Young people want RSE but they aren’t always getting it. Our research shows that one in seven did not receive any RSE in school at all.
The quality of RSE varies across Britain, with LGBT issues still not consistently taught as part of RSE.
- In England, RSE is only compulsory in maintained secondary schools, but the subject is due to become compulsory in all schools from September 2019.
- In Wales, RSE will be a statutory part of the new curriculum, which is being developed and due to be in place across Wales by 2022. For learners under the current curriculum, there will be enhanced provision from 2018, with work to identify learning needs and refresh existing guidance taking place this summer.
- In Scotland, RSE is taught through Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education (RSHP) but is not compulsory. The Scottish Government is currently conducting a review of RSHP.
We have been campaigning for higher quality relationships and sex education for many years.
Our Shhh… No Talking report, published in July 2016, detailed the experiences of RSE lessons from over 900 young people aged 16-25 across Britain. The report highlighted the inadequate or non-existent provision in many schools.
The report’s main findings included:
- 99% of young people surveyed thought RSE should be mandatory in all schools.
- 97% thought it should be LGBT-inclusive.
- One in seven respondents had not received any RSE at all.
- Over half (61%) received RSE just once a year or less.
- Half of young people rated the RSE they received in school as either ‘poor’ or ‘terrible’.
- Just 2% rated it as ‘excellent’ and only 10% rated it as ‘good’.
- 95% were not taught about LGBT relationships.
Meanwhile, several key topics were absent from respondents’ experiences of RSE:
- 75% of young people were not taught about consent
- 95% had not learned about LGBT sex and relationships
- 89% were not taught about sex and pleasure
- 97% missed out on any discussion around gender identity.
When it came to learning about HIV, three out of five respondents either did not receive any information about HIV or did not remember receiving information about HIV in school.
RSE in England
In March 2017, we achieved our first major win when the UK government announced that RSE would become compulsory in all schools in England by September 2019. This includes primary, secondary, academy, state-maintained, free school and private schools.
The government has committed to replacing existing RSE guidance from 2000 that is still used in schools. Ministers in the Department for Education have also stated that young people will be involved in helping to shape the new guidance and what RSE lessons will cover.
Although the subject will become compulsory, our work is far from over. We will continue to work with the government, decision makers, charity sector colleagues and young people to ensure the following key points are delivered.
- Lessons are LGBT-inclusive.
- Up-to-date information on HIV and sexual health, including testing, PrEP and treatment.
- Information on consent, safeguarding, the law, and healthy relationships.
- Making young people aware of how to access services, both locally and online.
- Involvement of sexual health practitioners in schools to help normalise accessing these services.
- Involvement of young people to design and evaluate lessons.
- Clear inspection criteria for Ofsted when evaluating the quality of lessons.
- Opportunities for teachers to receive training and development courses so that they can be confident when delivering lessons.
In February 2018, we submitted evidence to the Department for Education on what should be included in RSE lessons.
RSE in Wales
We have been proactively engaging with the Welsh Government and members of the National Assembly to highlight the importance of access to quality RSE in schools.
The recommendation of an expert panel on healthy relationships education to make LGBT-inclusive RSE compulsory was accepted by the Cabinet Secretary for Education in June 2018, with £200,000 earmarked to kickstart the process of identifying teachers’ professional learning needs to deliver RSE confidently.
RSE in Scotland
We have contributed to research conducted by HIV Scotland looking at the teaching of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education across the 32 local authorities in Scotland.
In September 2017, HIV Scotland published its report calling for a 21st century approach to teaching HIV, including providing young people with information about HIV treatment and prevention. We continue to support the work of HIV Scotland in lobbying the Scottish Government to make the subject compulsory in all schools.
We have a history of collaboration on sex and relationship education with partners at the Sex Education Forum. You can find out more about their work on their website.