Press statement 5th June 2020
An intrinsic element of the process of bringing Relationships Education into primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) into secondary schools is parental engagement. Most schools would have been following the parental engagement process this term prior to the compulsory start of Relationships Education and RSE teaching from September 2020.
Due to school closures this term it has been difficult for schools to conduct this statutory process. The Department of Education has now informed The Values Foundation that all schools can “have flexibility over how they discharge their duty within the first year of compulsory teaching”.
Whilst RSE will still be “compulsory” from 1st September 2020, the active word is “from”. Schools can now decide on their school readiness to provide effective RSE suitable for their cohort and have until the start of the summer term 2021 to actually begin teaching RSE. This will allow enough time for schools to follow consultative procedures with parents, including engaging parents on their RSE policy as well as planning their curriculum provision and sharing resources.
The DfE is mindful of sensitivities in teaching RSE whilst also being aware of concerns raised about Ofsted inspection, particularly in this matter. The DfE reassures schools that currently Ofsted inspections are suspended and when routine inspections do re-start, inspectors will “be sensitive to, and will take account of, the context and circumstances of each school”.
Faith schools must create and publish a robust RSE Policy taking into account the school’s ethos, cohort and age appropriateness. The Statutory Guidance states that: “Schools must have regard to the guidance, and where they depart from those parts of the guidance which state that they should (or should not) do something they will need to have good reasons for doing so.” Therefore, schools can justifiably make a strong case regarding their choice of topics and teaching strategy that can match all sensitivities, as long as they fulfil their legal requirements in RSE.
Health education is also mandatory for state-funded schools; in independent schools, Health Education is taught as part of PSHE. The DfE is highlighting prioritising the support of both staff and pupil emotional and mental well-being, particularly as all school stakeholders return from a period of extended lockdown which has been stressful for all involved. It is highly recommended that all schools take advantage of the resources that will be available regarding mental wellbeing as pupils return to school.
There will now be ample opportunity for schools to go through a full process of consultation with parents.