Section 34 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 provides for RSE to be taught in all schools in England (Long, 2017).
“What is ‘RSE’?” I hear you ask. “Relationships and sex education (RSE) is learning about the emotional, social and physical aspects of growing up, relationships, sex, human sexuality and sexual health. It should equip children and young people with the information, skills and positive values to have safe, fulfilling relationships, to enjoy their sexuality and to take responsibility for their sexual health and well-being” (DfE, 2017).
Both young people themselves and parents are calling for a consistent approach on RSE. A survey of 16- to 24-year-olds carried out by the Terence Higgins Trust in July 2016 showed that 99% of young people thought RSE should be mandatory in all schools; and 1 in 7 had not received this education.
Currently, Parents are free to withdraw their children from RSE if they wish to do so. The only exceptions to this are the biological aspects of human growth and reproduction that are essential elements of National Curriculum in science. However, Justine Greening and the Children and Social Work Act 2017 called for statutory RSE.
The Children and Social Work Act 2017, new legislation on relationships and sex education in schools, will begin in September 2019, with the proposal of:
• All primary schools in England teaching ‘Relationships Education’
• All secondary schools teaching ‘Relationships and Sex Education’
• Reformed statutory guidance, following consultation
• Retaining the parental right of withdrawal from sex education
• Flexibility for schools in their approach, including for faith schools to teach within the
tenets of their faith
However, debates are rising about where young people should be taught Relationship and Sex Education (TCI, 2018). There are concerns that children and young people will be confused by the topics they are taught, or they will be taught ‘too much, too young’. Whereas, in reality, young people are already exposed to an array of things relating to sex and relationships.
Education Secretary Justine Greening said:
“RSE and PSHE teach children and young people how to stay safe and healthy, and how to negotiate some of the personal and social challenges they will face growing up and as adults. These subjects form part of the building blocks young people need to thrive in modern Britain. At the moment, too many young people feel they don’t have the RSE they need to stay safe and navigate becoming an adult.” (DfE, 2017).
God is the maker of relationships and has created us as humans to be in relationship with each other. In light of the new legislation, it is crucial for Christians to be the presence teaching about what a healthy relationship looks like, and how sex fit in. Rather that removing young people from lessons and sheltering them from ‘the talk’, it is healthy to facilitate an ongoing conversation about relationships and sex. Creating a safe environment in schools and classrooms for this to happen.