All school children in the UK will be taught about same-sex relationships and families under new curriculum guidelines issued by the government on Monday.
The compulsory revised relationships and sex education and health education curriculum policy will be implemented in schools from September 2020.
Pupils will be taught about self-care, mental well-being and age-appropriate online safety. Primary school children, starting at the age of 5, will learn about the existence of diverse people and families, including same-sex parents.
In secondary school, this will expand into sex education, which will further include LGBT relationships and gender identity. Topics such as female genital mutilation (FGM), explicit and harmful online content, sharing private photo and the risks of alcohol and drugs will also be addressed.
Although all schools will have to teach the curriculum from 2020, schools who are ready will have the option to deliver the curriculum from September of this year. It will be left up to schools to decide exactly how they teach the new content.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said that the new guidelines, some of which have not been updated for almost two decades, aim to allow schools to reflect the realities of today’s world.
“Growing up and adolescence are hard enough, but the internet and social media add new pressures that just weren’t there even one generation ago,” explained Hinds. “So many things about the way people interact have changed, and this new world, seamless between online and offline, can be difficult to navigate. Almost twenty years on from the last time guidance on sex education was updated, there is a lot to catch up on.”
He continued: “Although sex education is only mandatory to teach at secondary, it must be grounded in a firm understanding and valuing of positive relationships, and respect for others, from primary age. In turn positive relationships are connected with good mental health, which itself is linked with physical wellbeing. So it is appropriate to make health education universal alongside relationships and sex education.”
While the response to the updated policy has generally been positive, some parents are demanding the right to opt their child out of relationships and sex education (RSE) in an online petition that has over 100,000 signatories. “We believe it is the parent’s fundamental right to teach their child RSE topics or to at least decide who teaches them and when and how they are taught,” they say.