The world for young people today looks very different from the way it did 20 years ago. Much of our lives are now spent online. This provides a lot of positive and exciting opportunities for young people, but also challenges and risks. Children and young people need to know how to be safe and healthy in this new environment.

It is compulsory for:

  • Primary schools to teach health and relationships education
  • Secondary schools to teach health, relationships and sex education.

Primary schools

In primary schools, relationships education will teach about positive and safe relationships.

Children will be taught what a relationship is, what friendship is, what family means, and who can support them. In an age-appropriate way, children will learn about how to treat each other with kindness, consideration and respect.

Health Education aims to give children the information they need to:

  • make good decisions about their own health and wellbeing,
  • recognise issues in themselves and others, and
  • seek support as early as possible when issues arise

Teaching about mental wellbeing is central to relationships and health education.

Sex education in Primary schools

Sex education will not be not compulsory in primary schools. However, the Department for Education recommends that each primary school offer age-appropriate sex education.

Primary schools that choose to teach sex education must allow parents the right to withdraw their children from any lessons that go beyond the national science curriculum.

Secondary schools

At secondary level, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) will build on the teaching from primary.

It aims to give young people the information they need to help them develop healthy, nurturing relationships of all kinds.

It will cover what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like and what makes a good friend, colleague and successful marriage or committed relationship.

At the appropriate time, the focus will move to developing intimate relationships, to equip young people with the knowledge they need to make safe, informed and healthy choices as they progress through adult life.

Health education in secondary schools will develop from primary level by looking in more detail at risk areas such as drugs and alcohol.

Effective RSE does not encourage early sexual experimentation. It should teach young people to understand human sexuality and to respect themselves and others. It enables young people to mature, build their confidence and self-esteem and understand the reasons for delaying sexual activity.

Effective RSE also supports people throughout life to develop safe, fulfilling and healthy sexual relationships at the appropriate time.

Teaching about mental wellbeing is central to Relationship and Sex Education.

Requirements for primary and secondary schools

Respecting backgrounds and beliefs

Schools are able to decide how to teach RSE but there are guidelines saying that it should be age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate. It must be taught sensitively and inclusively, respecting the backgrounds and beliefs of pupils and parents. At the same time, it aims to provide pupils with the knowledge they need of the law.

Relationship Education Policies

From September 2020, schools will be legally required to have their Relationship Education Policy available on their website. This will outline what that individual school will teach, when and how.

You can find a short two-page guide on GOV.UK with more information on what’s being taught in primary and secondary schools. The guides are also available in Arabic, Somali and Urdu.

Download the detailed guides about what your child should know about: