The Children and Social Work Act 2017 introduces new legislation on relationships and sex education in schools. In July 2018 the Government set out plans for implementaion encouring schools that are ready to start teaching the new curriculum from September 2019 and enabling schools needing more support to use the additional time to prepare to teach high quality RSE from September 2020. Due to the impact of Covid-19 Government has given schools some flexibility for a phased start if they are not prepared to fully implement the changes from 1 September 2020. By Summer term 2021 all schools are expected to be compliant.
Current laws on RSE (up to 31 August 2020)
Currently maintained secondary schools have to provide sex education but the only topic they must cover is HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections. Maintained primary and secondary schools must follow the National Curriculum, which includes some aspects of sex education in Science.
Maintained primary and secondary schools must also have an up-to-date policy that describes the content and organisation of SRE taught outside the Science Curriculum. If the decision is taken not to teach SRE outside the Science Curriculum this should also be documented in the policy. It is the responsibility of the schools governing body to ensure that the policy is developed and made available to parents. Parents have a right to withdraw their children from SRE taught outside the Science Curriculum.
All state-funded schools must pay due regard to the Government guidance on Sex and Relationships Education, currently this is the DfEE guidance published in 2000. The guidance recommends that schools teach the broader subject of sex and relationships education - and advise that this be taught as part of personal, social and health education (PSHE).
New requirements on RSE (from 1 September 2020)
New guidance and regulations have been passed in Parliament and will apply from 1 September 2020. The new requirements are that all secondary schools teach RSE and all primary schools teach Relationships Education and recommended that all primary schools have a programme of sex education.
For further information and reference:
Education Act 1996
Learning and Skills Act 2000
Sex and Relationship Education Guidance (2000)
Sex Education in Science briefing
Government guidance on Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education (2019)