From 1 September 2020 RSE and Health Education will be a mandatory part of the school curriculum, to be delivered in accordance with the Department for Education’s (DfE) statutory guidance ‘Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education’ (the ‘Guidance’).
Schools will be free to determine how to deliver this new syllabus in the context of a broad and balanced curriculum, however they must develop a written policy on the subject further to consultation with parents, governors and the wider community, ensuring that the school’s new policy meets the needs of its pupils and is reflective of its community.
The DfE statutory guidance provides examples of what should be included in such a policy, to include for example, typical resources schools plan to use. However, the development of a new curriculum understandably brings with it a number of challenges. We have therefore noted below a brief overview of the policy requirements to assist with development plans as well as some helpful example scenarios.
For all schools (including primary schools) the policy should:
- define relationships education;
- set out the subject content, how it is taught and who is responsible for teaching it;
- describe how the subject is monitored and evaluated;
- include information to clarify why parents do not have a right to withdraw their child;
- confirm the date by which the policy will be reviewed.
For all secondary schools, in addition to the requirements set out under section (1) above, the policy should also:
- define sex education;
- include information about a parent’s right to request that their child be excused from sex education within RSE only.
For primary schools that choose to teach sex education, in addition to the requirements set out under section (1), the policy should also:
- define any sex education they choose to teach other than that covered in the science curriculum;
- include information about a parent’s right to request that their child be excused.
Further to the requirements set out above, these policies should also cover the following:
- details of content and when each topic is taught, taking account of the age of pupils;
- who delivers either Relationships Education or RSE;
- how the policy has been produced and will be kept under review, with parental input;
- how delivery will be made accessible to all pupils, including those with SEND;
- an explanation of the right to withdraw;
- requirements on schools in law, such as the Equality Act 2010: advice for schools;
- how often the policy is updated; and
- who approves the policy.
How do we avoid negative reactions in respect of this new curriculum?
Schools will need to ensure that an effective consultation process has been conducted in accordance with the DfE statutory guidance, and that all responses and concerns have been considered prior to concluding its final policy on this new curriculum. However, it is important to note that there is a legal requirement to implement this new curriculum and corresponding policy and therefore this consultation process will need to be handled carefully and sensitively.
Can a parent withdraw their child from sex education at secondary school?
Parents have a right to request their child’s withdrawal from sex education, however, this does not apply to sex education delivered as part of the science curriculum. This therefore provides a way of ensuring delivery of essential scientific elements of such education.
Before granting a parental request, the headteacher should discuss the parent’s concerns and, where appropriate, consult the child so as to ensure that their wishes are understood, and clarify the proposed curriculum and the delivery benefits. Schools should ensure that this process is fully documented effectively for its records.
Schools should respect a parent’s position unless exceptional circumstances apply, however exceptional circumstances are not defined and schools should therefore be careful before relying on this ground. Please do speak with our School Support team for further guidance.
When pupils are excused from sex education, schools should ensure that these pupils receive appropriate, purposeful alternative education during the period of withdrawal. It is important to note here that schools must also comply with the relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010 which may also require a differentiated curriculum.
Please note that a parent’s withdrawal request is to be respected up to and until three terms before the child turns 16, after which, it is the child’s decision as to whether or not they wish to receive such education.
How can we ensure our religious views are maintained when teaching RSE and health education?
Pupils can be taught religious views and the legislative position simultaneously, however care must be taken in the way the curriculum is taught so as to not restrict personal views, but to ensure no discrimination/bullying or harassment takes place, whether intentional or not.
Pupils should be made aware of the legal provisions when relevant topics are being taught, including for example:
- consent, including the age of consent;
- violence against women and girls;
- online behaviours including image and information sharing (including ‘sexting’, youth-produced sexual imagery, nudes, etc.);
- gender identity;
- substance misuse;
- violence and exploitation by gangs;
- criminal exploitation (for example, through gang involvement or ‘county lines’ drugs operations);
- hate crime;
- female genital mutilation (FGM).
Will schools be assessed on this new curriculum?
Aspects of RSE and Health Education will be assessed as part of an Ofsted inspection as consideration of pupils’ personal development, behaviour and welfare; together with pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.
DfE update in light of Covid-19
As a result of COVID-19, the DfE has communicated to schools that although RSE and health education is compulsory as of 1 September 2020, schools will have some flexibility within the first year of teaching; namely that:
- From 1 September 2020 until the end of the spring term, schools should commence teaching as soon as practically possible or use the time to prepare to deliver the new curriculum;
- By the start of the summer term 2021 all schools should have started teaching this new content.
The DfE have also advised that schools should consider prioritising curriculum content on mental health and wellbeing, given the importance of this as pupils return to schools.
As the subjects will be compulsory from 1 September 2020, the new parental right to withdraw from sex education will apply from this date.
How we can help you
If you require assistance with drafting your new policy, conducting the required consultation or implementing this new curriculum, please do not hesitate to contact our School Support Service team for support on 0345 070 7437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.