Following legislation passed last year, all primary schools in England will have to teach Relationships Education to their pupils from September 2019, and all secondary schools must teach Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). The Department for Education has now launched a consultation on what should be taught as part of these subjects and how existing guidance on sex education should be updated. Views are also being sought on whether or not to make personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE) compulsory in schools too.
We are encouraging all of our members and supporters, particularly parents, carers, and school staff, to respond to the consultation before 11.59pm on 12 February 2018.
There are only seven questions, and each answer can be just a few sentences (up to a limit of 250 words). Responding will only take a few minutes, but it could make a big difference in ensuring that children are given the skills and knowledge they need to stay healthy, happy, and safe.
Full details of the consultation, including a link to the response form, can be found here: consult.education.gov.uk/life-skills/pshe-rse-call-for-evidence. To help you respond, the following points are those that we feel are important to emphasise:
- Relationships Education and RSE must promote safe, equal, respectful, and enjoyable relationships. That means teaching about consent, sexual exploitation, safe sex, the range of options during pregnancy, including abortion, and safe relationships online, while also presenting a positive view of human sexuality and relationships.
- Relationships Education must contribute to safeguarding children from abuse and neglect. Given the proportion of abused children who are abused by a family member, there must be no parental right of withdrawal from these aspects of the subject.
- It is vital that both Relationships Education and RSE are LGBT-inclusive throughout the curriculum. Teaching must be equally inclusive of and relevant to all children, irrespective of their own sexuality and gender identity, or that of their family. Simply including one topic or a single lesson on LGBT issues clearly falls a long way short of this.
- If teaching and content is to meet the needs of all pupils, it must include those with special educational needs and disabilities.
- Children have a right to access evidence-based, medically accurate, and individually relevant information about sex and relationships. They must not be denied this education simply on the basis of their religious background. Schools already have the flexibility to highlight religious perspectives in their teaching, but they should not have the freedom to exclude certain topics or promote discriminatory attitudes as part of Relationships Education and RSE.
- Schools should continuously engage with parents, promote the benefits of Relationships Education and RSE, and seek to clarify any confusion about the subject’s purpose. Assumptions should not be made about the views of parents based on their religious or cultural background, and above all other considerations, the content of RSE must be dictated primarily by the rights and wellbeing of children.
- PSHE must be made statutory. This reflects the fact that Relationships Education and RSE is best delivered as part of a wider curriculum promoting health, resilience, confidence, respect, and personal safety, both online and offline. It also mitigates the risk that both Relationships Education and RSE will be delivered by some schools purely through ‘drop-down’ or off-timetable days.
Finally, when responding to the consultation we would also recommend referring to the Sex Education Forum’s excellent statement of commitment to RSE, and to Brook’s advice for young people on filling out the survey.
For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about our work on RSE/PSHE: https://humanists.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/pshe-and-sex-and-relationships-education/
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.
Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanists.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/