Sex and Relationship Education

Department for Education written question – answered at on 10 November 2020.

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

To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the intended educational outcomes for the pupils of the sexual aspects to be included in relationships education in primary schools; whether parents have the right to withdraw their children from any such classes; and what discretion head teachers have about permitting the teaching of relationships education.

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

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of whether there is any increased risk of primary school-aged children being targeted for child abuse as the outcome of discussions outside of the classroom about sexual behaviour arising from relationship education being taught in primary schools.

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

We want to support all young people to be happy, healthy and safe. That is why we made Relationships Education compulsory for primary school pupils, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) compulsory for secondary school pupils, and Health Education compulsory for pupils in all state-funded schools.

There is no requirement for primary schools to cover sex education. If a primary school chooses to teach sex education, it must be covered in the school’s RSE policy. Schools are required to consult parents on a draft of their policy. The statutory guidance states that when schools consult with parents on their 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. This will also reassure parents that the resources schools choose to use are age appropriate and do not contain oversexualised content.

The department remains committed to supporting all schools in their preparations to deliver the content of these subjects. On 24 September 2020 the department published thePlan your relationships, sex and health curriculum’ implementation guidance to support schools to choose appropriate resources. Training resources were also published alongside the guidance and will equip all schools to provide comprehensive teaching in these areas in an age-appropriate way. These materials should give schools the confidence to construct a curriculum that reflects diversity of views and backgrounds, whilst fostering all pupils’ respect for others, understanding of healthy relationships, and ability to look after their own safety and wellbeing. This guidance is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/teaching-about-relationships-sex-and-health.

In primary schools, age-appropriate relationships education will involve supporting children to learn about what healthy relationships are and their importance, as well as how to develop mutually respectful relationships in all contexts, including online. This will then provide a foundation for RSE at secondary school. Children will also be taught the importance of permission-seeking and giving in relationships with friends, peers and adults, as the building blocks for consent in secondary school.

Where sex education is covered in primary schools, parents have an automatic right to withdraw their child from this part of the curriculum, although not from any sex education in the science curriculum. Head teachers must comply with these requests from parents.

The findings of the impact assessment published in January 2019 refer to the importance of teaching children and young people about healthy relationships as an element in the approach to contributing to reducing child sexual exploitation. These findings can be viewed at: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2019/924/impacts.

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