Sex and Relationship Education

Department for Education written question – answered at on 29 July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Independent Ulster Unionist

To ask Her Majesty's Government why they have introduced compulsory relationships education for children attending primary school.

Photo of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Independent Ulster Unionist

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether parents of children attending primary schools can ask for their children to not participate in relationships education lessons.

Photo of Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Lord Maginnis of Drumglass Independent Ulster Unionist

To ask Her Majesty's Government to what extent they expect explicit sexual and gender issues to be introduced in relationships education for six to 11 year olds in primary schools; and what plans they have to make a statement to both Houses of Parliament about this issue.

Photo of Baroness Berridge Baroness Berridge Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for International Trade) (Minister for Women), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

Section 34 of The Children and Social Work Act 2017 requires regulations to be made to provide for Relationships Education for primary aged pupils and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) for secondary aged pupils. This provision also specified that the regulations must include the circumstances in which pupils are to be excused from receiving RSE or elements thereof.

The Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education statutory guidance sets out the content to be covered for each subject. There is no right to withdraw from Relationships Education lessons. The key aim of Relationships Education for primary aged pupils is to put in place the building blocks needed for positive and safe relationships of all kinds, starting with family and friends, and moving out to other kinds of relationships, including those off and online.

For secondary aged pupils the emphasis under the RSE curriculum moves from the experience of the child in the context of their family to the young person as a potential partner and parent, and the characteristics of healthy intimate relationships are explored. RSE will also cover the concepts of, and laws relating to sex and relationships.

There is no prescription for primary schools to cover sex education. If a primary school chooses to deliver sex education, it must be covered in the school’s Relationships Education policy. Schools are required to consult parents on a draft of their policy. Where sex education is covered in primary schools, parents have an automatic right to withdraw their child from this part of the curriculum.

In making decisions about resources and materials to use in teaching the new subjects, the statutory guidance sets out that schools should assess each resource that they propose to use carefully to ensure it is appropriate for the age and maturity of pupils and sensitive to their needs. Schools should also be aware of their duties regarding impartiality and balanced treatment of political issues in the classroom to ensure content is handled in an appropriate way.

The statutory guidance states that when schools consult with parents on their Relationships Education and RSE policy, they should also ensure that they provide examples of the resources that they plan to use in teaching the new subjects as this can be reassuring for parents and enables them to continue the conversations started in class at home. The statutory guidance can be accessed via this link:

We will be issuing further implementation guidance on the teaching of RSE and health education shortly.

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