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Since September 2020, all primary schools are required to teach relationships education and all secondary schools must teach relationships and sex education (RSE).  This applies to all schools in England, including independent schools.

This page provides an overview of the rules.

Can parents withdraw their children from sex education?

Parents have the right to request that their child be withdrawn from some or all of sex education delivered as part of statutory RSE. The guidance states that, except in exceptional circumstances, the school should respect the parents’ request to withdraw their child up to three terms before the child turns 16. After that point, if the child wishes to receive sex education, the school should arrange to provide the child with sex education during one of those terms.

Can parents withdraw their children from relationships education?

Relationships education is compulsory in all schools in England.

Are children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) required to attend RSE classes?

Children with SEN are required to attend in the same way as other pupils. Relationships education and RSE must be accessible for all pupils, and there may be a need to tailor content and teaching to meet the specific needs of pupils in special schools and for some SEN pupils in mainstream schools.

Children with SEN may be withdrawn from sex education classes after a parental request in the same way as other children.

Schools should ensure that their teaching is sensitive, age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate and delivered with reference to the law.

Are children taught sex education in primary school?

Sex education is not compulsory in primary schools. However, the  Department for Education does recommend in the guidance that each primary school offers age-appropriate sex education.

Are faith schools exempt from teaching RSE?

No. Guidance states that in all schools, the religious background of all pupils must be taken into account so that the topics covered in RSE classes are appropriately handled. Schools must ensure they comply with the relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010, under which religion or belief are protected characteristics.

Does LGBT-related content have to be taught at both primary and secondary level?

The Department for Education expects all schools to teach LGBT content at “a timely point”. Secondary schools are expected to include LGBT relationships in their teaching. It is not compulsory at primary level, although the Government “strongly encourages” primary schools to discuss families with same-sex parents when teaching about different types of family.

Schools should ensure that all their teaching is sensitive and age appropriate in approach and content. When teaching LGBT content, schools should ensure that this content is fully integrated into a programme of study rather than delivered as a stand-alone unit or lesson.

Who is responsible for teaching materials?

The Department for Education provides a list of suggested teaching resources in its guidance on relationships, sex, and health education, which are available free-of-charge in Annex B of its guidance (PDF).

Schools should assess each resource that they propose to use. They should ensure that it is appropriate for the age and maturity of pupils and sensitive to their needs.

The Department for Education has made clear that parents should be able to view all curriculum materials.

Further information


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