Since September 2020, Relationships Education has been compulsory for all pupils in primary education and Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSE) for all pupils in secondary education.

Primary Education Guidance

The subjects put in place should teach the key building blocks of healthy, respectful relationships. Primary schools’ focus should be on family and friendship in all contexts, including online. Relationships Education teaches children how to communicate their own boundaries whilst also recognising the boundaries of those around them. Schools are encouraged to include the teaching of different family models and same-sex relationships, though this isn’t a statutory requirement.

Alongside Relationship Education, all schools must teach Health Education. This should include puberty and menstruation and be addressed before onset as far as this is possible. Health Education doesn’t solely concern what it means to be physically healthy. Teachers are also required to teach children about mental wellbeing and that it is a part of daily life in the same way physical health is.

Secondary Education Guidance

Secondary Education RSHE covers content on a much wider range of content including:

  • Consent
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Online Abuse
  • Grooming
  • Coercion
  • Harassment
  • Rape
  • Domestic Abuse
  • Forced Marriage
  • Honour-Based Violence

Lessons should raise awareness of what these issues are and how they can affect both current and future relationships for individuals.

Pupils should also be taught about the facts and laws concerning sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity in an age-appropriate and inclusive way. There should be an equal opportunity for pupils to explore the features of healthy same-sex relationships in addition to heterosexual relationships to understand what constitutes a healthy relationship.

For secondary pupils, Health Education focuses on enabling them to make well-informed positive choices for themselves. The curriculum teaches them about the impacts of puberty, whilst also covering mental health. It supports students to recognise and manage any wellbeing issues, signposting where they can seek support and how to access it as early as possible.

How is the RSHE Curriculum Changing?

Schools should already make curriculum content and materials available to parents on request and communicate how they are teaching pupils sensitive topics. To better support teachers and reassure parents, the Government has announced a review of RSHE guidance.

The Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, has recently announced the formation of an independent expert advisory panel who will advise on the review of the RSHE curriculum. The panel will seek to ensure RSHE is being taught in an age-appropriate, factual way in England. By considering evidence provided by Ofsted, the panel will ascertain where a clear age rating is needed on topics to ensure the content taught in schools is appropriate. The panel follows statements made in March, reminding schools that parents should be able to view all curriculum content, especially for sensitive topic areas.

This is the first review of the statutory guidance since it was published in 2020. The panel will provide teachers with clarity on how to teach some of the sensitive material covered in RSHE and engage parents positively to ensure they are made aware of everything covered in the curriculum.

The review further provides an opportunity to add content to the curriculum, making sure priority issues are given the attention they deserve such as suicide prevention, the dangers of vaping and violence against girls.

When Can We Expect to See Changes?

The full review will be completed by the end of the year, following a consultation in the autumn informed by the independent panel and wider stakeholders. The panel will conclude their research into RSHE in schools by September.

By the end of the summer term, schools are also expecting to see guidance from Government regarding supporting transgender pupils. This will include the addition of transgender awareness in the curriculum and the addressing of safeguarding concerns teachers or parents may have for the pupil in question.

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In March 2023, Rishi Sunak ordered a review of sex education in schools. This government update discusses the current guidance in place regarding relationships and sex education in both primary and secondary schools. It further outlines government proposals for updating the guidance and introduces the advisory panel which has been assembled to assess the curriculum in place.

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