From the beginning of Sept 2021, Relationships and Health Education has become statutory in all state-funded primary schools.
The remaining elements of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education (Citizenship and Financial Education) remain non-statutory at primary level but continue to be 'an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education' (DfE Sept 2021).
All schools should teach a broad and balanced PSHE curriculum, drawing on good practice.
High quality RSHE is:
Protective – it safeguards children in today’s digital era. It helps them to understand healthy relationships and consent, recognise abuse and ask for help; and reduces gender-based violence.
Developmentally appropriate and responsive – sequenced to prepare children and young people as they move through puberty, adolescence and into adulthood. It is responsive to the questions children ask, and to current and emerging issues.
Inclusive – it celebrates diversity and is relevant to all students, including those who are disabled and neurodivergent, LGBT+, and from a range of cultural and faith backgrounds.
Evidence-based – informed by research and by children and young people’s experiences, and delivers scientifically accurate information from reliable sources.
Empowering – celebrating healthy relationships, not just addressing risk and harm. It engages with boys and young men, and helps young people to aspire to relationships that are supportive, caring and pleasurable.
Effective - alongside developing essential knowledge, it facilitates open discussion and plays a vital role in helping children develop crucial life skills.
Professional - taught by trained, well supported teachers and specialists
Engaged with parents and carers who are informed about the development of the curriculum, and consulted to ensure RSE meets the needs of families
Protective – keeping children and young people safe in today’s digital era
Developmentally appropriate - and responsive to the questions children ask, and to current and emerging issues
Empowering – celebrating healthy relationships, not just addressing risk and harm
Inclusive – relevant to all students and reflective of the whole community
Evidence-based – informed by research and by children and young people’s experiences
Effective – focusing on life skills and open discussion as well as factual knowledge
Taught by trained teachers and supported by specialists
Engaged with parents and carers to ensure RSE meets the needs of families
Review of relationships, sex and health education to protect children to conclude by end of year
Review to be informed by expert panel, in response to concerning reports of inappropriate content being taught
The review is needed to make sure all children are protected from inappropriate content in all cases, even if many schools already teach RSHE and engage parents in a positive way.
The review, which was recently accelerated by the Prime Minister and Education Secretary, will be informed by an independent panel to be appointed over the coming weeks to provide external expertise. The panel will bring together input from health, children’s development, curriculum and safeguarding. The review will also draw on close work with Ofsted, to understand what material is currently used in the classroom, and consider what improvements might need to be made.
The panel will advise on how to put in place clear safeguards to stop pupils from being taught contested and potentially damaging concepts, including introducing age ratings setting out what is appropriate to be taught at what age, to prevent children being taught concepts they are too young to understand.
Oak National Academy, the independent provider of freely available online curriculum and lesson resources, will develop curriculum materials to make sure every school can access high-quality, compliant resources which will build on what is already available for schools. This will help support teachers as they develop their curriculum and lesson planning in this sensitive area.
The Education Secretary has also today written to schools to remind them they are required by law to publish a relationships or a relationships and sex education policy and consult parents on it, and should also provide all curriculum materials to parents and stop entering into contracts that seek to prevent parents from seeing materials.
Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan said:
I am deeply concerned about reports of inappropriate lessons being taught in schools.
This urgent review will get to the heart of how RSHE is currently taught and should be taught in the future. This will leave no room for any disturbing content, restore parents’ confidence, and make sure children are even better protected.
The letter makes clear that parents should be able to view all curriculum materials, and that parents can ask to see material if it has not already been shared, especially in relation to sensitive topics.
The review will also consider how to make sure all RSHE teaching is factual and does not present contested views on sensitive topics as fact.
It will also engage widely with those working with children across the education and health sectors.
The government is determined to make sure RSHE teaching leaves children equipped to make informed decisions about their health, wellbeing and relationships, in a sensitive way that reflects their stage of development.
The government expects new statutory guidance to be released in the coming months. It will then be subject to public consultation to conclude by the end of the year, coming into statutory force as soon as possible after that.
Separately, the Education Secretary, working with the Minister for Women and Equalities, will publish guidance for schools for the summer term on how to respond to children who are questioning their gender identity.