My Statement on Relationship Education in Schools

We all want our children to grow up into happy and well-rounded individuals who know how to deal with the challenges of the modern world. 

The world has changed a lot in the 19 years since 2000 when the sex and relationships education guidance was last updated. Under the law, all pupils will now study compulsory Health Education as well as new reformed Relationships Education in primary school, and then later on, study Relationships and Sex Education in secondary school. These subjects are designed to ensure pupils are taught the knowledge and life skills they will need to stay safe, build confidence and resilience, and develop healthy and supportive relationships.

Under the updated guidance, which will become compulsory from September 2020, teachers will talk to primary school pupils in an age-appropriate way about the features of healthy friendships, family relationships and other relationships they may encounter.
At secondary school, teachers will build on this foundation and, at an appropriate time, extend teaching to include intimate relationships. Health education will ensure pupils are taught about the benefits of healthy eating, exercise and keeping fit, as well as developing qualities such as resilience, self-respect, mental wellbeing and manners. Importantly, it will also teach children and young people how to recognise when they and others are struggling with mental health.
The Department for Education has sought views from parents, teachers, children and other key groups to develop subject content and it has used this feedback to produce the draft guidance, which has now been subject to further consultation.

I am pleased that action is being taken to ensure our children and young people leave school knowing how to keep themselves safe and healthy and have good relationships with others.

As the Government Minister Damien Hinds has made clear “Parents and Carers are the prime teachers for children on many of these matters , and schools complement and reinforce that role by building on what pupils learn at home “.

In my view Withdrawing children from school RSE lessons will not stop them learning about sex and relationships in the modern world. But it will prevent them from engaging with issues like relationships and human sexuality in a school classroom, and instead leave them vulnerable to exploitation, coercion and misinformation about what constitutes a safe and healthy relationship.

Everybody has the right to high-quality education on sexuality and healthy relationships. Everyone suffers when that right is denied – whether through patchy provision, imperfect educational resources, or from children being withdrawn from Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) lessons.

I strongly believe that RSE should be compulsory, well-resourced and inclusive for everybody – with no exceptions.