RSPH has warmly welcomed the announcement by Education Secretary Justine Greening that sex and relationships education (SRE) is to be made compulsory in all schools in England – including those such as academies and free schools which are not under local authority control. The requirements will come into effect from 2019.

The amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill will require that:

  • Age-appropriate ‘relationships education’ is taught in all primary schools in England.
  • Age-appropriate ‘sex and relationships education’ is taught in all secondary schools in England.

However, faith schools will maintain the right to teach sex and relationships education in line with the tenets of their faith, while parents will maintain the right to withdraw their children from any such education.

The Education Secretary also announced her intention to adopt a power that will enable her to make Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) compulsory in future.

Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH, said: “Every child has the right to be equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to start and maintain a healthy life. That’s why RSPH has long campaigned for statutory PSHE, and compulsory SRE is an important step towards this.

“Justine Greening is right to say that the existing SRE curriculum is outdated, and needs to be updated to address the challenges facing young people in the modern world, such as sexting, pornography, cyber-bullying and staying safe online. While teen pregnancies may be at an all-time low, the breadth of topics that need to be addressed by comprehensive SRE is greater than ever.

“This is a very positive and long-overdue move by the Government, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We look forward to feeding into the consultation to help ensure the curriculum adequately encompasses a wide scope of issues such as sexual consent, sexual health and abusive relationships. It is imperative that the needs of LGBTQ+ students are fully catered for, and that the prerogative of parents and faith schools to abstain from or tailor SRE does not undermine the right of every child to a full, fair and health-promoting education.”