• Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationships Education (SRE)

    21 March 2017

    Dear Constituent

    Thank you for contacting me about personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), and relationships education and relationships and sex education (RSE) being included in the Children and Social Work Bill.

    I know that the Secretary of State is personally committed to ensuring that progress in improving the availability and quality of PSHE and RSE is made a priority, to equip all young people with a curriculum that equips them for success in adult life. The Government has introduced new clauses to the Children and Social Work Bill at Committee Stage which would require regulations to be made to require all secondary schools in England to teach relationships and sex education (RSE) and would introduce a new subject, 'relationships education' to be taught in all primary schools.

    The Department for Education intends to engage with key groups to develop age-appropriate subject content that includes teaching on mental wellbeing, consent, resilience and keeping safe online. The clauses would continue to allow parents a right to withdraw their children from sex education and schools would be required to publish a clear statement of their policy and teaching content to ensure parents are engaged in the teaching throughout.

    It is important to make sure that our young people have the right information and right advice, and that what we teach them is fit for the world that children live in today. Starting at an early age so that children can understand relationships with one another, is sensible. However, the Government is not proposing that sex education be compulsory in primary schools beyond what is already covered in the science curriculum. I also agree teaching must remain age-appropriate. The clauses emphasise that relationships education content should remain appropriate and the Department for Education intends to work with key groups to develop age-appropriate subject content.

    I appreciate that there are concerns from religious organisations about their right to maintain their own beliefs in religious schools. In fact, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 includes measures to protect and promote religious freedom by enabling religious organisations to act in line with their doctrines and beliefs. As with any other issue, teachers are entitled to express their own faith or beliefs as long as they do so in a sensitive, balanced and professional way. Teachers in religious schools already do this on a range of issues such as divorce and contraception. I am encouraged that the Department for Education has been clear that schools will have flexibility over how they deliver these subjects so they can develop an approach that meets the needs of their local community and, in the case of faith schools, in accordance with their faith.

    I know that the new measures allow parents to retain the right to withdraw their child from sex education within RSE in secondary schools (other than sex education in the National Curriculum as part of science) and relationships education at primary level will not go beyond what is already compulsory as part of the science curriculum. The Secretary of State has agreed to consult further in order to clarify the age at which a young person may have the right to make their own decisions.

    I will follow this matter with great interest as the Children and Social Work Bill progresses through Parliament.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

    Yours sincerely

    Mel Stride

    MP for Central Devon

    Comptroller of the Household and Government Pairing Whip