A roadmap to statutory RSE

Written by: Lucy Emmerson | Published:
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As secondary schools begin to think about delivering statutory RSE in September 2020, Lucy Emmerson offers a roadmap to help plan ahead

Getting ready for September 2020, when every school must be delivering a programme of relationships and sex education (RSE), can seem a daunting task – especially if it hasn’t been a priority in your school until now.

But becoming a school that does RSE well, and does it well for all pupils, is simpler than you think.

The Sex Education Forum has teamed up with the PSHE Association and a number of education unions (NAHT, ASCL, NEU, Unison and Voice), to produce a roadmap to high-quality RSE.

Based on our experience of training thousands of teachers, the roadmap breaks the journey to high-quality RSE into manageable steps. We recommend that heads and senior leaders start taking steps now because there may be timetabling and staffing implications for your school that require more substantial lead-in time. So here are the steps you should consider:

Be clear about the facts

The Department for Education’s (DfE) draft guidance on what RSE teaching should cover is set out in tables listing what pupils should know by the end of primary and secondary. The legislation also covers requirements on parental involvement, equalities and school policies. So first things first, be clear about the legislation and what it means for your school.

Allocate leadership

If you are going to be effective in changing the way your school delivers RSE, you must involve your school leadership team, as well as the RSE and PSHE subject leads. There should also be a governor overseeing the work. Decide early on who is going to lead the change, and give sufficient status to the role of RSE and PSHE lead.

Assess where you are now

Facilitate a conversation between staff about what your RSE has been like up to now. Has the subject been given the regular timetabled lessons that research shows to be effective? Have staff had the opportunity to develop their competence and knowledge? Use one of the available audit tools to benchmark where you are now.

Understand pupil needs

Ask pupils to prioritise the topics they want to learn about and when – you may be surprised! As a result there may be revisions to make to the curriculum. It is essential that the curriculum is accessible to all pupils, including those with disabilities and SEN.

Refresh policy

The guidance requires every school to have an RSE policy. Make sure the policy has real clout by adopting a whole-school approach that has strong links with the school’s ethos, other policies (such as safeguarding), and requirements under the Equalities Act.

Review and update the curriculum

An effective programme of RSE and PSHE will be presented through a spiral curriculum that comprehensively responds to pupil needs. Reflect on whether there are any gaps in your current practice and update your curriculum accordingly. Make sure your lessons reflect real-life issues and contexts, including the internet and digital technology, and provide students with a balance of skills, knowledge and personal development.

Equip your staff

Staff are vital in getting RSE right, and pretty much all school staff will have a role to play. Some of these staff will need specialist training.

Review and evaluate

As with all subjects, effective monitoring and evaluation will tell you if your teaching is hitting the mark. Think about your systems for evaluating RSE within PSHE so that you can set in motion a cycle of evaluation and improvement.


Bring the whole-school community with you as you move forward, through continuous dialogue with parents, staff, governors and pupils. The majority of parents are very supportive of school RSE and will value more rather than less information. Pupils need to know how their views have been acted on and governors will want to track progress and know that your school will be delivering high-quality RSE by September 2020.

Further information

  • The Roadmap to Statutory RSE is available from the Sex Education Forum (SEF) at http://bit.ly/2qBODSA
  • Lucy Emmerson will deliver a keynote presentation on the forthcoming changes to statutory RSE & relationships education at SecEd’s Second National Delivering Statutory RSE and Health Education Conference on November 23 in Birmingham. Visit www.statutory-rse.co.uk
  • Findings from a national survey of pupils’ experiences of RSE will be released at the SEF’s conference Countdown to Statutory RSE on November 30. Visit http://bit.ly/2JMVrp6


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