NAHT has submitted its response to the consultation on the draft regulations and statutory guidance for relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education.
NAHT believes it is vital that all children are able to learn about themselves, their physical and mental health, their relationships, and how to keep themselves safe, in an age appropriate way. We think the new guidance is a positive step forward but there are areas where it can and should be improved.
School leaders and teachers will want to be confident in the curriculum and know they have the right resources and skills to teach these subjects well. We have made it clear to the government that these reforms must be fully funded so that schools can access the necessary training and resources well before they have to start teaching it.
Below is a summary of some of the key points raised in our response to the consultation:
Knowledge and skills
There are a wide range of skills which pupils need to develop to have positive relationships. The aim of relationships education and RSE, as well as equipping pupils with sufficient knowledge, must be for pupils to develop vital transferable skills and attributes which they can use in any situation in which they find themselves. NAHT believes that this principle should be explicitly stated within the guidance for relationships education and RSE.
Withdrawing from sex education
One key concern for school leaders of secondary schools is what constitutes "sex education" in the proposed content for RSE. Although it is not possible to separate content related to sex and content related to relationships (they are inter-related and any division would be artificial) this could cause problems for school leaders dealing with parental requests to excuse their children from sex education. NAHT believes that more detailed practical advice and guidance to support schools in dealing with requests for excusal, separate from this statutory guidance, would be beneficial.
Given the decision not to make economic education statutory, NAHT believes that it is important that there is recognition within the content that a person's financial life can impact upon their health and well-being and the potential for being influenced and drawn into an unhealthy relationship due to financial dynamics. NAHT believes that the guidance should be amended to include this outcome for pupils.
Inclusion and SEND
It is of vital importance that we must ensure inclusion of all pupils, no matter what their stage of development or special educational need. A child's stage of development may take precedence over their chronological age when schools make decisions about lesson content and NAHT is pleased that this point has been made explicit in paragraph 32 of the guidance.
NAHT is concerned that the principles and content of Health Education are not mandatory for independent schools. NAHT is concerned that pupils in independent schools may be disadvantaged in that they are not taught the vital content included in the statutory guidance.
Paragraph 33 suggests LGBT issues should be 'integral throughout the programmes of study'. This is absolutely vital, but this paragraph needs strengthening as currently it is only 'recommended' by the Department. NAHT believes that schools must ensure teaching is LGBT-inclusive and we would welcome rewording to this effect.
NAHT is confused by the repeated mentions of "virtues" as these have never featured in the research evidence on effective RSE. There are passages within the guidance which make direct or implied reference to the virtue of self-sacrifice or stating that someone in a position of authority ought to be afforded unconditional special status. These notions have the potential for harmful reconceptualising within a relationship and should be removed so that this language does not find its way into teaching about positive or healthy relationships.
It is vital that schools know where to go to find reliable and up-to-date resources for teaching and learning in these subjects. We would not expect the Department to create and regularly review and update such resources, but they should commission additional resources if these are found necessary. An exercise must be carried out whereby the proposed content for these subjects is mapped against currently available high-quality teaching and learning resources to identify where the gaps are.
You can read our full response to the consultation below.
First published 26 November 2018