Humanists UK responds to Government RSE and PSHE consultation

7 February, 2018

In response to the Department for Education’s consultation on relationships and sex Education (RSE) and personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE) in English schools, Humanists UK has stressed the need for both RSE and PSHE to be available to pupils in all schools, including faith schools. Humanists UK is an active member of the Sex Education Forum (SEF) and PSHE Association.

The consultation was established by the Government following the introduction of mandatory Relationships Education in primary schools and RSE in secondary schools, which takes effect from September 2019. It aims to explore how the existing guidance on RSE should be amended and what topics should be included in teaching at primary and secondary level. The consultation also covers PSHE and asks for views on what subject matter it should feature if a decision to make it compulsory in English primary and secondary schools is taken by the Government.

Key aspects of Humanists UK’s response include:

  • Inclusion and diversity – ‘Inclusive Relationships Education is not about “promoting alternative lifestyles” to children, as some suggest (not least given that this wrongly implies that sexuality or gender identity are choices). Rather, being inclusive means using images of different kinds of family, ensuring children’s own home circumstances are not stigmatised or ignored, explaining that all kinds of relationships should be equal and safe, and encouraging respect for everyone.’
  • Sexual health – ‘RSE in schools must be a source of medically-accurate, unbiased, non-judgmental, and legally-sound information. That means educating children about the variety of ways of engaging in safe sex, and rules out teaching an abstinence-only approach. It also means providing information about the full range of options available to women during pregnancy, including abortion. Suggesting, as some Christian RSE providers are known to, that ‘condoms are ineffective as a prevention technique for diseases’, or that abortion can lead to ‘suicidal tendencies’ and ‘drug and alcohol abuse’, is not acceptable.’
  • Online safety – ‘Young people have their first sexual experience at a younger age than ever before, and prior to that they are introduced to sex by online pornography and sexting at younger ages… Children must be aware of these specific online risks before they encounter them.’
  • Right of withdrawal – ‘It should not be possible for parents to withdraw their children from receiving information intended to safeguard them from abuse (which includes basic information about their bodies and relationships with family/people in authority). Given the high proportion of abused children who are abused by a parent or family member, this is of paramount importance to the safety of children.’
  • Faith schools – ‘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 PSHE and RSE, as the Government maintains they do, then all children must have access to it in full. To allow certain types of school to opt out of this teaching is either to declare that no such right exists, or to endorse the widespread violation of that right.’

The response concludes by urging the DfE to be ‘resilient’ in the face of religious leaders and organisations who claim to represent the view of parents when lobbying for the freedom to teach narrow, LGBT-exclusive RSE. ‘RSE should focus on meeting the needs of all children, not accommodating the harmful bigotries of a minority of unrepresentative religious leaders’, Humanists UK argues.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman commented, ‘The core message of our response is very simple. The information provided in PSHE, RSE, and Relationships Education is vitally important in keeping children healthy, happy, and safe, so it must be accurate, evidence-based, relevant to all pupils, and taught in all schools. If there is any compromise on any of those things, either from the Government or schools, children will be failed. This is what we will be telling the Department for Education as the consultation process continues.’


For further comment or information please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Jay Harman on or 0207 324 3078.

Read Humanists UK’s full response:

Read Humanists UK’s previous news item ‘Humanists UK encourages responses to Government RSE and PSHE consultation:

Read more about our work on RSE/PSHE:

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.

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