RSE - End the Silence

Today the Department for Education has published new guidance [PDF] that will underpin the delivery of compulsory Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) lessons that are due to be rolled out from September 2020. 

The updated guidance is the first of its kind in nearly two decades and will be delivered in all secondary schools across England. 

The Government has now recommended that Relationships Education in primary schools should teach recognition of different types of families, including those with same-sex parents.

This is a important step forward, but the guidance falls short of mandating all primary schools to deliver LGBT-inclusive lessons. In our polling of young people, we found just 5% of young people learned about LGBT sex and relationships at school.

Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP, has announced a £6 million package to cover teacher training and resources. 

Alex Phillips, RSE lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “It’s been almost 20 years since this guidance was last updated and we welcome this overdue update which provides a more accurate snapshot of the challenges and needs that young people have before they enter adulthood – including consent and different types of families. 

“The addition of teaching about same-sex relationships at primary school has been hard fought and is important for all young people, regardless of sexuality. But we are clear that LGBT-inclusion across primary and secondary school must not be an optional extra. For far too long young people have been let down when it comes to LGBT-inclusion and this simply can’t go on any longer.  

“Only last month the Government committed to ending new HIV transmissions by 2030, yet RSE lessons will have limited references to HIV when it becomes compulsory in 2020. This coupled with young people being disproportionately impacted by new sexually transmitted infections means this guidance is a missed opportunity to tackle both HIV transmissions and wider sexual health. 

“The £6 million allocated to training and resources is inadequate and will equate to just a couple of hundred pounds for each school. This falls far short of the investment that will be needed to ensure teachers have the knowledge and confidence to deliver these vitally important lessons. Without proper funding, we risk having compulsory RSE and Relationships Education in name only.

“We are pleased that the Government has committed to reviewing the guidance in 2022 but call on the Department to ensure that our concerns are addressed before schools begin to roll out the new lessons from next year.”