On 1 March 2017 Justine Greening, the Secretary of state for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, announced her intention to "put Relationships and Sex Education on a statutory footing", with the intention of ensuring that "every child has access to age appropriate provision, in a consistent way". She also announced her intention to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education a statutory requirement too, albeit after "further departmental work and consultation on subject content".
Her announcement was accompanied by a Policy Statement, found here.
The key points are as follows:
1. The rationale is stated to be to "ensure universal coverage for all pupils and improved quality" of these subjects in schools, to "support all young people to stay safe and prepare for life in modern Britain".
2. Relationship Education would become part of the basic school curriculum in all primary schools (maintained, independent and academies). All secondary schools (maintained, independent and academies) would be required to provide Relationships and Sex Education. The Secretary of State would have the power to make PSHE statutory too.
3. Schools will be required to teach this new content from September 2019. There will be further consultation about the content of the curriculum, with a view to there being "a clear understanding about the full set of knowledge and life skills that Relationships Education, RSE and PSHE should provide for young people to support them to be safe, healthy, happy and successful", although the Policy Statement sets out the likely focus of RE and RSE. The content will apparently be age and religion appropriate.
4. There will be guidance on delivering the subjects, to which all schools must have regard, and schools will need to publish and make available a policy on these subjects.
5. Parents will continue to have the right to withdraw their children from sex education within RSE, but not from Relationships Education.
6. Ofsted will be considering the implications of the new requirements on school inspections, as presumably will ISI.
7. The statutory basis for the changes will be the Children and Social Work Bill, which is awaiting Royal assent. There will be consultation in the autumn, followed by statutory guidance early in 2018 and at least one full year before the academic year 2019/20, when the content will need to be taught.
If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing please contact Jonathan Eley ([email protected]) or your usual contact at the firm on 020 3375 7000. Further information can be found on the Schools page of our website.
This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
© Farrer & Co LLP, April 2017