The Department for Education (DfE) is introducing compulsory Relationships Education for primary pupils and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) for secondary pupils from September 2020.

Also, from the same date, it will be compulsory for all schools to teach Health Education.

With full details available at, the Department explains that “we want to support all young people to be happy, healthy and safe — we want to equip them for adult life and to make a positive contribution to society”.

In developing this curriculum, however, it has heard a number of wide-ranging concerns and has now issued a statement addressing what it calls some of the common misconceptions.

It confirms, for example, that schools will be required to consult with parents when developing and reviewing their policies for Relationships Education and RSE and that this will inform schools’ decisions on when and how certain content is covered.

“Schools will listen to parent’s views, and then make a reasonable decision as to how they wish to proceed,” the statement says. “What is taught, and how, is ultimately a decision for the school and consultation does not provide a parental veto on curriculum content.”

Schools should ensure, the Department makes clear, that, when consulting parents they should provide examples of the resources they plan to use, for example the books they will use in lessons.

The DfE makes clear that it is not introducing compulsory sex education at primary school but is introducing Relationships Education at this level, to put in place the building blocks needed for positive and safe relationships of all kinds.

Schools with a religious character can build on the core content by reflecting their beliefs in their teaching, it goes on to say.

While parents will have a right to withdraw their child from sex education delivered as part of RSE in secondary schools, the Department confirms, there is no right to withdraw from Relationships Education at primary or secondary as it believes the contents of these subjects — such as family, friendship, safety (including online safety) — are important for all children.

The statement also confirms that the aim is not to promote LGBT relationships, or indeed to promote anything — it is to educate children about the society in which they are growing up.

See for more details.

Last reviewed 8 May 2019