A Parent’s Guide to Relationship and Sex Education (RSE)
In September 2020 Relationship Education (RelEd) will become statutory in primary schools and Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) will become statutory in secondary schools.
Parents are the primary educators of their children, and they should feel at ease to:
- Approach schools to ask questions about what is currently taught.
- Ask what will be taught after September 2020
- Encourage schools to work with parents to meet the needs of their children.
The Changes to Sex and Relationship Education in Primary schools from September 2020:
- Relationships Education (RelEd) will be made a statutory subject in all primary schools.
- Parents will not be allowed to withdraw from Relationships Education.
- If a school decides to teach Sex Education lessons parents will have the right to withdraw from Sex Education
The Changes to Sex and Relationship Education in Secondary schools from September 2020:
- Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) will be made a statutory subject in all secondary schools
- Parents will be not be allowed to withdraw from the Relationships Education lessons.
- They will be allowed to withdraw from the Sex Education lessons. In order to withdraw, parents will need to make a request to the head teacher.
- If the request is approved the child will be withdrawn until three school terms before his/her sixteenth birthday.
Why Parents are concerned
Naturally, parents have many questions about the lack of clarity in the guidance, specifically about:
- What safeguards prevent a primary school from introducing sex education topics into Relationships Education classes? This is important as this prevents parents from withdrawing from sex education.
- If a school does so, who can parents raise concerns with?
RSE consists of two subjects
The sex education aspect, from which parents can withdraw and the relationships education part, from which parents cannot withdraw. The line between the two is blurred. So secondary schools will effectively have to decide what the two subjects contain and there will be curriculum differences between schools. Hence, parents in one school will be allowed to withdraw from one topic area, whilst parents in a school down the road will not be able to withdraw.
Parents can make a request to the headteacher who can either approve or reject the request. The government has said the head teacher will approve requests in the majority of cases but have not defined the exceptional reasons why a head teacher can reject a request. Neither has the government explained what a parent who has been refused the request to withdraw can do to appeal this decision. The government has not taken responsibility to deal with these contentious issues. Rather it has given schools the challenging responsibility to fill in the blanks regarding parental concerns.
The government has placed a responsibility on schools to consult and work with parents without defining the process or setting any basic standards for consultation. So, these concerns need to be dealt with by the governing body of a school in its policy. In a future post I will look at how parents can constructively take part in consultations.
This article is an abridged version of advice from Yusuf Patel, the founder of SREIslamic. He was the sole representative of the Muslim community to give evidence at the Education Committee’s inquiry into SRE in 2014. For further advice on this subject visit www.sreislamic.org
Based on the conversations I have had with mothers I genuinely believe many Muslim parents find the topic of sex education challenging. So I will be producing further articles and podcast episodes : this is just the introduction on this topic. Inshallah, if you have any questions, RSE resources or practical advice that you would like to share please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org