• Background

    At the end of June 2019, the DfE published new statutory guidance on Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Educations (RSE) and Health Education. This was in response to identified risks that children and young people may face through increased online activities and the need to support them to be safe and healthy, and manage their academic, personal and social lives in a positive way.

    The guidance is aimed at governing bodies, trustees or directors, proprietors, management committees, teachers, other school staff and school nurses, head teachers, principals and senior leadership teams, diocese and other faith representatives and relevant local authority staff.

    What does this mean for your school?

    From September 2020 Relationships Education will be compulsory in all primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in all secondary schools, as well as making Health Education compulsory in all state-funded schools (specific elements are phase dependant).

    The new guidance replaces the Sex and Relationship Education guidance 2000. It will be reviewed three years from the first required teaching, then every three years after that point.  It contains information about what schools should do and sets out the legal duties which schools must comply with when teaching RSE and Health Education.

    Schools must have regard to the guidance, and where they depart from those parts of the guidance which state they should (or should not) do something will need to have good reasons for doing so.

    Unless otherwise specified, ‘school’ means all schools, whether maintained, non-maintained or independent schools, including academies and free schools, non-maintained special schools, maintained special schools and alternative provision, including pupil referral units.

    Schools are being encouraged to adopt the new curriculum from as early as September 2019. If you do decide to do this be aware that you will need to meet both the old statutory guidance (2000) and the new guidance.

    Whilst this guidance has been produced, a recent poll of teachers found that many are not confident in teaching the new curriculum and many feel their schools are not ready to handle topics such as Female Genital Mutilation, which can be complex and hard to deliver in a classroom.

    You may be interested that the DfE have produced guides to help schools communicate with parents of primary and secondary age pupils.


    The new law has attracted wide ranging commentary, particularly around sex education. It leaves in place the right of parents to withdraw their child from sex education, save for biological aspects of human growth and reproduction that form part of the National Science Curriculum. The new position is that parents can withdraw pupils until three terms before their child’s 16th birthday; however, headteachers can refuse the withdrawal in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Concerns have been raised that schools could overuse their ability to refuse and the DfE have indicated that they will issue further guidance on handling such requests.

    What is clear is that this area will need to be given careful thought and planning to ensure that schools can deliver teaching in this area by the right people, at the right level and with appropriate training and understanding of the curriculum.

    If you have not already done so, you would be well advised to start considering your policies and procedures to ensure a fully embedded approach and that any new policy compliments and/or integrates appropriately with current policies covering matters such as behaviour, inclusion, respect for equality and diversity, bullying and safeguarding. Based on the guidance, your RSE Policy should also take account of pupils’ needs and the community they serve, and schools should work closely with parents when planning and delivering these subjects.

    It may, therefore, be helpful to hold staff, pupil and parent forums on the subject and/or use Student Voice, to gain full buy in from everyone involved and ensure that parents, pupils and heads can make informed choices.

    It should also be remembered that at the heart of Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education, there is a focus on keeping children safe and the role that schools can play in preventative education should never be underestimated.

    A helpful 10 step guide has been produced by the PSHE Association and Sex Education Forum with support from 5 education unions to support school leaders in preparing to provide high quality RSE.

    How can we help?

    Brachers can provide schools with assistance and/or advice in developing and/or maintaining appropriate policies and procedures.  We can also advise upon and/or assist with deciding upon and responding to parent requests for withdrawal and, ensuring that the statutory guidance is followed.

    If you are considering training for staff covering possible discrimination and the Equality Act 2010 this is also an area that we can assist with.

    For further information please contact Louise Brenlund on 01622 776405.

    This content is correct at time of publication

    Can we help?

    Take a look at our Education page for useful information, resources, guidance, details of our team and how we may be able to help you

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