Justine Greening, the secretary of state for education, has today announced her intention to put Relationships and Sex Education on a statutory footing, "so every child has access to age appropriate provision". The move will be made as an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill and will require:
all primary schools in England to teach age-appropriate 'relationships education'
all secondary schools in England to teach age-appropriate 'relationships and sex education'
It is anticipated that this will come into force in September 2019. Prior to this, the Department for Education will "lead a comprehensive programme of engagement to set out age-appropriate subject content and identify the support schools need to deliver high-quality teaching". The statutory guidance will be updated accordingly. Parents will continue to have a right to withdraw their children from sex education should they choose to do so.
The amendment will also "create a power enabling the Government to make regulations requiring PSHE to be taught in academies and maintained schools".
Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the NGA, welcomed the announcement:
“It has long been NGA’s view that age-appropriate SRE, and indeed personal, social and health education (PSHE) should be made statutory in all schools. This is necessary to ensure the subjects are given priority and allocated the appropriate time and resources.”
In a written statement to the House of Commons, Ms Greening said: "The statutory guidance for Sex and Relationships Education was introduced in 2000 and is becoming increasingly outdated. It fails to address risks to children that have grown in prevalence over the last 17 years, including cyber bullying, ‘sexting’ and staying safe online.
"Parents will continue to have a right to withdraw their children from sex education. Schools will have flexibility over how they deliver these subjects, so they can develop an integrated approach that is sensitive to the needs of the local community; and, as now, faith schools will continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith."
At the moment, all schools in England should have an up to date sex and relationships (SRE) policy and this is a statutory obligation for all maintained schools.
What is the status of sex and relationships education in schools?
Image: PSHE Association: Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) for the 21st century
Read the new Governing Matters article, ‘A Curriculum for Life’ by Jonathan Baggaley, chief executive of the PSHE association