Compulsory relationships and sex education: FAQs answered

Compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons begin from September 2020; we explore some of the questions surrounding this new initiative

The Department for Education is introducing compulsory relationships education for primary pupils and relationships and sex education (RSE) for secondary pupils from September 2020. The DfE have explained some of the common misconceptions around these new subjects in the form of a Q&A.

Q: Will the school have to engage with parents 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 and 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.

Click here for more information download our advice for primary schools on engaging parents on relationships education.

Q: Will children be taught sex education at primary school?

A: Compulsory sex education will not be introduced at primary school.

Relationships education is being introduced at primary level 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), tailored to the age and physical and emotional maturity of their pupils. Parents should discuss with the school in order to understand what they propose to teach, and how.

Q: Do parents have the right to withdraw their child from relationships and sex education?

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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 the DfE believe the contents of these subjects – such as family, friendship, safety (including online safety) – are important for all children to be taught.

Q: Will children 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 to 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: The DfE is 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.

The DfE is working with expert organisations, schools and teachers to develop this support.

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