Despite controversy surrounding some elements of the curriculum subjects, all schools now face the real task of implementing the new subjects by September 2020.
This may seem a long way off, but parental consultation is a requirement under the new guidance and schools are advised to be proactive and start planning now.
Teaching about relationships is nothing new for independent schools. Relationships education and RSE is already likely to be covered through PSHE education, an established curriculum subject for independent schools, and through the requirement to promote the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils. Independent schools will now benefit from using the new statutory guidance as a resource as the previous guidance Sex and Relationships Education (2000) was not mandatory for independent schools and, being 20 years old, is now very dated.
In this article, we briefly summarise the new guidance and focus on what schools need to focus on next.
The Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education (England) Regulations 2019 made under section 34 of the Children and Social Work Act 2017, come into force on 1 September 2020, making relationships education and RSE compulsory subjects from that date. The statutory guidance Relationships education, relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education made under the regulations was published on 25 June 2019 and all schools in England must have regard to the relationships education and/or RSE advice within it. Independent schools are not required to have regard to the guidance on health education, but may find it a useful resource for teaching PSHE.
The relationships education and RSE guidance has been drafted so schools have some flexibility in how to develop their planned programme. These subjects should be properly integrated within a broad and balanced curriculum, after completing a parental consultation process.
Key aspects of these subjects are in scope for inspection, for example, through inspectors' consideration of pupils' personal development behaviour and welfare; and pupils' spiritual, moral and cultural development.
Before September 2020 schools will need to:
Schools are required to consult with parents, listen to their views and then make a reasonable decision as to how to proceed. Ultimately schools, and not parents, determine the curriculum content. Consultation does not provide a parental veto on curriculum content or delivery, but sufficient time should be allowed to give a real sense that stakeholder views have been listened to, before decisions are made and policies are formulated.
In a recent updated FAQ document relating to RSE, the DfE has suggested parents contact schools directly if they wish to have more information about RSE, giving schools all the more reason to be prepared and for staff to know how to respond.
It may also be helpful to appoint an appropriate member of staff with specific responsibility for implementing this curriculum development to help keep the process on track.
Policy content should comply with the guidance and, while it should be tailored to the local community, should include definitions, subject content, information about parents' right to withdraw and details of review dates of the policy.
There are different requirements for schools to meet depending on whether pupils are of primary or secondary age and the guidance applies to Key Stages 1-4. Schools whose student body comprise both secondary and primary age children should give consideration as to how the policy is set out and operates, particularly where a preparatory school may straddle primary and secondary age phases. Possible approaches include a whole school policy and a separate primary age and secondary age policy.
We have produced template relationships education and RSE policies which we or schools can then adapt for their own setting. This includes a suggested approach to parent consultation, giving busy leadership teams a clear project plan and ready to use timescales. We can also assist by looking at proposed consultation processes and documents, including responses to parents, if required.
Schools which subscribe to our Compliance Toolkit will have received regular updates regarding the introduction of the new guidance. Updates will be provided as matters develop over the next year.