I am today announcing my intention to put relationships and sex education on a statutory footing, so every child has access to age-appropriate provision, in a consistent way. I am also announcing my intention to take a power that will enable me to make PSHE statutory in future, following further departmental work and consultation on subject content.
The amendments that the Government will table to the Children and Social Work Bill place a duty on the Secretary of State for Education to make regulations requiring:
All primary schools in England to teach age-appropriate “relationships education”; and
All secondary schools in England to teach age-appropriate “relationships and sex education”
The amendments also create a power enabling the Government to make regulations requiring PSHE to be taught in academies and maintained schools—it is already compulsory in independent schools. By creating a power on PSHE, we are allowing time to consider what the right fit of this subject is with relationships education and relationships and sex education.
The statutory guidance for sex and relationships education was introduced in 2000 and is becoming increasingly outdated. It fails to address risks to children that have grown in prevalence over the last 17 years, including cyber bullying, “sexting” and staying safe online.
Parents will continue to have a right to withdraw their children from sex education. Schools will have flexibility over how they deliver these subjects, so they can develop an integrated approach that is sensitive to the needs of the local community; and, as now, faith schools will continue to be able to teach in accordance with the tenets of their faith.
The Department for Education will lead a comprehensive programme of engagement to set out age-appropriate subject content and identify the support schools need to deliver high-quality teaching. Regulations and statutory guidance will then be subject to full public consultation before being laid subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. In line with this timetable, schools will be required to teach this content from September 2019. My Department will today publish a policy statement, which sets out more detail.
Copies of the Government amendment to the CSW Bill and the policy statement will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.