Sex education has been compulsory in all maintained secondary schools since 1993. When teaching sex education, schools are required to have regard to the statutory sex and relationships education guidance, which was last updated in 2000. This states that maintained schools must have an up-to-date policy, that sets out the school’s approach to sex education, that they should consult their pupils’ parents and make the policy available to parents. Governors and head teachers should discuss with parents and take on board concerns, on sensitive material to be used in the classroom.
We have recently consulted on updated guidance for sex education alongside the introduction of relationships education at primary and secondary schools. On its introduction, all schools will be required to have in place a written policy for relationships education and relationships and sex education (RSE). Schools must consult parents in developing and reviewing their policy. Schools should ensure that the policy meets the needs of pupils and parents and reflects the community they serve. Schools should also ensure that the policy sets out the content of the subjects, how the content is taught and who is responsible for teaching it. The draft guidance is also clear that schools should ensure that, when they consult parents, they provide examples of the resources they plan to use, as this can be reassuring for parents, and enables them to continue the conversations started in class at home. Schools should assess each resource that they propose to use to ensure that it is appropriate for the age and maturity of pupils, and sensitive to their needs. The Department does not provide guidance to schools on what they place in school libraries as the Department believes schools are best placed to determine this.
The Department conducted a consultation on the draft regulations, statutory guidance and regulatory impact assessment for relationships education, relationships and sex education and health education between July and November 2018. The drafting of the consultation and draft statutory guidance was led by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education and I, with support from a small team of policy officials and an experienced Headteacher, Ian Bauckham CBE.
The Department was contacted by over 40,000 individuals and organisations during the consultation process. Prior to the consultation, the key decisions were informed by a thorough engagement process. The public call for evidence received over 23,000 responses and the Department engaged directly with 90 organisations, including parents, young people, headteachers, teachers, governors, subject specialists, teaching unions, charities and faith groups. The Department has not made an assessment of their views on abortion specifically. These stakeholders can be found in the Government response to the Call for Evidence at: https://consult.education.gov.uk/pshe/relationships-education-rse-health-education/supporting_documents/180718%20Consultation_call%20for%20evidence%20response_policy%20statement.pdf.
From time-to-time the Department does also receive correspondence on materials used in the current delivery of sex education and this can be due to a variety of reasons. The Department encourages correspondents to contact their school to discuss this and ensure that they are aware of the current sex and relationships education guidance. The Department would take seriously any concern regarding inappropriate materials. The Department has also received a recent petition which raised concerns about RSE resources being produced by lobby groups and external organisations. The draft guidance is clear that schools should ask to see the materials visitors will use as well as a lesson plan in advance, so that they can ensure it meets the full range of pupils’ needs (e.g. special educational needs). The Department also recognises that schools use resources from representative bodies (e.g. many Catholic and other schools draw on the model curricula provided by the Catholic Education Service.) The guidance encourages schools to draw on the expertise of the main subject associations which often quality assure third party resources.
The Department is committed to supporting schools through training, further advice to improve practice and sharing of best practice, including examples of successful parental engagement. This will include advice on using quality assured, age-appropriate resources.