Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a subject many teachers and educators feel uncomfortable discussing. Particularly with children of primary school age.
Our recent work highlighted that some schools were having discussions with young people and raising awareness of FGM but this often happened with pupils in year 10. Which we feel to be too late.
There are an estimated affected by FGM in England and Wales.
Since 2015, social workers, health professionals and teachers have a mandatory duty to report to the police any known cases of FGM, when a disclosure has been made or there is visual confirmation for all under 18s. And so many of the educators we meet have attended training around this. But for most, this training did not cover how to speak to children and young people about the topic.
This week we delivered training with teachers, supporting them to feel confident about discussing FGM with primary aged pupils. We highlighted to them how much of the work they are already doing, which is around safeguarding and protective behaviours, lead to the same outcomes and can help to begin to explore how they might introduce the conversation as a stand-alone topic too.
One resource which supports this learning is the FGM leaflet for children, My Body, My Rules produced by the FPA.
The leaflet teaches body autonomy and leads on from learning already delivered to children from resources and materials such as the NSPCC PANTS rule which teaches children about good and bad touch and who to talk to if they are worried or scared.
One of the biggest issues facing the educators we met was vocabulary.
Many teachers were concerned about introducing lessons on FGM because they worried about teaching female anatomy and using the correct names for female genitalia with primary children.
We worked with teachers, facilitating a number of reflective practice activities and classroom ideas which helped them to prepare to deliver this. Driving the importance that the correct terms are not wrong, rude or inappropriate, and how learning about them can support children to grow into adults that feel confident to seek help and advice about their bodies and any worries they may have.