This week the Children and Social Work Bill received Royal Assent , meaning Government proposals to make relationships and sex education become law with the potential of similar status for PSHE education in its entirety, pending consultation. The Digital Economy Bill and the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act also received assent and various written questions on PSHE and RSE were answered by Edward Timpson and Lord Nash.
Children and Social Work Bill receives Royal Assent
On Thursday 27 April the Children and Social Work Bill received Royal Assent, becoming the Children and Social Work Act. The new Act includes legislation that makes relationships and sex education (RSE) statutory in all secondary schools, and ‘relationships education’ in all primary schools. The Act also gives the Government power to make PSHE education statutory in its entirety, pending the results of a consultation.
The Government plans to introduce statutory RSE and ‘relationships education’ – and potentially the whole of PSHE education – from September 2019 following a period of consultation. The Government is expected to launch consultations soon after the election, to determine regulations and guidance regarding RSE (and ‘relationships education’) and the status and content of PSHE education more broadly.
These historic changes follow Education Secretary Justine Greening’s announcement on 1 March setting out her intention to strengthen this area of the curriculum through the Bill, primarily with a view to keeping children and young people safe from harm.
The PSHE Association has welcomed this opportunity to make the case for broad, statutory PSHE education that not only covers RSE but issues such as alcohol and drugs, media literacy, mental health, physical health, online safety, tackling extremism and developing employability skills.
Other relevant Bills that received Royal Assent
Additionally, the Digital Economy Bill and the Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Ratification of Convention) Act received Royal Assent. In the most recent Digital Economy Bill debate Claire Perry MP welcomed proposals to strengthen the status of PSHE through the Children and Social Work Bill, saying that she was “delighted to see that the proposed changes for PSHE—personal, social and health and economic education—include conversations about how our young people can be safe digital citizens online.”
Written questions on PSHE and RSE
- Jim Shannon asked what steps the Department is taking to prevent sexting by schoolchildren and to monitor trends in the level of that activity. Edward Timpson answered that keeping children safe is part of the statutory safeguarding guidance for schools and colleges and that all schools should have a child protection policy. He also said that high quality PSHE and RSE are vital to prepare young people for life in modern Britain and that schools can tailor their programmes to include issues such as sexting.
- Rosena Allin-Khan MP asked what plans the Department for Education has to include an LGBT aspect in statutory relationships and sex education (RSE) and whether the Department has consulted LGBT young people on the new PSHE action plan. Edward Timpson answered that the Government plans to undertake a comprehensive programme of engagement with stakeholders about the future provision of RSE and that a key element of that will be gathering views and evidence to get the balance of subject content right. Young people will be included in consultation.
- Tracy Brabin MP asked what guidance has been issued to teachers and support staff who work with children with specific learning difficulties to support those children with their menstrual health. Edward Timpson answered that the Department does not issue guidance to schools on menstrual health, but that menstruation does feature in guidance on SRE and in is covered in the science curriculum.
- Lisa Nandy asked whether statutory relationships and sex education will include a requirement to teach about consent. Edward Timpson answered that “the statutory guidance must include issues relating to safety in forming and maintaining relationships and the characteristics of healthy relationships.”
- Lord Northbourne asked why the most recent Ofsted publications setting out what should be taught in PSHE and SRE makes no reference to preparing pupils for future responsibilities as parents. Lord Nash answered that it’s not Ofsted’s role to issue guidance to schools on content of any part of the curriculum, but that schools are required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum and PSHE and SRE can contribute to this. He then referred to materials developed by the PSHE Association which schools can use to support the design of their curriculum. These materials include giving people the opportunity to learn about parental responsibilities.