As we reported earlier this year, in February 2019 the Department for Education (DfE) published draft statutory guidance on Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (RE, RSE and HE).
The introduction of these guidelines has proven to be controversial, with many newspapers reporting on opposition from groups of parents and confusion within schools as to how they should be implemented. The DfE has now published additional information in the form of FAQs, which it says are to address some common misconceptions. The full FAQ document can be found here, but a summary of the key points are as follows:
Consultation with parents
Whilst schools will be required to consult with parents when developing and reviewing their policies for Relationships Education and RSE, consultation does not provide a parental veto on curriculum content. Schools will need to listen to parents’ views and then make a reasonable decision as to how they wish to proceed. School’s policies for these subjects must be published online.
Sex Education at primary school
Sex education is not compulsory at primary school.
In all schools the religious background of pupils must be taken into account when planning teaching so that topics are appropriately handled. Schools with a religious character can build on the core content by reflecting their beliefs in their teaching.
Withdrawal of child from RSE
Except in exceptional circumstances parents will only have a right to withdraw their child from sex education delivered as part of RSE in secondary schools until up to three terms before their child turns 16. At that point the child can choose to receive sex education and the school must deliver this in one of the three terms before the child turns 16.
There is no right to withdraw from Relationships Education at primary or secondary school.
The aim is to educate pupils on LGBT relationships as opposed to promoting such relationships. All teaching should be age appropriate. It is expected that LGBT relationships should be taught in secondary schools. Primary schools may cover LGBT content if they consider that it is age appropriate to do so.
The DfE will be consulting with teachers, trade unions and other key stakeholders over the coming months on how they structure the training. To help early adopter schools, the DfE will provide further advice on how they can improve their practice. Lessons learned from the early adopter schools and best practice from schools will be shared with all schools from September 2020.
If you require further information about anything covered in this briefing, please contact Jonathan Eley, or your usual contact at the firm on +44 (0)20 3375 7000.
This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.
© Farrer & Co LLP, June 2019