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31 January 2018

Relationships education proposals - tell Government your view

Relationships education proposals - tell Government your view


Relationships and sex education: let the Government know your views

Last year, parliament passed legislation, requiring, from 2019 onwards, that all schools in England teach relationships education in primary school (ages 5-11), and relationships and sex education in secondary school (11-18). This will include academies and church schools. While parents will retain the right of withdrawal from sex education in secondary school, there will
not be a similar right of withdrawal for relationships education in primary schools.

The Government is now holding a call for evidence on what should be taught in relationships education (in primary) and relationships and sex education (RSE) (in secondary) and also physical, social, health and economic education (PSHE) in England.

The Government is keen to hear from pupils, parents and teachers about their experience of such education so far.
Click here for the consultation survey. There is also a consultation specifically for young people on their experiences of SRE and PSHE, which can be found on the same site.


Both consultations close at
11:45pm on 12 February 2018.

Have a look at our guidance about responding to consultations.


Why is the consultation important?

Parents are at the heart of teaching their children about relationships and sex. They know their children best. This consultation is a vital opportunity for Christian parents to describe their experience engaging with schools on these issues. According to our recent national poll, most people believe it is parents who ought to be at the heart of relationships education. This includes deciding at what age children should be introduced to these sensitive topics. Mandatory relationships education will therefore be at its most effective when it collaborates with parental teaching and example.

Our country is also incredibly diverse in background and viewpoint. This means that there are major differences around what constitutes healthy relationships, and the age-appropriateness of teaching about sexual activity and sexual orientation. These differences in society will be reflected in the classroom, with students coming to these classes from very different backgrounds. As the recent poll revealed, 71 per cent of people thought relationships education should respect the diverse religious and cultural backgrounds of children and families. The Government will no doubt be keen to hear from parents about how to ensure that this is achieved.

In addition, a number of issues have arisen for children from the growth of the internet. These must now be tackled in education as well as at home. They include responding to online bullying, using social media, and the dangers of online addiction. There is widespread support for teaching on these new topics.


What is the Government asking?

The questions raised in the consultation are listed below. Our public policy team will be submitting a response on behalf of the Evangelical Alliance, but it is vitally important that the consultation hear from Christian pupils, parents and teachers as well, with your direct experience of such education as it currently takes place in schools.

  • Thinking about relationships education in primary schools, what do you believe are the three most important subject areas that should be taught for different age groups/key stages and why?
  • Thinking about relationships and sex education in secondary schools, what do you believe are the three most important subject areas that should be taught for different age groups/key stages and why?

A list of proposed topics for relationships education is set out on page 9 of the Government's consultation document.


Our polling of the UK population on relationships education in primary schools showed widespread support for a range of topics to be covered: 86 per cent supported family relationships being taught, and 89 percent agreed that friendships needed covering too.


However, if you have concerns about the age-appropriateness of education in primary schools, you may also want to indicate what you
don't think should be taught in primary relationships education.

  • Are there important aspects of ensuring safe online relationships that would not otherwise be covered in wider relationships education and relationships and sex education, or as part of the computing curriculum?

Again, 93 per cent of respondents to our polling highlighted the importance of staying safe online, and said that it should be covered in relationships education. 94 per cent supported teaching on unsafe contact with strangers, including online.

  • How should schools effectively consult parents so they can make informed decisions that meet the needs of their child, including on the right to withdraw? For example, how often, on what issues and by what means?

Parents currently have a right to withdraw their children from sex education, which is an important recognition of parental involvement and responsibility. However, they will not have the right to withdraw from relationships education in primary schools. Because of this, it is even more important for the Government to work with parents on relationships education to allay their concerns.

There a number of practical ways they can do this. For example, they can give access to course content ahead of time, and notify them when external organisations are involved in the delivery of such courses. In our polling, a clear majority back both proposals for relationships education in primary schools.

If you have specific experiences of schools engaging with parents - either well or badly - on their decisions, these will be particularly valuable to the Government as they consider the best approach.

  • Thinking about PSHE in primary schools, what do you believe are the three most important subject areas that should be taught and why?
  • Thinking about PSHE in secondary schools, what do you believe are the three most important subject areas that should be taught and why?

PSHE is much broader than sex and relationships, covering for example physical health and the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction. In addition to these topics, the Government will need to consider newer dangers to children as they grow up. These include internet and gaming addictions.

The Government is also considering making this subject compulsory, alongside relationships education. While teaching on the dangers of addiction is welcome, compulsory PSHE may encourage parents to see such education as the school's responsibility, when in fact this teaching can only supplement the example children are provided at home.

  • How much flexibility do you think schools should have to meet the needs of individual pupils and to reflect the diversity of local communities and wider society in the content of PSHE lessons in schools?

We believe that such flexibility is a vital recognition of the diversity of views on such issues in modern Britain. As noted above, a clear majority agree that schools must respect such diversity in the delivery of this education. It is therefore local schools and teachers who are often best-placed to make such decisions, and as such they should have maximum flexibility to decide how to deliver such material in consultation with parents.

This consultation has now closed, and the Government will respond in due course. Our Public Policy team responded on behalf of the Alliance, and we will keep you updated on what happens next. 

This consultation has now closed, and the Government will respond in due course. Our public policy team responded on behalf of the Alliance, and we will keep you updated on what happens next.