The new legal requirements
Under sections 34 & 35 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 Act, all primary schools (maintained, non-maintained and independent schools) in England will be expected to deliver Relationships Education from September 2020. It is not a statutory requirement for primary schools to teach sex education but the Department for Education (DfE) recommends that ‘all primary schools should have a sex education programme tailored to the age and the physical and emotional maturity of the pupils’.¹ The NEU recommends that all primary schools teach sex education.
All secondary schools (maintained, non-maintained and independent) in England will be expected to deliver Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) from September 2020.
In addition to these changes, all schools, except independent schools, must teach Health Education. Although independent schools do not have to teach the new Health Education curriculum, they do have a statutory duty to teach PSHE under the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014.
The statutory requirements do not apply to sixth form colleges, 16-19 academies or Further Education (FE) colleges, although the DfE and the NEU encourages all education providers to support students by offering these subjects.
Did you know?
The new guidance states that ‘schools should be alive to issues such as everyday sexism, misogyny, homophobia and gender stereotypes and take positive action to build a culture where these are not tolerated’ (RSHE Guidance 2019, p14)
The new Relationships Education and RSE guidance: an overview
In June 2019, the Government finalised the new Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education guidance.
All schools² must have ‘regard’ to the guidance when teaching these subjects.
The new guidance sets out what core content should be delivered by the end of primary and secondary education. It does not say what content should be delivered by year or key stage. This gives flexibility to schools over what curriculum content should be taught when. It includes key advice
on how schools should ensure the curriculum is taking into account the religious background of pupils and how to be inclusive of SEND and LGBT+ pupils. There is also a section on how RSE links to schools’ obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
To help you to prepare and plan for delivering these subjects by September 2020 you can take a look at this roadmap to statutory RSE.
The Sex Education Forum also has an interactive digital tool to support you to look at the RSE provision in your school (this is free for members).
For more information on how the guidance relates to LGBT+ inclusion specifically please see ‘LGBT+ Inclusive Education: Guidance for members’.
The guidance is organised around key themes. For Relationships Education the themes are:
- families and people who care for me;
- caring friendships;
- respectful relationships;
- online relationships;
- being safe.
For RSE in secondary education, this curriculum content is built upon and new content is introduced on sexual relationships and sexual health. The core themes are:
- respectful relationships, including friendships;
- online and media;
- being safe;
- intimate and sexual relationships, including sexual health.
Puberty and the changing adolescent body is now taught through the new statutory Health Education curriculum. Primary and secondary schools are expected to deliver this content.
The guidance states that Health Education should cover the key facts about puberty and the changing adolescent body, particularly from age nine to age 11, including physical and emotional changes.
Primary schools are expected to teach about menstrual wellbeing in Health Education, including the key facts about the menstrual cycle. It is advised that puberty, including menstruation, should be addressed before onset.
This highlights the importance of delivering this information in a timely way that prepares children for the changes they will experience.
The content covered in Health Education will overlap with some of the content taught through Relationships Education, RSE and the science curriculum as well as other subjects, so this will reinforce content and concepts for students. For instance, the national curriculum for science in key stage 2 includes learning about the changes to the human body as we develop to old age.
Pupils should also learn about the names of the main body parts and reproduction in some plants and animals.
Updating your school policy
From September 2020, schools in England will need to update their existing Relationships Education or RSE policy to meet the new requirements. The law requires schools to consult parents in developing and reviewing their Relationships Education or RSE policy. The NEU also recommends consulting with pupils to get their feedback on the Relationships Education/ RSE taught. The final policy should be agreed by governors and staff.
The policy should be made available to parents and the school. Schools must provide a copy of the policy free of charge to anyone who asks for it and should publish the policy on their school website.
The DfE guidance states that a policy must include:
- A definition of Relationships Education (primary) or RSE (secondary);
- A definition of sex education if a primary school chooses to teach sex education beyond what is covered in the science curriculum;
- Information on the subject content, including how it is taught and who is responsible for teaching it;
- Information on how the subject is monitored and evaluated;
- Information on the parental right to withdraw their child (this will be different for primary and secondary settings. See p17 of the RSHE guidance);
- The date by which the policy will be reviewed.
The NEU has a model policy for primary schools and a model policy for secondary schools to help your school meet these new requirements.
Planning for the new curriculum
To help you to prepare and plan for delivering these subjects by September 2020, you can take a look at this roadmap to statutory RSE.
The Sex Education Forum also has an interactive digital tool to support you to look at the
RSE provision in your school (this is free for members). They have also produced a range of guidance materials, including a model definition of relationships education and sex education.
The DfE will be providing implementation guidance, training and good practice case studies to support schools to prepare for the new curriculum. Please check out the forthcoming RSHE hub at gov.uk to find out more.
¹ DfE (2019) Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education, and Health Education Guidance, DfE, p23.
² Independent schools do not have to have regard for the content set out under the Health Education curriculum.