The government is to make relationship and sex education (RSE) compulsory in English secondary schools.
The Education Secretary has set out plans to amend the Children and Social Work Bill, which will make it a requirement that all secondary schools in England teach RSE.
The amendments also allow the government to make regulations requiring personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) to be taught in all schools in England – primary and secondary, maintained and academy – in future.
Currently, only pupils attending local authority run secondary schools, which represent around a third of secondary schools – are guaranteed to be offered current sex and relationships education. PSHE is only mandatory at independent schools and neither are currently required to be taught in academies.
The government is proposing the introduction of the new subject of ‘relationships education’ in primary school and renaming the secondary school subject ‘relationships and sex education’, to emphasise the central importance of healthy relationships and staying safe.
As children get older, it is important that they start to develop their understanding of healthy adult relationships in more depth. It is hoped that compulsory sex education will help to address the risks that children face in modern society such as online pornography, sexting and staying safe online.
Speaking about the announcement, Education Secretary, Justine Greening said, “RSE and PSHE teach children and young people how to stay safe and healthy, and how to negotiate some of the personal and social challenges they will face growing up and as adults.”
“These subjects form part of the building blocks young people need to thrive in modern Britain.”
“At the moment, too many young people feel they don’t have the RSE they need to stay safe and navigate becoming an adult.”
“It is time to make this change to ensure all children and young people have access to these subjects and to update the current statutory guidance for RSE which was introduced nearly 20 years ago, in 2000.”
“We need high-quality, age-appropriate content that relates to the modern world, addressing issues like cyber bulling, ‘sexting’ and internet safety.”
“We will now begin a review and gather expert opinions to ensure these subjects really have a positive impact on young people.”
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party said, “We are relieved that this Government is finally taking steps to provide our children with the guidance they need.”
“However, the new arrangements will still allow parents to remove their children from sex education classes.”
“We also need much more clarity on the proviso that faith schools will be allowed to teach ‘in accordance with the tenets of their faith’.”