


Teaching About and Using Rights 

The UNICEF rights-respecting schools award assesses the extent to which schools teach about rights and through rights. Students are taught about human rights in Health but also through rights. This means that they are treated with dignity at all times, their opinions are taken seriously, they are taught about the importance of resolution and restorative justice, and they are given information on how to peacefully and democratically transform society. Evidence provided by UNICEF shows that achieving Gold Status improved student participation in school life, reduced bullying rates and improved relationships in the school.  Davies (2008), in her book Educating Against Extremism, also suggests that the rights-respecting approach can help reduce the risk of prejudice . Teachers should nourish political activism and democratic spirit in the classroom, and demonstrate a commitment to human rights values. Schools that are committed to human rights engage young people in decision-making and avoid harsh punishments, focusing instead on the principles of ‘restorative justice.’ Young people, in such an environment, are likely to be more open to the opinions of others, since their views are given fair weighting, and more likely to practise creating change in peaceful, democratic ways, since they are empowered to feel that their actions can make a difference. As part of their homework, students are always asked to complete a project that will raise awareness of a particular issue they have studied, such as writing a letter to their MP or creating a social media campaign.

Davies, L. (2008) Educating Against Extremism. London: Trentham Books.

The school also holds the DfE Equalities Award which measures the extent to which protected classes are treated fairly within the school. This includes learning about groups protected under the Equality Act (2010) as well as assessing what teachers do to make all students feel included and to address gaps in data. Health lessons provide regular opportunities to learn about gender, sexuality, race and disability-y and for students to reflect on their own identities. It is important that students do not view their own identities, or others’, in simplistic terms but recognise that people have ‘hybrid identities’  which may change over time; our sense of self is influenced by societal changes around us and one’s race, gender and sexuality are likely to be even more important to those who have been oppressed as a result of them. Evidence shows that it is important to help all students recognise that they can play a valuable role in addressing inequality and that society will be better if they do. 


Questioning and assessment

Ofsted (2013) found that assessment was in need of improvement in 58% of schools. They found that, any schools teachers’ expectations of the quality of pupils’ work were too low. Teachers did not always check pupils’ previous learning in PSHE education, resulting in the work being repeated and was often unchallenging. In addition, it should also be pointed out that failing to question or assess students properly can result in safeguarding concerns being missed. Teachers should use questioning throughout the lesson. Whilst some basic questions are always included in lessons, teachers should develop their own. Questions should check knowledge, stretch students and help them to reflect on opinions different to their own. A helpful way of collecting questions is to do so anonymously. You can also use the Ask Brook 24/7, a tool which allows students or teachers to ask any question they might have. This helps students to ask questions they may feel embarrassed about and, if responded to the next lesson, gives teachers time to prepare answers. It is important to outline ground rules, such as avoiding personal questions, which students can help to develop, so they know it is a safe space to ask questions.  Challenge statements that are designed to be offensive but, where possible, seek to take a meaningful question from them or address stereotypes that underlie them; this helps even offensive comments to, in many cases, become learning opportunities. 

REMEMBER: Ask students to recall facts and describe simple ideas
Can you describe three different methods of contraception?
Outline two groups of people who cannot vote.
What are the 5 food groups?
State two symptoms of depression.

EXPLAIN: Ask students to explain ideas or opinions in greater detail.
Can you explain the law on consent?
How might addiction affect the wider community?
What is the evidence for this point of view?
Why do you believe this?

EVALUATE: Ask students to provide arguments on both sides of a debate
Why might somebody disagree with your opinion?
What are two arguments on either side of the abortion debate?
So you think this is good evidence? Why?

APPLY: Ask students to predict or apply their learning to a new context or dilemma
How has this thinking changed over time?
In what way is this different to another country's policies?
How could we address in this inequality?
How might they respond to the issue of...?


Critical Thinking, Debate and 'Fallibility'

Good Health lessons should promote critical thinking, encouraging students to recognise bias, such as in the media, and to base their opinions on evidence. Students should be able to recognise the difference between what is factual and what is opinion-based and learn how the boundary between the two may be blurred in the media. They should be taught to be assertive so that they can stand up to peer pressure, and media-savvy so they can better ignore ‘fake news.’ Teachers should regularly ask students to provide evidence for their point of view and challenge students to cite alternative opinions. Gereluk (2012)  writes that critical thinking should underlie all teaching and learning: students should be given the necessary skills to critique everything, from media sources to governments, and challenge injustice wherever they see it. They should also be taught ‘critical doubt’ or ‘fallibilism,’ where they learn to accept that all ideas are provisional and subject to criticism, including those of the teaching and their own. They should be taught to debate respectfully, acknowledging the right of others to hold different opinions. Teachers should outline clear ground rules for debate and ensure that students are actively learning from debates, writing down new ideas and responding to what others have said. This will ensure they do not simply leave with the same information they entered the lesson with.

A useful distinction should be made between controversial and sensitive issues. Deciding whether or not these issues are controversial will have implications for how they are taught within schools. For instance, Hand (2008) writes that ‘to teach something as controversial is to present it as a matter on which different views are or could be held and to expound those different views as impartially as possible’ (Hand, 2008: 213) . Diverse views may be reasonably held where there is a complexity of evidence, for instance, or where they are formed as a result of disparate experiences. If different views can reasonably be held, they can be debated. John Rawls argues that we should be free to follow our own views so long as they do not threaten the public good. Macedo (1995) advocates a Rawlian approach to education, whereby pluralism, autonomy and religious freedom are promoted insofar as they do not threaten democratic, liberal values; attitudes which threatens a ‘shared commitment to a range of political values… to tolerance and mutual respect for fellow citizens’ (1995: 225)   must not be tolerated. Where an issue is controversial, teachers should present a wide range of viewpoints. Presenting one view is unlikely to prepare students for the range of views they may encounter outside of school and does not provide students with the valuable opportunity of critiquing weaker arguments by presenting them with the best available defence of each point of view.

Illiberal views, such as those that are discriminatory, can be challenged since discrimination may be a sensitive issue but it is not controversial, since one cannot reasonably hold a discriminatory view. This would make it inappropriate to hold a debate about racism, for instance, but, instead, it would be better to hold a discussion about the best way of tackling inequality. It would be inappropriate to hold a debate about whether terrorism is acceptable but it would be advised to discuss the causes of terrorism, such as foreign policy.

A further issue is that of free speech, since students may say things that are deemed offensive. In most cases, other students will argue against such views and it is important that students be encouraged to argue respectfully and to re-phrase arguments that may be deemed inappropriate. Even if a student is reprimanded for saying something offensive, it is important to explain why what they said was wrong. Allowing students to express offensive ideas, stereotypes and myths can provide an opportunity to challenge them. As such, activities in lessons often present students with common misconceptions and ask them to research the facts that can be used to correct them.

Gereluk, D. (2012) Education, Extremism and Terrorism. London: Bloomsbury.

Hand, M. (2008). What should we teach as controversial? A defence of the epistemic criterion. Educational Theory 58 (2), 213-228.

Macedo, S. (1995). Multiculturalism for the religious right? Defending liberal civic education. Journal of Philosophy of Education (29), 223-238


Teacher Neutrality

Teachers should be honest and open, providing factual information rather than advice. They are not expected to discuss their own experiences and, in most cases, their personal opinions. There is mixed evidence on the effects of introducing teacher opinions to debates with many preferring to remain neutral in order to avoid influencing student opinions. However, other research demonstrates that teachers may give opinions without pressurising students so long as they make it clear they can be criticised and provide alternatives to their own point of view. It remains the school’s policy to remain neutral about most issues in Health, given how sensitive and contentious the subject matter often is. Moreover, the government has recently stated that teachers must not give their own political opinions or show bias in favour of a particular political group.  It is the school’s policy that teachers ought to remain neutral about controversial issues, presenting different opinions and letting students lead discussion. Teachers should question students to help them analyse different points of view, rather than simply expressing their own.

Teachers do not, however, need to remain neutral about issues which are uncontroversially wrong, including child pornography, discrimination or abuse. This is because there are not reasonable arguments on both sides of the debate and it would be inappropriate to debate such issues. In these cases, there is no need for teachers to remain neutral.