The past two weeks has seen much debate on the new relationships and sex education (RSE) guidance - with conflicting opinions vying to be heard.
Since its publication on 25th February, there’s been a lot of media coverage about the Department of Education’s updated guidance for relationships education, RSE and health education.
So what’s it all about?
- From September 2020, all schools (primary and secondary, local authority controlled, academies and private) will be required to deliver relationships and health education.
- Sex education will be compulsory in secondary schools.
- The RSE regulations are still to be debated in, and agreed by, the House of Commons and House of Lords. (The regulations are the legal technical amendments to existing laws to allow the statutory RSE from the Children and Social Work 2017 Act to come into effect).
- Menstrual health is now included in both primary and secondary health education. In the draft 2018 version it was only mentioned in reference to the content of the science curriculum.
- Female Genital Mutilation is now included specifically within the table of contents for secondary relationships and sex education, giving it more prominence.
- Some of the language around the need for children to develop virtues and self-control has been re-written as the “cultivation and practice of resilience and character in the individual.”
The parents’ role
One of the main topics of recent debate has been parents’ rights (for instance, an online petition resulted in a parliamentary debate on this issue on February 25th).
The guidance acknowledges that ‘parents are the first teachers of their children’ and makes it clear that:
- schools must communicate what will be taught and when it will be taught; and
- schools must alert parents to their rights to withdraw their child excused from sex education lessons (that are not part of national science curriculum).
Parents will not have the right to ask for their child to be withdrawn from relationships education or health education - at primary or secondary school.
From three terms before their 16th birthday, a child can decide to receive sex education rather than be withdrawn. In this situation, the school will be expected to make arrangements to provide the child with sex education during one of those terms.
Withdrawal from sex education only may be complex in secondary school, as aspects of relationships and sex education are likely to be integrated in a single topic, so that young people learn about sex in the context of relationships.
A key theme of the guidance is that teaching is expected to be inclusive. For instance, “all schools may teach about faith perspectives...and balanced debate may take place about issues that are seen as contentious.”
This will need to be organised in a very sensitive manner and may provide fresh opportunities for external agencies to support their local school RSE programmes.
Are schools RSE ready?
The eventual impact of the RSE curriculum on the lives of young people will depend on the way schools and educators apply the statutory guidance.
Many teachers feel they have inadequate training and lack confidence in delivering RSE topics. The DfE has announced £6 million of funding towards RSE training and resources for schools. However, we are yet to learn how this will be distributed: if shared equally, each school will receive around £250.
The guidance makes it clear that a school should not rely on external speakers to provide all RSE, but highlights how outside speakers can enhance a school’s RSE programme, by ‘bringing in specialist knowledge and different ways of engaging with young people.’
Most schools currently use their own teachers and external educators to deliver RSE, but schools who currently depend exclusively on outside speakers, or schools who never work with outside agencies, may need to change their approach to meet the new standards.
acet UK’s Esteem programme equips and supports both school teachers and external educators
Our teacher training in RSE, offered as an INSET day or short series of twilight sessions, is designed primarily for secondary school teachers wishing to improve their RSE delivery and increase their confidence in delivering this subject.
acet UK’s 4 day RSE course and associated assignments lead to a level 4 accredited award in ‘Teaching relationships and sex education.’ This training is aimed mainly at external educators, who can enhance school delivery with their specialist knowledge. They also have a unique relationship to the students who can ask questions and talk about topics that they may find uncomfortable discussing with their class teachers. That said, teachers with a passion for RSE have found this training extremely useful.Check out our upcoming training events here or contact us about running an event in your area.