Relationships and sex education for all children in England officially becomes law

28 April, 2017

Legislation introducing compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE) in all English schools has now officially become law, after the Children and Social Work Bill was given Royal Assent yesterday.

The change will mean that for the first time all secondary schools in England will have to provide RSE to their pupils, while all primary schools will have to provide relationships education to their pupils. It follows decades of campaigning by the British Humanist Association (BHA), which sits on the advisory group of the Sex Education Forum and is an active member of both the PSHE Association and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.

Now that the legislation has been confirmed, regulations and guidance will be consulted upon by the UK Government in order to set out subject content and identify what support needs to be provided to ensure high-quality provision. The Act also gives the Government the power to make personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE) a compulsory subject in the future, which it will also consult on.

The BHA will play a full part in this consultation and will be campaigning particularly around what is being seen as a ‘faith’ school opt-out in the legislation. The Act requires teaching to be appropriate to the religious backgrounds of the pupils, and the Government has previously announced that ‘as now, faith schools will continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith’. In a briefing to MPs last month, the BHA stated:

‘A child’s access to accurate, evidence-based information about relationships and sex should not be determined by their religious or non-religious background, nor by the type of school to which they happen to have been sent.

‘If all children have a right to comprehensive, age-appropriate RSE, as the Government maintains they do, then all children must have access to it. To allow certain types of school to opt out of this teaching, as is proposed, is either to declare that no such right exists, or to endorse the widespread violation of that right.’

BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘We are delighted that relationships and sex education has finally been made compulsory in schools. After decades of campaigning, significant progress is finally being made towards all children receiving the information they need to stay safe and healthy, engage in happy and respectful relationships, and be resilient to damaging stereotypes and attitudes.

‘But the Government must ensure “all children” really does mean “all children”. Schools must not be encouraged to provide anything less than comprehensive, evidence-based, and LGBT-inclusive RSE. We will be working hard in the coming months to ensure that this standard is met.’


For further comment or information please contact the BHA’s Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 0207 324 078.

Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘House of Commons approves compulsory Relationships and Sex Education in England Schools, whilst expressing concerns on “faith” school opt out’:

Read the BHA’s briefing to MPs on the ‘faith’ school opt out:‘faith’-school-opt-outs-1.pdf

Read the BHA’s news item ‘BHA welcomes Government move towards Relationships and Sex Education in English schools; expresses concerns about opt outs for ‘faith’ schools:  

Read the BHA’s previous story, ‘Major new BHA report: school inspections ‘almost totally neglect’ PSHE and SRE’:

Read the BHA’s report, Healthy, happy, safe? An investigation into how PSHE and SRE are inspected in English schools:   

Read more about the BHA’s work on PSHE and SRE:  

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

The BHA is a member of the Sex Education Forum (SEF) and PSHE Association and sits on SEF’s advisory group.