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Response to the Department for Education consultation on the changes to the teaching of Sex & Relationship Education and PSHE

Parent Zone welcomed the government’s consultation considering the update of the existing Sex and Relationship guidance, published in 2000, as an important opportunity to bring education and its legislation in line children’s lived experiences in the digital age, to keep them safer both on and offline. The proposed changes include a requirement that all primary schools teach relationships education and all secondary schools to teach relationships and sex education. Parents retain a right to withdraw their children from sex education at the secondary level, but not from relationships education at primary.

When looking at the proposal, we were disappointed that sex education has been excluded from the primary years and that parents continue to have a right to withdraw at the secondary level. We have no wish to undermine the rights of parents; but the right to withdraw is not aligned with the biggest area of concern for the parents we speak to, which is a lack of information and confidence about talking to their own children about online risk. We, therefore, recommended that:

  1. Sex education should be compulsory in both primary and secondary schools to protect the best interests of the child;
  2. The parental right to withdraw should be replaced with increased resources for schools to ensure parents have the knowledge and confidence to understand the complex link between sex, relationships, the online world, and the positive role digital resilience can play within this;
  3. If there is to remain a parental right to withdraw, sex education should still be compulsory in primary and secondary and the right should be hedged with certain legal requirements which would support parents to understand and be confident in why their child is being taught sex education from an early age.

To read the full response click the attachment below.