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Relationships and sex education

Relationships and sex education (in Solihull we refer to RSE as opposed to SRE in order to reflect that learning about relationships begins from the moment children are born) provides planned opportunities for learning about the emotional, social and physical aspects of growing up, relationships, sex, human sexuality and sexual health. Some aspects are taught in science and have been statutory for many years, whilst others are taught as part of relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) becoming statutory from Sept 2020. Schools may identify a need to teach other aspects within personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education.

New requirements

From September 2020, Relationships Education will be compulsory in all primary schools in England and Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in all secondary schools, as well as Health Education being compulsory in all state-funded schools.

Information on what schools must do and the legal duties with which schools must comply when teaching Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education can be found here.

Changes to Legislation:

The Children and Social Work Act 2017 enshrines ‘relationships education’ for primary schools and ‘relationships and sex education’ for secondary schools in law. This will also apply to academies and independent schools. Further details are contained within this DfE policy statement. Schools will be expected to deliver these changes from 2019/20. For additional information around the timeline for developments and links to statements from the Catholic Education Service and Church of England’s Lead Bishop on Education, please see the Sex Ed Forum website.

The Sex Education Forum and PSHE Association have launched their joint roadmap to statutory RSE, with support from five education unions.

The roadmap is freely available to all schools and outlines 10 essential steps that schools need to take ahead of September 2020, when Relationships and Sex Education becomes statutory in all schools (or Relationships Education in all primaries) alongside Health Education. The roadmap provides practical tools and advice for schools on everything from policies to resources.

The NAHT have produced a briefing update on how schools should manage any perceived conflict between the Equality Act and the forthcoming statutory requirements of Relationships Education, particularly within primary schools.

Policy Support and Guidance

The Sex Education Forum have a useful ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page within which guidance and signposting are given that will provide support in understanding what is required within a RSE policy. The DfE RSE guidance outlines the information required within schools’ policies. Schools using Jigsaw PSHE can go to the community area of the website for support and guidance.

The framework and action plan shared by the Cornwall Healthy Schools Team is a good starting point for policy review and development.

There are many types of resources that can be selected to support work around sex and relationships education. When choosing which resources to purchase and use schools may find the following list of criteria helpful:

  • Is the resource consistent with the school’s moral and values framework for RSE?
  • Is it consistent with the school’s values, ethos and policies?
  • Is it inclusive of all pupils?
  • Does it encourage active and participatory learning on the part of the pupils?
  • Are the resources of a high quality?
  • Is the literacy level appropriate for the children?
  • Do the resources promote particular products or viewpoints – is this ethical or appropriate?
  • Does the resource cover the issues and topics that need to be addressed?
  • Is the resource appropriate for the age and development of the pupils?
  • Does the resource promote positive images and challenge stereotypes?
  • Can the materials be adapted for pupils in the school?
  • Will staff feel able to use the resource confidently and effectively? Are there training implications?
  • Is the information given accurate, balanced and up to date?

The following links may be useful when selecting appropriate resources:

Sex Education Forum (link opens in a new tab or page) resource lists (primary and secondary)

EYFS/Key Stages 1 & 2 Relationships and Sex Education Resources

Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 Relationships and Sex Education Resources

Supporting parents

Sensitive issues

By its very nature, relationships and sex education may well give rise to issues that some may consider being sensitive or controversial.  When teaching about any sensitive issue, it is important to understand the prior learning pupils are bringing to the classroom. Techniques such as draw and write or ‘first thoughts’ activities can be used to give an insight into pupils’ knowledge, attitudes and possible misconceptions.  Ground rules, negotiated between teachers and students, should be used when dealing with sensitive/controversial issues thus creating a safe and supportive climate for discussion

Questions may arise at any time so all staff need to be equipped with strategies to enable them to respond appropriately. Direct answers are not always necessary and responses should be in keeping with the school’s moral and values framework whilst taking into consideration the age, maturity of the child and the context of the question. It may be more appropriate to answer some questions on a one to one basis rather than with the whole class.

The attachments and links below provide further resources and information which may be of use when teaching about a range of potentially sensitive issues including:

Pornography and the sharing of sexual imagery (‘sexting’)

Teenage Partner/domestic abuse

Female genital mutilation

Sexuality and gender expression 



Body Image

Sexual harassment

Training opportunities

NEW Tudor Grange Teaching School will be offering free support and training for schools with primary and secondary age pupils from the autumn term 2020 when statutory requirements around relationships, sex and health education come into force.

  • To find out more and register your interest, please got to their website.

Brook and The Open University have teamed up to provide e-learning based on a research project called ‘Enduring Love?’ The e-learning will guide you through a number of topics including secrets to a lasting relationship, sex and intimacy, sex and romance, with the use of engaging activities and high-quality downloadable resources. Each module has a ‘teach it’ section which explains what can be taught in a 15 or 30 minute session on that subject.