New Sex Education Policy - What will this mean for our schools?

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Sam Cooke said it best – “It’s been a long time comin’ but a change gon’ come”. And we’re starting to see years of shouting, doing, whispering, campaigning, and complaining start to bear fruit. On the 1st of March this year the UK government released a statement confirming its intent to make age appropriate 21st century RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) compulsory in all schools by 2019. Hoorah! Beyond the Classroom and our peers such as Brook and the PSHE Association have been partying ever since. But hold off on the cocktails guys, because there is plenty of work still to be done!

Compulsory RSE is just one of the changes to Education in the UK that Beyond the Classroom have been harping on about since our inception in 2011. Not only do we design and deliver excellent provision in this space, we also share our findings in local and national consultations. In 2014 when Harriet Harman led a policy review of young people and the arts, we spoke about our use of the performing arts and peer mentoring as effective tools in developing young people’s wellbeing and life-skills.  Ofsted Agree that when it comes to Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) in our schools it simply isn’t good enough and the situation is getting worse over time!

In 2015 when the Cross Party Education Select Committee led a review of Sex Education, we called for a greater emphasis on relationships, self-esteem and wellbeing with regards to Sex Education. Current guidance takes a very scientific approach - When it comes to intimate relationships we know that young people need much more than just condoms to make healthy decisions! So we welcome the rebranding of the subject from Sex and relationship education (SRE), to Relationships and Sex Education (RSE). We need the small changes to make the big ones happen too!  

It may surprise you to learn that the official guidance on Sex education or as it is now known, RSE, has not been updated since the turn of the millennium. RSE is not currently a compulsory subject in all schools and the last Government guidance on RSE was published in the year 2000. This was before the impact of:

  • Wikipedia,
  • I-phone,
  • Twitter,
  • Instagram,
  • Facebook,
  • Snapchat,
  • WhatsApp,
  • Porn addiction,
  • A youth mental health crisis,
  • Kim Kardashian (we needed a little humour after that list)
  • And only 2 years after Google was founded in 1998.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. The UK’s official guidance on RSE and PSHE are quite simply… out-dated.

We are ecstatic that the Government seem to be taking this subject seriously, lots of very complex discussions are going through parliament at the moment and we’re keeping a keen eye on these. But when we speak to our school partners a lot remains unclear – not least where the time and resource to implement these changes will come from. Schools are overstretched - The teacher responsible for PSHE is probably the same person teaching 5 lessons a day, addressing critical safeguarding issues, sourcing 100 work experience placements, liaising with parents and litter picking on occasion. Where will the additional time and resource come from? This year’s announcement is an exciting one, it indicates great promise and we like that! But it’s probably not time to hit the pub just yet.  I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings but we will all need to remain sober for just a little while longer, if we are to truly revolutionise the education system.