Relationships and sex education guidance recognises the online world

Peter Lillington responds to the government’s draft guidance on Health, Sex and Relationships education

The world in which children and young people are growing up has in many respects changed considerably since 2000, the last time that Health and Sex and Relationships Education guidance was updated. The government’s draft guidance, which was actually published for consultation in July 2018, was in the news media this week with tabling of amendments to legislation in parliament. It is proposed that the guidance will become compulsory from September 2020.

We are pleased to note that, as might have been expected, the changes in the world in which children are growing up are to some extent acknowledged in the new draft guidance. Media attention has focused on disagreement or controversy in some quarters around some points, but we expect schools and teachers will welcome guidance that provides clarity around teaching in a subject area that needs to be handled sensitively and for which some colleagues may feel ill equipped or insufficiently prepared.

The phrase ‘online world’ figures at several points in the document, and references are made to the online/e-safety elements of the Computing curriculum. The tables that show end of phase expectations for primary and secondary contain specific sections: ‘online relationships’, ‘online and media’, ‘internet safety and harms’. There are also links to key documents that we have highlighted over the past 12 months, notably the UKCCIS framework Education for a Connected World, and the Children’s Commissioner’s Digital 5 a day materials, as well as the UKCCIS guidance for schools on how to handle incidents of sexting.

When schools are ready to review their teaching and policy in this area we would recommend looking for opportunities to strengthen the connections between not only online safety and PSHE but also citizenship and moral and ethical behaviour.

Some schools have adopted the Rights Respecting schools framework or philosophy for children (P4C) and a wealth of other positive approaches that give an opportunity for thinking and discussion. Within the context of a school’s ethos and community there is a chance to develop a coherent cross-curricular plan and individual lesson plans. We’d certainly recommend the Education for a Connected World document as a great starting point – and this is likely to be released with subsequent updates.

While we are not specialist SRE support providers we can certainly support schools through our consultancy and other services in developing coherent schemes of work in accord with the new draft Ofsted Inspection framework and latest curriculum guidance. Give us a call on 0207 720 7514 or email to find out more about our support.


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