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Changing for PE lessons. How would you approach this?

(46 Posts)
camaleon Tue 16-Sep-14 20:16:20

My dd is in year 5. She is coping with early puberty. After several medical test it has become clear this is just something happening to her earlier than the average without further medical implications. I was offered 'treatment' to delay the onset of periods but have declined.

Still, being the tallest, curviest girl in the class is not the easiest experience.

Until now, my dd has not shown any desire for privacy. However, since she started the academic year a week ago, she has requested to change in the bathroom instead of the classroom because she feels uncomfortable changing with everybody. Not so much for the 'boys' as for one girl who keeps drawing attention to her bras.

Apparently the teacher has disregarded her request twice and has told her today that she needs parental 'authorisation' for this.

I am angry. I have spent so much energy explaining to my kids that they have control over their bodies and that they should be respected when they feel uncomfortable with any situation such as this. I don't want my child to believe parents/teachers/any authority have the power to decide whether it is ok or not to undress in public.

I am someone who can be naked anywhere. Years of competitive sports and a long term relationship with a German (including mixed saunas with his parents) have deprived me of any sense of modesty. But I respect my children's bodies and their own attitudes towards their bodies.

How would you handle this? Shall I just send a note 'authorising' her to go to the bathroom or would you say something else?

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 20:20:28

I would send a note 'authorising' it, but also explaining - exactly as you have here - both why she is requesting it and why you think that this is a totally reasonable request.

I would always allow any girl who chose to change elsewhere for the reason you describe to do so on request - and my class always change to a rather brisk count of 10 in silence to nip this type of 'look at x' behaviour in the bud as there simply isn't time or opportunity. hey might not look despearetly smart in their hastily-donned PE kit, mind you, and we do tend to have a small hiatus around the shoelaces!

camaleon Tue 16-Sep-14 20:25:32

Thank you teacherwith2kids.
I will write the note tonight.

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 20:35:52

If the teacher refuses after the note, by the way, send a copy on to the head.

The teacher is (amongst other things, which could incluide being dogmatically unreasonable!) trying to manage the balance between 'in the classroom at least they are all in my sight and under my nose, if a whole bunch of girls end up changing in the batghroom without supervisioon it could be carnage' vs 'a few speciic girls may need the opportunity for more privacy'. A refusal may indicate unreasonableness, buyt it may also indicate a genuine class management issue. Certainly I have had classes where children changing unsupervsed in the bathrooms would have thrown up many, many more issues than them changing in the class ever would. What will happen, for example, if the specific girl making comments also 'request permission' to change in the bathroom and comments even more painfully there, away from staff supervision?

It may need a whole school approach involving e.g. identification of an empty room with supervision to change in, sharing across 2 classrooms, 1 for boys 1 for girls etc to solve the problem properly, and the head is the best person to make such 'overall school management' decisions.

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 20:36:23

(I can spell, by the way my keyboard is extremely dodgy!)

Galena Tue 16-Sep-14 20:38:22

In y5 and y6 we had boys and girls changing separately. However, that wouldn't have stopped the girl-girl comments.

camaleon Tue 16-Sep-14 20:40:34

I really appreciate your view teacherwith2kids. As a mother it is easy to forget about all the competing interests the teacher has to deal with. As I said, the problem seems to come from a female peer, and probably it is easier to deal with this behaviour rather than modify the changing for PE lessons routine.
I will try to speak to the teacher tomorrow.

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 20:46:35


Tbh as a teacher AND the mother of the tallest, curviest girl in the class, I think you need to do both - give her the authorisation letter that she needs AND speak to the teacher about the issue that hs given rise to it. It is a type of bullying, as much as any comments that draw attention to another's 'difference' in a negative way is, and the school should have robust procedures to deal with these comments. However, I do also think that an early-developing girl has the right to some privacy.

DD finds vests very useful on PE days over underwear and under her top, by the way.

camaleon Tue 16-Sep-14 20:46:39

Cross-posted with you Galena. You are also right. Changing separately is not the issue here. Thank you to you too

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 20:48:33

(H&M have nice 'strappy', fitted ones that are very plain, as do some M&S branches.)

camaleon Tue 16-Sep-14 20:53:57

Thanks again TW2K. The vests idea is a great one.

admission Tue 16-Sep-14 20:55:14

Sorry but I was not quite clear from the posts whether the whole class is getting changed together, boys and girls or whether they are separate. Whilst there is obviously an issue that needs to be resolved with the "girls" I would have to say that in year 5 I would be expecting separate changing facilities for the boys and girls. If this is not the case that needs raising not so much with the teacher but with the head teacher as it is a whole school issue rather than a class issue.

camaleon Tue 16-Sep-14 21:00:43

Admissions... Probably because I have done lots of changing clothes with many people at sport events until my teens, this has never been a 'general issue' to me. I have no problem with everybody changing together. I have a problem if a child requests privacy and this is not granted
However, I can see the rationale behind this. As I have realised now, if a school has a general policy of changing in the classroom, allowing exceptions may lead to more problems than it resolves.
I would not see a reason for 9 years old to be separated. But, as it is, my own daughter needs this now and I want her to feel she has a say about this. I will speak with the teacher without being angry (as I was an hour ago)

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 21:02:47


I know that is the ideal.

I also know that given the logisticas of the school I work in, separate changing for PE is, in terms of physically sending the boys and girls to separate rooms, absolutely unworkable for every lesson. Mice cannot be swung, let alone cats - 60 entry school now 100 entry with only very very minor physical adjustments. PE timetabling means that use of 2 classrooms at once is possible once a week, but not for both PE lessons. Hence my quick count of 10, with boys to 1 side and girls to the other, and everyone out of the door. I can allow 3 children to change in the bathrooms, but no more, because there is physically no space for more.

MrsDmitriTippensKrushnic Tue 16-Sep-14 21:04:02

My DD is the same, although not so much curvy as having full on grown up pits and pubes. When she was in Yr5 we also sent in a note giving her permission to get changed in the toilets without supervision. I was annoyed at the time as we weren't told it was an option, but I guess the rationale was that if they made it widely available too many would want to who didn't need to and they can't accommodate all the girls in the toilets. She's in Yr6 now and luckily has the same teacher so has just carried on as last year. I'm going to be keeping my fingers crossed that her periods hold off until Secondary school because although they try, her Primary school seem woefully ill-equipped for it.

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 21:04:56

(I should emphasise that we have separate changing for 1 PE lesson a week - 2 xclasses do games at oncem, so we use one another's rooms - but in-class for the other, where only 1 class is timetabled for PE. There is no unused teaching space in the building, for any lesson, all day)

MrsDmitriTippensKrushnic Tue 16-Sep-14 21:06:24

I should say that we only found out because a couple of other girls were doing it and DD was told she needed parental permission when she asked to too.

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 21:11:32

"I would be expecting separate changing facilities for the boys and girls."

We would love them, by the way. And some small teaching rooms so that small groups don't have to work in the corridors amongst the coats and bookcases....

titchy Tue 16-Sep-14 21:12:22

A curtain rail and three pairs of cheap curtains to separate the classroom down the middle would be a quick cheap solution that gives boys and girls privacy and allows the teacher to supervise both halves.

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 21:16:10

Tbh, gravity is against me in trying to do that in my 70s classroom, a strange design in which the ceiling is a good 15+ feet high at one end of the classroom and a bare 8 at the other. And the space is sooo tight that even the bunched up curtains would be taking up the space a child normally sits in. Honestly, it is a little bit mad, and my legs are a constant mass of bruises from walking into chairs and tables as I manoevre round the room...

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 21:17:06

But I absolutely agree, titchy, that we need to keep thinking about better solutions to this in primary, as girls in particular develop earlier and earlier.

spanieleyes Tue 16-Sep-14 21:18:58

I can supervise boys and girls separately but if I have children outside the classroom completely they would be unsupervised, I can split myself in 2 but not 3 or 4! I have 2 girls who, because of weight issues, feel uncomfortable changing in the classroom so I have to trust them to change in the toilets, which is fine as long as nothing happens-then I would be the one in trouble! I can't fit any more girls in the toilets, we only have 2 cubicles and so any more would have to "take turns" -whichthen extends the time taken to change and cuts into an already overcrowded curriculum. I certainly do the best I can but, by the end of year 6 I have more children wanting to change "privately" than I can manage!

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 21:24:24

Spaniel, when you say separately, do you mean that you have an arangement / space for 2 physically separate groups changing within your classroom (daydreams, along with rainbows and pretty flowers)?Or simply that you separate the two groups but they are stuill within your main classroom space?

teacherwith2kids Tue 16-Sep-14 21:33:55

(I mean, I am wondering whether I could do more, even in my tiny space, than what I already do - a 'to your PE places (girls to the left, boys to the right, the couple who have genuine reason to do so out to the toilets), counting down from 10 now, everyone lined up by the door in 10, 9, 8....' so would be interested to know what you do)

spanieleyes Tue 16-Sep-14 21:36:40

My classroom adjoins the library with an internal door from one to the other. If I stand in the open doorway I can supervise both. Mind you, the library usually has small children undergoing interventions in it but this doesn't seem to bother them. It also means they change silently !

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