Statutory Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education

Update: September 2018

Links between wellbeing and attainment have long been recognised and so the DfE recently published draft guidance to introduce two new statutory subjects: Relationships Education (primary) and Relationships & Sex Education (secondary), and Health Education for all state-funded schools. This does not apply to post-16, although PSHE is statutory for independent schools.

The ‘guidance’ describes the statutory expectations as from September 2020, although it recognises that many schools are already providing Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education (which schools can continue to provide e.g. Programme of Study) and the DfE hope that schools will continue to enhance their provision between then and now.

The guidance also makes clear links to the national curriculum for PE and computing and notes the importance of flexibility and schools’ freedom to determine an age appropriate, developmental curriculum which meets the needs of their pupils.

The guidance provides a statutory framework of understanding that pupils should know about Relationships Education, by the time they leave Primary School (pages 16 & 17), RSE (pages 21-23) and Health Education (Primary 25-27; Secondary 28-30). Good practice would also develop skills in a values-based or ‘positive virtues’ framework. There is also a section on sex education for Primary Schools (pages 18-19) and the importance of teaching about on-line relationships is emphasised, as is teaching about LGBT issues which should be integrated throughout relationships (and sex) education.

The new expectations emphasise the importance of involving of the wider community in developing the curriculum and retain parents’ right to withdraw their child from some, or all, aspects of sex education (except Science) but, three terms before the young person becomes 16, they may opt in to RSE, even if their parents wish them to be ‘excused’. 

The importance of engaging with external agencies is noted although there is no acknowledgement of the role of local Public Health / School nursing to enhance provision and bring specialist support.

Expectations around pupils’ Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) development remain unchanged, although the Ofsted framework is likely to be revised in September 2019. Schools may wish to access the National SMSC Quality Mark or My Health My School.

School policies will have to be updated (and published) and need to be reviewed in conjunction with a number of other important documents including, but not restricted to: Keeping Children Safe in Education (as from Sept. 2018); The Public Sector Equality Duty; Sexual violence and sexual harassment in schools (May 2018); Government responses to the Internet Safety Strategy (2018) and to mental-health provision which notes the importance of leadership of the new subjects.

To help prepare for these statutory requirements, and to improve provision, we are offering the National PSHE CPD programme and is enormously helpful to teachers but also youth workers, health professionals and the police.

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Relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education: FAQs

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