Science GCSE

Science GCSE leaves learning about sexual health too late

Media release: 10 April 2014

The Sex Education Forum today welcomes the sexual health content in the new GCSE science which contains details on subjects which are vital learning for every young person including: hormones, contraception, fertility, HIV and AIDS and other STIs.

However, the Sex Education Forum warns that learning about sexual health must not be left until GCSE studies begin; having sex and relationships education (SRE) lessons in every year of school helps children build up a safe and shared language to talk about their bodies, relationships and sexual health. 

Young people are telling us very clearly that the SRE they get at school is often taught too late. The Sex Education Forum carried out a survey of over 1000 young people and over half selected 11-13 as the best age to start teaching about contraception, HIV and AIDS and sexually transmitted infections.

There is clear evidence that SRE supports positive health outcomes if it starts early and this evidence is quoted in the Government’s own ‘Framework for Sexual Health Improvement’.

The Chair of the Sex Education Forum, Jane Lees said:

“The foundations for learning about sexual health begin in primary school with learning about our bodies, puberty and how to get help and advice with health. This needs to be followed up at the start of secondary school by teaching about how the human body works, especially hormones, fertility, contraception and STIs. Introducing hormones, contraception and STIs as part of GCSE studies is too late and does not constitute good quality SRE. It must be a continuous process of learning suited to the maturity and understanding of children and young people and informed by evidence”. 

“We urge schools to follow best practice and teach about sexual health well before GCSE. All schools should have a planned programme of SRE that is timely, relevant and sufficiently detailed to meet children and young people’s needs”.


For more information please contact the National Children's Bureau's media office on 0207 843 6045 / 47 or email For urgent enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.


Further resources 

Supplementary Advice 
Brook, the PSHE Association and the Sex Education Forum collaborated on the production of Supplementary Advice (28 February 2014) to complement the Government's statutory guidance on SRE, and to support teachers in improving the delivery of the topic in schools. Download SRE for the 21st Century - Supplementary Advice for schools .

Sex education in science briefing
A detailed briefing setting out the sex education content in the new National Curriculum and the new science GCSE is available for network+ and core members of the Sex Education Forum.