To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they have taken to reassure schools that they are not at risk of legal action for providing Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education on the curriculum.
27 October 2020
We want to support all young people to be happy, healthy and safe. That is why we made relationships education compulsory for primary school pupils, relationships and sex education compulsory for secondary school pupils, and health education compulsory for pupils in all state-funded schools.
The Department remains committed to supporting all schools in their preparations to deliver the content of these subjects. We are aware that there are many resources in circulation to support schools to deliver these subjects and that not all of them are of good quality and some are inappropriate. On 24 September, the Department published the ‘Plan your relationships, sex and health curriculum’ implementation guidance to support schools to choose appropriate resources.
Our new Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) guidance and training resources equip all schools to provide comprehensive teaching in these areas in an age-appropriate way. These materials should give schools the confidence to construct a curriculum that reflects diversity of views and backgrounds, whilst fostering all pupils’ respect for others, understanding of healthy relationships, and ability to look after their own wellbeing. We will be issuing further training resources throughout the year.
The statutory guidance contains information on what schools should do and sets out the legal duties with which schools must comply when teaching Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education, and Health Education. The guidance also sets out clear advice on choosing resources. It states that schools should assess each resource that they propose to use to ensure it is appropriate for the age and maturity of their pupils and sensitive to their needs, where relevant.
It is important that schools consider guidance from the Department and parents should feel able to discuss with schools if their approach seems to diverge from Government guidance. The regulations introducing the new subjects made it a requirement for schools to consult parents on their relationships and sex education policy. This is because it is right that parents are able to express their views on how these subjects are taught, and this process enables schools to understand the views and needs of their school community. Good quality parental engagement and effective subject design and delivery by schools will ensure that the positive benefits of teaching we know can come from these subjects are realised, which is why we have provided this support to schools.
We have worked with the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Governance Association, and the Association of School and College Leaders to issue joint guidance to support schools to engage parents on these subjects, published in October 2019 and available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/engaging-parents-with-relationships-education-policy.
We have also released a guide for parents to support understanding of the subjects, available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/relationships-sex-and-health-education-guides-for-schools.
In light of the circumstances caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, and following engagement with the sector, the Department is reassuring schools that although the subjects became compulsory from 1 September 2020, schools have flexibility over how they discharge their duty within the first year of compulsory teaching. We have made it clear that schools that are ready to teach these subjects and have met the requirements set out in the statutory guidance, including those relating to engagement with parents and carers, are encouraged to begin delivering teaching from 1 September 2020, or whenever is practicable at the beginning of the new school year.
For schools that are not ready to teach these subjects or unable to adequately meet the requirements because of the challenging circumstances presented by COVID-19, they should aim to start preparations to deliver the new curriculum and commence teaching the new content by at least the start of the summer term 2021. Where implementation has therefore been delayed in some schools, this is because proper engagement with parents and time to develop the curriculum has not yet been possible, not because of parental complaints. The Department does not hold information on how many schools have delayed implementation of the subjects.
We have issued advice to local authorities and regional school’s commissioners on managing disruption to primary schools related to these subjects. We continue to monitor implementation across the country and work closely with schools and local authorities, where necessary.