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The new RSE guidance - your questions answered

26 February 2019

So, the long-awaited guidance is out! Following a public consultation which closed in November 2018, the Government has issued revised guidance on Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education. This applies to all schools in England. The guidance will come into effect in September 2020, but schools can start using it from September 2019.

Here, we answer some questions about the guidance, and will continue to provide advice to our members and subscribers in the coming weeks and months. 

What does the new guidance say about parents and RSE?

Involving parents is integral to the guidance. Paragraph 41 states that ‘Schools should ensure that parents know what will be taught and when, and clearly communicate the fact that parents have the right to request that their child be withdrawn from some or all of sex education delivered as part of statutory RSE.’

Parents retain the right to withdraw their child from sex education. Schools are advised to keep a record of the process of dialogue with parents relating to requests to withdraw from sex education. Parents will not have the option to withdraw their children from Relationships Education or Health Education.

Paragraphs 40-50 cover the ways in which schools and parents communicate about RSE.

Has anything changed in the guidance, following consultation?

Yes, there are some changes and clarifications. The references to self-control and self-sacrifice have been removed. Instead the guidance refers to RSE helping to develop pupils’ personal attributes, including honesty, integrity, courage, humility, kindness, generosity, trustworthiness and a sense of justice, alongside self-respect and self-worth.

There are also changes within the content tables around what pupils should know by the end of primary and by the end of secondary. For example, the concept of menstrual wellbeing has been included in Health Education and FGM is specified under secondary RSE. A new statement provides clarification that ‘we expect all pupils to have been taught LGBT content at a timely point as part of this area of the curriculum’.

Is this version the final RSE guidance?

The revised guidance published on 25th February 2019 will be subject to a debate in Parliament, which is intended to happen this Spring 2019. This will result in the guidance being finalised. We expect that only minor changes will be made, if any. While it’s taken almost 20 years to get the current guidance updated, Government has committed to more frequent updates of the RSE guidance in future.

What does the Sex Education Forum think about the new guidance?

The Government has taken the bold and necessary step of requiring all schools to provide relationships education in primary, and relationships and sex education in secondary. This is something that the Sex Education Forum campaigned for over many years. The guidance will help make this happen in practice.

Lucy Emmerson, Director of the Sex Education Forum said: ‘We know that the majority of children, young people and parents want an education that reflects the realities of growing up in modern society and equips them to enjoy safe and respectful relationships. The new guidance from the Department for Education opens the way for this to happen, and for schools to engage fully with parents in this process, so that children get the reliable information and open conversations they want and need.

What action should schools take now?

The Sex Education Forum and PSHE Association has produced a ‘Roadmap to statutory RSE’, this takes a step by step approach to preparing for high quality RSE. These steps are fully aligned with the paragraph in the guidance addressed to governing boards or management committees, who should make sure that: 

  • 'all pupils make progress in achieving the expected educational outcomes; 
  • the subjects are well led, effectively managed and well planned; 
  • the quality of provision is subject to regular and effective self-evaluation; 
  • teaching is delivered in ways that are accessible to all pupils with SEND;
  • clear information is provided for parents on the subject content and the right to request that their child is withdrawn; and, 
  • the subjects are resourced, staffed and timetabled in a way that ensures that the school can fulfil its legal obligations.'

Take a look at our training calendar, with events suitable for school staff who are new to the subject and more experienced educators, with tailored conferences focused on SEND and independent schools coming up in March. Members discount applies. Join our Countdown for free updates to guide you through to high quality RSE.