1st March, 2019

Relationships and Sex Education: What's changing?

This week the Department for Education published new guidance on Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education.

The guidance will become compulsory from September 2020, but it is recommended that schools start teaching the new subjects from September this year.  

Whilst it still needs to be debated in and approved by Parliament, we don’t expect any major changes.

What subjects need to be taught and to who?  

From September 2020:

  • All* secondary schools in England will be required to teach Relationships and Sex Education.
  • All* primary schools in England will be required to teach Relationships Education. 
  • It is recommended that all primary schools have a program of sex education tailored to the needs of their pupils.
  • Health Education will be introduced as a compulsory subject in all state funded schools in England. Independent schools, who are already required to teach PSHE, will not be required to teach Health Education as a new subject.

*All schools includes local authority maintained schools, free schools, academies, faith schools, independent schools, special schools and alternative provision including pupil referral units.

Does our school need a policy? If so, what should be in included in it?

Yes. All schools must have a policy on Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education. If a primary school chooses to teach Sex Education, they must also have a policy in place. Schools should consult parents in the development of policies. The policies should:

  • define each subject
  • set out the content, how it is taught and who is responsible for teaching it
  • describe how the subject is monitored and evaluated
  • include information on a parents' right to withdraw their child.

Can parents withdraw their children from the subjects?

  • Parents and carers may withdraw their children from all elements of Sex Education (other than that which is part of the science curriculum) in primary schools.
  • Parents and carers may withdraw their children from Sex Education until three terms before they are 16 in secondary school.
  • Parents and carers may NOT withdraw their children from Relationships Education or Health Education in primary or secondary school.

What does the guidance include?

The guidance outlines what young people should know by the end of primary school and by the end of secondary school.

This includes families; friendships; respectful relationships; online relationships and being safe. In secondary school, it includes intimate and sexual relationships.

As part of Health Education it states that children will be required to learn about; mental wellbeing; internet safety and harms; physical health and fitness including exercise, heathy eating, drugs, alcohol and tobacco, hygiene; health prevention and basic first aid. Children will also learn about puberty and menstrual health and wellbeing as part of Health Education.

Are there any resources and training to support me?

Yes. The Government has announced that they will be investing in supplementary guidance to support schools implement the new guidance.

FPA provides lots of resources for teachers working across Primary and Secondary, as well as those working with young people with learning disabilities.  These include age-appropriate information for young people and teaching resources to support discussion around the topics outlined in the guidance. These can be found online at www.fpa.org.uk/shop

For Primary Schools, we have developed ‘Growing Up with Yasmine and Tom’, an interactive digital RSE resource with flexible, age-appropriate lesson plans and activities for Key Stages 1 and 2 (ages 5–11).

FPA also provide training to support teachers who wish to develop and deliver an RSE programme that meets new government guidance.

What does FPA think of the new guidance?

Here at FPA we welcome the new guidance and are delighted that the Government has made the teaching of relationships education in all primary schools and RSE in all secondary schools compulsory! We think Health Education is an important addition to the curriculum.

The previous guidance, which was written almost 20 years ago, is out of step with current lives and relationships. We are pleased to see to that the guidance emphasises the importance of inclusive education and covers crucial subjects like consent, different types of families and relationships, safe and respectful relationships, menstrual health and online safety.

Having said this, we believe all children and young people have a fundamental right to high quality, comprehensive relationship and sex education, which promotes good sexual health and equal and enjoyable relationships. We are concerned that the guidance is currently missing a positive approach to sexual health.

The guidance isn’t perfect and we believe that schools could and should, and in many cases already do, go further.