Talking to Year 6 about FGM: a CWP Pilot project in East London

Last week we delivered the first CWP ‘Keeping yourself safe, including FGM’ lesson to five Year 6 classes in two primary schools in Hackney as part of a pilot project funded by Hackney Council.  The purpose of the pilot is to learn how best to engage with the school community, including parents and carers, when tackling this sensitive subject.  A model process will be developed which includes policy and curriculum development, training and community consultation.  This will be rolled out to other Hackney schools where FGM is a cause for concern.

Having consulted widely both within the school and outside* we developed an age appropriate lesson that complimented CWP’s existing SRE lessons for Year 6.  We covered issues of how to keep safe and be in control of your body, what FGM is, and where to go for help.  We co-delivered the lessons with great engagement and support from all the teachers in both schools. The classes were mixed sex and the children responded maturely and thoughtfully to this sensitive and challenging topic.

As with all CWP lessons the children were given the opportunity to write down their anonymous questions.  The children asked questions about puberty, body changes and sexual behaviours as well as some questions around FGM: why people do it?  What happens to the girl /women who has had it done?  Can they still have a baby?  CWP’s approach is that if a child has asked a question then it should be answered in an appropriate way at the right time.  During the pilot all the anonymous questions were reviewed with the schools’ senior leadership teams for safeguarding purposes.

The pilot is coming to an end and on the whole it’s been a great success.   We’ve been delighted with the support and commitment shown by the two schools.  The leadership has been proactive and supportive, ensuring meetings are scheduled with the right people and also arranging for all teaching and support staff, including office, facilities and catering staff, to attend a half-day training before we developed and delivered the lesson.   We delivered 4 half-day sessions to enable participation from all staff.  Teachers’ classes were covered so they could attend.  This worked really well and there was high-level engagement and great discussions in all sessions, even some thought provoking role-plays!

*Being based in Bristol I have been able to consult with head teacher at St Werburghs, Claire Banks and also Liza Zimmerman and the young people from Integrate Bristol who shared their ideas and resources on initiating a conversation with primary school children around FGM. 

Jo Feather is a freelance consultant.

For further information on the Hackney FGM project contact paulapower@tcwp.co.uk