What schools need to know about FGM

Oct 12, 2021 4:14:22 PM

Teaching about female genital mutilation (FGM) is a vital component of any school’s approach to safeguarding and child protection. See below for some key information on teaching about FGM and the different statutory requirements to do so.

We’ve also published new guidance and lessons for upper KS2 and lower KS3 on this important PSHE topic, available exclusively to PSHE Association members.

Why teach about FGM?

Whilst it is adults’ responsibility to protect children from harm, if children and young people are taught about FGM there’s more chance they will report it.

Every young person — as a citizen in a diverse society — should learn about FGM, but especially children and young people at immediate or future risk of FGM, and young people who have experienced FGM (they may or may not be aware of what has happened to them).

Pupils need to know:

  • What FGM is and how it affects people
  • What the law says on FGM
  • How to manage the threat of FGM (for themselves or for others)
  • How to seek help and support if FGM has happened (for themselves or for others)

Is it a statutory requirement to teach about FGM?

At primary:

Whilst there is no statutory requirement for primary schools to explicitly teach about FGM, there is a rationale within the Statutory guidance for Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education for teaching about FGM at primary level:

By the end of primary school, pupils should learn:

  • about the concept of privacy and the implications of it for both children and adults; including that it is not always right to keep secrets if they relate to being safe.

  • that each person’s body belongs to them, and the differences between appropriate and inappropriate or unsafe physical, and other, contact.

  • how to report concerns or abuse, and the vocabulary and confidence needed to do so.

At secondary:

Teaching about FGM is compulsory is secondary school. The statutory RSHE guidance states that:

  • Schools should address the physical and emotional damage caused by female genital mutilation (FGM). They [pupils] should also be taught where to find support and that it is a criminal offence to perform or assist in the performance of FGM or fail to protect a person for whom you are responsible from FGM.

  • Being Safe: Pupils should know the concepts of, and laws relating to FGM, and how these can affect current and future relationships.

  • Pupils should be made aware of the relevant legal provisions when relevant topics are being taught, including for example: female genital mutilation (FGM).

The DfE guidance: Keeping Children safe in Education, 2021, also states that:
Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure that children are taught about safeguarding, including online safety, and recognise that a one size fits all approach may not be appropriate for all children, and a more personalised or contextualised approach for more vulnerable children, victims of abuse and some SEND children might be needed.

Schools should consider all of this as part of providing a broad and balanced curriculum... This may include covering relevant issues for schools through Relationships Education (for all primary pupils) and Relationships and Sex Education (for all secondary pupils) and Health Education. How should FGM be taught at primary phase and lower KS3?

Prevention is key

PSHE education is a preventative curriculum that develops protective factors through a variety of contexts. Pupils learn about keeping safe, rights and responsibilities, consent, respect, self-worth, communication and managing pressure. And these aspects contribute to protecting against FGM, even where FGM is not specifically mentioned or taught about.

Critical moments

To be effective, teaching should move from pupils learning only ‘about’ FGM, to equipping them with skills that will help keep them and others safe. Learning the vocabulary, language, strategies and skills to manage ‘critical moments’ in relation to FGM is essential.

Avoid shock tactics

E.g. Sharing graphic stories of being held down and cut. These approaches scare and can traumatize children and can also re-traumatise those who have experienced FGM. They may also trigger denial that FGM happens or has happened.

Create a safe learning environment

Be aware that pupils may be directly or indirectly affected by FGM; don’t make any assumptions.

Ensure you ‘distance’ the learning so that pupils aren’t asked to discuss their personal experiences or imagine themselves in a particular situation. Use scenarios or case studies that are based on characters instead.

Set clear ‘ground rules’ for class discussions. Pupils should be encouraged to use correct terminology for body parts and be respectful of others, even if they disagree with their opinions. Make pupils aware of the limits of confidentiality and of teachers’ responsibility to safeguard them in the event of concerns for their safety or disclosures.

Signpost support

It’s essential that pupils know where to go if they want more advice or have concerns.

Speaking to a teacher or adult they trust at school should be the first port of call but this may not always be practical, so they’ll need to know other safe places to find information or seek help, such as ChildLine / 0800 1111 or the NSPCC free helpline: 0800 028 3550. They can also email

Our lesson plans

Our lesson plans support schools that are teaching specifically about FGM at primary phase (beyond the protective factors developed through other contexts) and those teaching about it in key stage 3.

What’s included?

Both the upper KS2 (year 5-6) and lower KS3 (year 7-8) lesson packs include:

  • Comprehensive teacher guidance
  • PDF lesson plans and resources
  • Interactive PowerPoint lesson plans
Can anyone download/use the lessons?

All these materials are available exclusively to PSHE Association members. Become a member today for access to this and and our full range of resources, CPD and support.

How will these lessons help me to meet statutory RSHE requirements

The lessons have been designed to address all the relevant learning opportunities in our Programme of Study and the relevant content outlined in the Department for Education’s statutory RSHE guidance.