Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in England will become LGBTQ-inclusive under new plans.
The guidance, which hasn’t been updated since 2000, has been re-drafted by the Department for Education to include teaching children about important issues like consent, online safety, mental well-being and LGBTQ issues.
It’s expected that RSE will become compulsory in all schools across the country from September 2020 – a one year delay from the original date of September 2019.
The guidance explains that primary school pupils will be taught about “healthy friendships [and] family relationships”, while secondary school pupils will learn bout “intimate relationships” at an “appropriate time”.
As part of the new plans, parents will still have the right to withdraw their child from sex education, but once a child reaches the age of 15 they will be allowed to allowed to request sex education in at least one of the three terms before their 16th birthday.
“A right for parents to withdraw their child up to 18 years of age is no longer compatible with English case law nor with the European Convention on Human Rights,” explained Education Secretary Damian Hinds.
Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner praised the decision, adding: “All children should be empowered to make healthy, informed decisions, to know that it’s not wrong to be LGBT and not acceptable to experience gendered harassment or violence.”
Health education will also be made compulsory in all schools in England under the new plans, in response to growing awareness about mental health problems among young people.
The guidance has faced mixed response from campaigners, including Ian Green, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, who said it’s “shocking” that it’s taken so long for the government to update RSE for a modern generation.
“The draft guidance replaces existing guidance which was first launched long before the majority of young people had internet access on their smartphone and no longer reflects the modern day realities of sex and relationships,” he said.
“There’s still work to do to ensure RSE is fit for purpose and adopted by all schools, including independent and faith schools – we will hold the Government to account on this.
“Schools have an important role in signposting young people to sexual health services and debunking the myths that still surround sexual health and we are pleased to have secured a commitment by the Government within the guidance that this will happen in lessons.
“We have campaigned for RSE for over 30 years and will be responding fully to the consultation as well as playing our role in promoting it to others, including young people.”
Developed in response to criticism of its content (or lack thereof), the RSE guidance will now face a further 12-week consultation period. You can find out more here.