Relationship and Sex Education

CARE believes that the provision of high quality Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) is crucial for helping young people rightly understand God’s gift of sex in a responsible way and in its appropriate setting.

We believe that the primary relationship that children have for their wellbeing and development, nurturing and education is with their families and their parents. RSE works best when parents are fully engaged.  This means parents having conversations with their children at home as well as being fully aware of when and how the subject is being covered at school.  This may also involve them seeking to shape the RSE curriculum in their child’s school as parent governors or by simply engaging with the governing body as a parent.

The role of parents

The evidence suggests that where parents are involved and talk to their children about sex and relationships outside of school, the outcomes are much better in terms of delayed initiation of intercourse.[i]

Of note, the majority of respondents to a 2013 Government consultation on PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic education) believed parental engagement in PSHE to be crucial and that “providing parents with every possible and practical opportunity to interact and engage with PSHE provision was the most effective way’ of defining and accounting for PSHE.”[ii]

In addition, although some may find conversations with their children about SRE awkward, research has shown that children and young people actually want to receive initial RSE from their parents and families, with school and other adults building on this platform at a later date.[iii]

What is the current law?

The current law says that all schools, primary and secondary, must have a sex education policy and that all secondary schools must teach SRE from age 11 upwards.[iv] This policy must align with the Government’s SRE guidance. Free schools and academies do not have to follow the National Curriculum and SRE is therefore optional. However, if they do decide to teach RSE, they must have regards to the Government’s guidance.

In primary schools the governors are free to choose whether or not to teach RSE. The content of RSE curriculum is determined at secondary and at primary school (if the governors of the primary school elect to teach it) on a decentralised school by school basis by the governing body.[v]

If parents are unhappy with the curriculum that results from the decisions of the governing body, under Section 405 of the Education Act 1996 they may withdraw their children from SRE lessons.

Changes in the law

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 placed a duty on the Secretary of State to create regulations making RSE subjects compulsory. From 1st September 2020, Relationships and Sex Education will become compulsory in all secondary schools across the country. Relationships education will be compulsory in primary schools. The exact content of these regulations is currently subject to a consultation concluding in November 2018. Under these proposed Regulations there will still be a parental right to request that their child is excused from sex education, however the head teacher retains the power to consider the appropriateness of this withdrawal.

CARE is calling on the Government to apply the right of withdrawal to Relationships Education and to strengthen the role of parents in setting the Relationships and Sex Education curriculum going forward.

Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill

In Scotland CARE was one of the four charities who took part in a review of the Government’s flawed ‘named person’ scheme. We raised concerns over part of the Children and Young People Act, which assigns all children from birth up to the age of 18 a state guardian or ‘named person’ – such as a health worker or teacher. 

The state-employed ‘named person’ would be able to share information with a wide range of public authorities and may intervene in the child’s life and activities without parental consent. We believe that there is clearly scope for interference between the role of the ‘named person’ and the exercise of a parent’s rights and responsibilities. 


[i] C DiLorio, M Kelley, M Hockenberry-Eaton, ‘Communication about sexual issues: mothers, fathers and friends’, Journal of Adolescent Health, 1999; 24:181-189.

[ii] Department for Education, ‘Consultation on PSHE education’, March 2013, p.4

[iii] Department for Education and Employment, ‘Sex and Relationship Education Guidance’, July 2000, p.25

[v] Education Act 1996, c.56, Part V, Chapter IV, Section 403 (1)

' I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources, he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. '

Ephesians 3: 16, 17 (NLT)