In March 2017 Parliament voted to change the way sex education is taught in schools in England, introducing the new subject of relationships education in primary schools and changing sex education at secondary school to be relationships and sex education (RSE).
These new subjects were initially due to become compulsory in all schools from September 2020. In July 2020, however, the Department for Education announced that due to the impact of COVID-19 schools would have discretion to delay the introduction of the new curriculum until the start of the summer term 2021 if they are not ready or are unable to meet the statutory requirements.
Right of withdrawal
The negative aspects of the changes relate to the changes around the to the right of withdrawal.
At primary schools, parents, as was the case previously, can withdraw their children from all or parts of sex education if the school chooses to teach sex education. All requests by parents to withdraw their children from sex education must be granted by the head teacher, and no reason has to be given for the request. The change that comes for parents is that they can no longer withdraw their children from relationships education at primary school.
At secondary schools, the Government has made substantial changes to the right to withdraw at secondary school. Under the previous law and guidance parents were able to withdraw children from all elements of sex and relationships education, and head teachers had to grant any request. Under the new law and guidance parents do not have the right to withdraw their children from relationships education and the right to withdraw from sex education has been changed to a ‘right to request'.
Schools must consult with parents
The positive development is that the new law now requires schools to consult parents before making or revising the statement of their policy on relationships education (primary) or RSE (secondary). Under the old regime schools were encouraged by the guidance but not required by the law to consult parents. In practice very few did. Now they must.
Take action: engaging with school consultations
As schools are now required to consult with parents when they draw up or revise their policy on relationships education or RSE, parents will now gain a new opportunity to have their views heard by schools to influence the way that the curriculum is put together and how the subjects are taught.
We would strongly encourage you to engage constructively with your child's school. To help you do so, we have provided a series of model letters in the appendix that can be used as a template for your correspondence with the school, depending upon the type of school your child attends.
Below you'll find the different letter templates. Simply click on the relevant one for you and you'll find a PDF version of the letter appears.
- Letter template for a primary school (Academy or Independent school)
- Letter template for a primary school (maintained school)
- Letter template for a primary school (non-maintained special school)
- Letter template for a Secondary School (Academy or Independent)
- Letter template for a Secondary School (maintained school)
- Letter template for a Secondary School (non-maintained special school)