SRE gets attention in new National Curriculum

Sex and relationships education gets attention in the new National Curriculum

Media release - 10 July 2013

After months of campaigning, the Sex Education Forum - hosted by leading children's charity the National Children's Bureau - is celebrating a victory with puberty clearly included in the primary science curriculum published by the Government. However, there is no further clarification about teaching children the correct names for sexual parts of the body, so the latest version of the National Curriculum is a mixed picture.

Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum said:

"Including puberty in Year 5 means that children have a better chance of learning about changes to their bodies before they experience them: this is a real step forward. We are also really pleased that the new National Curriculum documents explain that 'sex andrelationshipeducation' is a requirement for all state secondary schools.  The addition of relationships is crucial, as it indicates a widening of the subject beyond biological matters to cover other important issues such as consent, appropriate behaviour and dealing with emotions.

"National Curriculum science remains the only compulsory sex education teaching for primary schools so failing to teach the correct names for sexual parts of the bodyis a safeguarding issue because it leaves children without the words to describe their bodies.There is also no unequivocal statement that pupils should learn about human conception and birth before the end of year 6 when they transfer to secondary school".

"A further disappointment is the removal of sexual health and adolescence from Key Stage 3, and the advice that learning about the structure and function of the male and female reproductive system and menstrual cycle should be 'without details of hormones'. This makes it impossible to explain the science behindcontraception andfertility. It is also worrying that secondary schools have a separate legal obligation to teach about STIs and HIV, but there is no link with the content of science now that sexual health has been removed."

"The overall picture is muddling and will leave teachers wary of what questions they can and can't answer. We will therefore continue to campaign for a coherent curriculum that includes the essential underpinning scientific information about the body, puberty, human reproduction, fertility and sexual health."




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.


Notes to editors 

The National Curriculum changes in brief:

  • The new National Curriculum document refers to sex and relationships education (rather than sex education) as being a requirement for all state secondary schools.
  • Puberty is now included in science for Year 5, a reference which wasn't included previously.
  • No requirement that primary children should learn the proper names of external genitalia.
  •  The unhelpful note stating that pupils should not be expected to understand 'how reproduction occurs' is still included in Year 2.
  • Sexual health, adolescence and contraception remain absent from Key Stage 3.
  • Schools are advised to teach about the menstrual cycle to 11-13 year olds 'without details of hormones'

The Department for Education have published (8 July 2013) a final draft of the new National Curriculum. The document is open for consultation until 8 August 2013.