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Changes to sex and relationships education delivered in schools and colleges to foster diversity and inclusivity

By Jennifer Wright, Public Law solicitor and Ashlee Coates, Medical Negligence solicitor at Irwin Mitchell

In September 2020, changes to Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) were introduced for schools. The Department for Education (DfE) has now made clear it expects secondary schools, state-funded or independent, to deliver teaching on LGBTQIA+ relationships, and encourages primary schools to do so.

The updated position from September 2020 is that:

  • Relationships Education is now compulsory for all pupils receiving primary education:
  • In teaching Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), schools should ensure that the needs of all pupils are appropriately met, and that all pupils understand the importance of equality and respect. Schools must comply with the relevant provisions of the Equality Act 2010, under which sexual orientation and gender affirmation are amongst the protected characteristics.
  • Primary schools are also strongly encouraged to teach about different family models,  same-sex and non-binary relationships.
  • RSE for all pupils receiving Secondary education:

There should be an equal opportunity to explore the features of stable and healthy same-sex relationships.

  • Schools should make sure their teaching is sensitive and age appropriate in approach and content. At the point at which schools consider it appropriate to teach pupils about LGBTQIA+, they should ensure this content is fully integrated into their study programmes for this area of the curriculum, not delivered as a standalone unit or lesson. Schools are free to determine how they do this, and we expect all pupils to have been taught LGBTQIA+ content at a timely point as part of this area of the curriculum.

From the summer term 2021, if a secondary school doesn’t teach about LGBTQIA+ relationships, it won’t be meeting the expectations of the DfE’s statutory guidance. Ofsted inspectors will consider this when making the ‘leadership and management’ judgement.

If an independent secondary school doesn’t teach about LGBTQIA+ relationships, it’ll fail to meet the Independent School Standards listed above. This failure means the school won’t ordinarily receive a ‘leadership and management’ judgement better than ‘Requires improvement’.

You can read the DfE guidance in full here.