The Department for Education is introducing compulsory Relationships Education for primary pupils and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) for secondary pupils from September 2020. Also, from September 2020 it will be compulsory for all schools to teach Health Education.
Through these subjects, we want to support all young people to be happy, healthy and safe – we want to equip them for adult life and to make a positive contribution to society. Throughout our engagement process as we developed this curriculum, we have heard a number of wide ranging concerns.
Below, we have explained some of the common misconceptions around the subjects.
Q: Will my child’s school have to engage with me before teaching these subjects?
A: Schools will be required to consult with parents when developing and reviewing their policies for Relationships Education and RSE, which will inform schools’ decisions on when and how certain content is covered. Effective engagement gives the space and time for parents to input, ask questions, share concerns and for the school to decide the way forward. Schools will listen to parents’ views, and then make a reasonable decision as to how they wish to proceed. When and how content is taught is ultimately a decision for the school, and consultation does not provide a parental veto on curriculum content.
A school’s policies for these subjects must be published online, and must be available to any individual free of charge. Schools should also ensure that, when they engage parents, they provide examples of the resources they plan to use, for example the books they will use in lessons.
For more information download our advice for primary schools on engaging parents on Relationships Education.
Q: Will my child be taught sex education at primary? This is too young.
A: We are not introducing compulsory sex education at primary school.
We are introducing Relationships Education at primary, to put in place the building blocks needed for positive and safe relationships of all kinds. This will start with family and friends, how to treat each other with kindness, and recognising the difference between online and offline friendships.
Many primary schools choose to teach sex education (which goes beyond the existing national curriculum for science), and we recommend that they do so, tailored to the age, physical and emotional maturity of their pupils. In those instances we recommend you discuss this with the school, to understand what they propose to teach and how. If you continue to have concerns, you have an automatic right to withdraw your child from these sex education lessons.
Q: Does the new Relationships Education and RSE curriculum take account of my faith?
A: The subjects are designed to help children from all backgrounds build positive and safe relationships, and to thrive in modern Britain.
In all schools, when teaching these subjects, the religious background of pupils must be taken into account when planning teaching, so that topics are appropriately handled. Schools with a religious character can build on the core required content by reflecting their beliefs in their teaching.
In developing these subjects, we have worked with a number of representative bodies and faith organisations, representing all the major faith groups in England. Several faith organisations produce teaching materials that schools can choose to use.
Q: Do I have a right to withdraw my child from Relationships and Sex Education?
A: Parents will continue to have a right to request to withdraw their child from sex education delivered as part of RSE in secondary schools which, unless there are exceptional circumstances, should be granted up to three terms before their child turns 16. At this point, if the child themselves wishes to receive sex education rather than be withdrawn, the school should make arrangements for this to happen in one of the three terms before the child turns 16 - the legal age of sexual consent.
There is no right to withdraw from Relationships Education at primary or secondary as we believe the contents of these subjects – such as family, friendship, safety (including online safety) – are important for all children to be taught.
Q: Has the government listened to the views of my community in introducing these subjects?
A: A thorough engagement process, involving a public call for evidence and discussions with over 90 organisations, as well as the public consultation on the draft regulations and guidance, has informed the key decisions on these subjects. The consultation received over 11,000 responses from teachers, schools, expert organisations, young people and parents – these responses have helped finalise the statutory guidance.
Q: Will my child be taught about LGBT relationships?
A: Pupils should be taught about the society in which they are growing up. These subjects are designed to foster respect for others and for difference, and educate pupils about healthy relationships.
Pupils should receive teaching on LGBT content during their school years. Teaching children about the society that we live in and the different types of loving, healthy relationships that exist can be done in a way that respects everyone. Primary schools are strongly encouraged and enabled to cover LGBT content when teaching about different types of families.
Secondary schools should cover LGBT content in their RSE teaching. RSE should meet the needs of all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality or identity – this should include age-appropriate teaching about different types of relationships in the context of the law.
Q: What support will schools receive to deliver these subjects well?
A: We are investing in a central support package to help teachers introduce these subjects well and with confidence. This will include a new online service, featuring access to high quality resources, innovative training materials, case studies and an implementation guide, available from Spring 2020.
There will also be training available for teachers through existing regional networks, offering opportunities to improve subject knowledge and build confidence.
We’re working with expert organisations, schools and teachers to develop this support.
Q: Where can I find out more information about what will be taught in my child’s school?
A: If you want to know more about what will be taught as part of the new subjects, the best thing to do is speak to your child’s school. We have also published parent guides, which explain what the subjects are, and parents’ rights.
These subjects are designed to equip your child with knowledge to make informed decisions about their wellbeing, health and relationships as well as preparing them for a successful adult life. The important lessons you teach your child about healthy relationships, looking after themselves and staying safe, are respected and valued under this new curriculum.
Teaching at school will complement and reinforce the lessons you teach your child as they grow up. Your child’s school will have flexibility to deliver the content in a way that is age and developmentally appropriate and sensitive to the needs and religious background of its pupils.