Unions back fact based RSE

Education Unions back fact-based relationships and sex education


Teaching unions have sent a clear message that when relationships and sex education (RSE) becomes a statutory part of all schools’ teaching in 2019, it must be based on facts rather than opinions, delivered by properly trained staff and meet the needs of all pupils.
The unions, including the National Education Union, NAHT, Voice and others, have endorsed a set of 12 guiding principles created by the Sex Education Forum to guide teachers and policymakers as the Government consultation on RSE nears its end.

The principles require that RSE gives a positive view of human sexuality, delivered by properly trained staff, working in partnership with parents. The subject must present reliable, medically-correct information relevant to all pupils, including those with disabilities, special educational needs and must foster LGBT+ equality and gender equality.

Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum said:

‘We only have a relatively short time to prepare for statutory RSE. These principles are based on research evidence and explain clearly what schools need to do to offer high-quality RSE.

‘We hope that Government pays careful attention to the evidence as it considers what schools will be required to teach. Learning about a wide range of topics, from puberty to consent, is something that every child is entitled to, and the new guidance is an opportunity to spell this out.’

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union said:

‘High quality, inclusive RSE is an essential safeguarding tool that can help students stay safe. RSE can only be effective if the content is reflective of and relevant to all students. For it to be high quality it must be LGBT+ inclusive, accessible to all learners and respond to students’ needs.

‘Education professionals must feel confident and equipped to deliver the curriculum. Statutory guidance must be accompanied by a comprehensive and well-funded package of support for schools. This includes ensuring staff have access to the relevant professional development as well as a range of high quality resources. Crucially, RSE must be given space in the curriculum and must not be crowded out by a testing and target culture driven by the high stakes accountability system. The Government must work closely with the profession to seriously address these concerns if the RSE reform is to be a success.’

Deborah Lawson, General Secretary of Voice, said:

‘We welcome the 12 Principles for bringing relevance, clarity and value to RSE.

‘Education should prepare children for adult life, and RSE is a fundamental part of a healthy journey to becoming an adult.

‘High-profile issues such as mental health, body image and identity are all interconnected. Much of the associated uncertainty and angst happens in adolescence, or even before, and many life choices are made during this period of development. Sound RSE should support young people with the process of making those choices.

‘These Principles place RSE in the wider context of children’s spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development.’

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said:

‘It’s so important for all pupils in all schools to be taught about appropriate relationships and for that teaching to be effective. So we endorse this set of 12 principles as they provide a clear aspiration for schools and government on what makes high quality RSE. Schools will need support to achieve these. The government must be prepared to invest in what is needed for the potentially positive impact of RSE to be a reality for pupils. Funding must be made available for training and quality assured resources to support teaching and learning must be made accessible and available to all schools.’


The principles of good quality RSE are that it:

1. Is an identifiable part of a PSHE education curriculum, with planned, timetabled lessons across all the Key Stages
2. Is taught by staff regularly trained in RSE and PSHE (with expert visitors where appropriate)
3. Works in partnership with parents and carers, informing them about what their children will be learning and how they can contribute at home
4. Delivers lessons where pupils feel safe, using a variety of teaching approaches to enable them to take part
5. Is based on reliable sources of information, including about the law and legal rights, distinguishing between fact and opinion
6. Promotes safe, equal, caring and enjoyable relationships and discusses real age-appropriate issues such as friendships, families, consent, relationship abuse, sexual exploitation and safe relationships online
7. Gives a positive view of human sexuality, with honest and medically accurate information, so that pupils can learn about their bodies and sexual and reproductive health in ways that are appropriate to their age and maturity
8. Gives pupils opportunities to reflect on values and influences that may shape their attitudes to relationships and sex, nurturing respect for different views
9. Includes learning about how to get help, treatment and information from a range of reliable sources
10. Fosters gender equality and LGBT+ equality and challenges all forms of discrimination in lessons and in every-day school life
11. Meets the needs of all pupils with their diverse experiences - including those with special educational needs and disabilities
12. Seeks pupils’ views about RSE so that teaching can be made relevant to their real lives and assessed and adapted as their needs change

Further details, including posters for schools and other supporters of the principles, are available here


Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Media Officer Richard Newson rnewson@ncb.org.uk / 0207 843 6047 at the National Children's Bureau or email media@ncb.org.uk.

About the Sex Education Forum

The Sex Education Forum, based at the National Children’s Bureau, is the national authority on relationships and sex education (RSE). We believe that good quality RSE is an entitlement for all children and young people and we are working with our core members, who all support statutory RSE and include local authorities, children’s, religious, health and family organisations, to achieve this. The Sex Education Forum is based at the National Children’s Bureau (NCB). For further information visit: www.sexeducationforum.org.uk

About the National Children’s Bureau

The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) is a leading children’s charity working to build a better childhood for every child. We champion children’s right to be safe, secure and supported, by using evidence and our expert knowledge to influence government policy, and help practitioners to do the best job possible, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children and young people.
For more information visit www.ncb.org.uk

About the Government ‘call for evidence’ on RSE

The Department for Education is considering how to update the existing Sex and Relationship guidance which, was last updated in 2000, and is therefore now out of date. The updated guidance will support schools in delivering the new subjects of Relationships Education at primary and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) at secondary, as well as, potentially, Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE). https://consult.education.gov.uk/life-skills/pshe-rse-call-for-evidence/