Are you planning for statutory RSE?

Written by: Lisa Hallgarten | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Now is the time for schools to start planning and preparing for statutory relationships and sex education, says Lisa Hallgarten

On the day that the Children and Social Work Act 2017 received Royal Assent sighs of relief could be heard across the land. The decades-long campaign for statutory relationships and sex education (RSE) has been characterised by near misses, and in the days following announcement of the snap General Election the Sex Education Forum (SEF) was inundated with requests from people checking whether the Act was in jeopardy.

With Royal Assent in place we are confident that there should be no obstacle to progress. The secretary of state for education, Justine Greening, demonstrated her commitment to RSE in the last Parliament. Her re-appointment as education secretary should provide the continuity needed to keep everything on track.

However, the process of drafting the new regulations and guidance for RSE was put on hold for the duration of the General Election campaign and Department for Education (DfE) now has an uphill struggle getting draft guidance out for consultation by the autumn in order to meet the September 2019 implementation deadline for schools.

Last week, the SEF and the PSHE Association wrote to Justine Greening seeking reassurance that the scope and quality of the consultation will not be compromised by this slippage and urging her to keep up the momentum so that RSE can become mandatory in September 2019.

The DfE had been planning a “deep engagement process” – consulting with schools and teachers before the summer holidays on what they need to see in the guidance. It is vital that teachers – especially PSHE leads and others with responsibility for delivering RSE – are given adequate opportunity to inform the final shape of the guidance.

Teachers are aware of the complex lives of their students and the kind of issues that urgently need to be addressed within RSE. But crucially, they also understand the demands on curriculum time in their schools, the resource constraints and the potential for resistance or reluctance among their colleagues to teaching this topic. Their perspectives are vital to ensuring the guidance is fit-for-purpose.

There will be many issues to resolve. How to strike a balance between guidance that is specific enough to provide clarity on what to teach and when – which is what teachers are calling out for – but flexible enough to accommodate the changing needs of students; between being comprehensive enough to ensure that schools can’t avoid essential information, but broad enough to allow for schools to find their own way to fit lessons into a packed timetable and deliver them in a way that works for them and their students.

In the meantime, teachers and schools are already gearing up for this change and are desperate for more information on what it will mean for them. While they wait for clarification of what the legal requirements will be for RSE we are supporting schools to set up the training, planning and processes they will need to deliver outstanding RSE.

We are urging schools not to wait until the 2019 deadline to get started. There are already many models of good practice: schools, local authorities, and voluntary sector organisations who work in partnership to deliver great RSE and PSHE.

There are also great resources for secondary, primary and special schools that we have explored and tested through our teacher training around the country. There are frameworks, toolkits and guidance to help you. Now is the time to start planning for statutory relationships and sex education.

  • Lisa Hallgarten is coordinator of the Sex Education Forum.

Further information

To join the Sex Education Forum, and get the latest information, guidance and training on relationships and sex education visit


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