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Talking HIV with mother

At Hayesfield girls' school even the parents attend lessons on sex, relationships and other social issues.

Evening events allow the Bath school to meet its obligation to inform parents about its PSHE lessons and enlist them in getting across key messages about HIV and contraception.

Mary Read, assistant head, said: "The evenings provide parents with the opportunity to talk through how they can discuss issues with pupils at home. The more parents talk to their children about sexual matters the better pupils' decisions."

Hayesfield has been singled out by inspectors as an example of good practice in PSHE, but up until 2002 Mrs Read admits she was concerned by the status of the subject in the school.

The competing demands of examination subjects, targets and government initiatives meant the subject was in danger of being sidelined, but in the past two years, Hayesfield has made PSHE a central part of its activity, with a faculty devoted to self, health and exercise. The faculty brings together PSHE, citizenship and PE teachers and gives the subjects a status equivalent to modern languages or science.

The school has introduced individual health portfolios where pupils have to assess their emotional and physical health each year. They then look at how they can use techniques learned, such as dietary information or stress management, to improve.

Within PSHE lessons, teachers use a technique called circle time to ensure that all the children are involved. Mrs Read said it was vital that schools gave pupils the knowledge they needed to make the right choices and the ability to implement them.

"You have to teach pupils to make informed decisions. A pupil might want to say 'no', but he or she needs the confidence to say it in difficult situations," she said.

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