Today the Department for Education has published draft guidance [PDF] that will be used to deliver Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), which is due to begin in autumn 2020. This is the first update to guidance in 18 years.
We have campaigned on RSE for three decades – our response to the new guidance is below.
Ian Green, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, said:
‘Today marks an important milestone in the journey towards compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in all secondary schools in England with the much awaited publication of the guidance teachers will use to deliver lessons – a shocking 18 years since the last update.
‘The draft guidance replaces existing guidance which was first launched long before the majority of young people had internet access on their smartphone and no longer reflects the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. Similarly, it’s completely out of date when it comes to where we are with HIV and doesn’t properly equip young people for the challenges they face all these years later.
‘This update is long, long overdue and comes at a time when on average one young person aged 15-24 is diagnosed with HIV every day in the UK and where young people account for the largest proportion of new STI diagnoses. That’s why LGBT-inclusive and quality RSE lessons are needed now more than ever.
‘But 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. The Government has missed its original target of September 2019 for compulsory RSE lessons in England, with a 12 month delay. We are unequivocal that this timeline must not slip any further.
‘RSE lessons are crucial to normalise discussions on HIV and sexual health among young people. 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.
‘Alongside proper guidance, it’s of the utmost importance that teachers are provided with the training and resources to confidently deliver lessons of a high quality. In his statement, earlier in Parliament, the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Damian Hinds MP, committed to ensuring the “provision of quality materials” in schools – we will hold the Government to ensure this is a reality in all schools.
'It should also go without saying that RSE needs to be properly assessed by OFSTED – as with the rest of the curriculum – to ensure its quality and that no young person is left behind. Anything short of this will mean Relationships and Sex Education is compulsory in name only.
‘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.’