Schools will be allowed to delay teaching sex and relationships lessons until next year, the Department for Education (DfE) has said.
Relationships Education is set to become compulsory in primary schools from September, along with Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in secondary schools, but the DfE has now said schools may postpone teaching it until the summer term begins in April 2021.
Following lengthy school closures during the COVID-19 crisis, schools will be given more time to consult with parents about the curriculum to ensure the content is age-appropriate and takes into account the religious background of all pupils.
Statutory guidance states that schools must consult with parents, but many have been unable to do so due to the difficulties brought on by the coronavirus outbreak.
The PA news agency reports that a letter to schools from the DfE now says they may take a “phased approach” to introducing the subjects. It suggests beginning with lessons on mental health and wellbeing, but says that schools which have already consulted with parents may begin as planned from the beginning of September.
Relationships Education will see children as young as four learning about “different types” of relationships, which could include homosexuality, transgenderism and same-sex marriage, while RSE would include teaching on “sex, sexual health and sexuality”, with LGBT teaching deemed “integral” by the Government.
Responding to the news, The Christian Institute’s Education Officer John Denning said: “It is a legal requirement that schools consult parents before writing their policy on the new approach to Relationships, Sex and Health Education. But of course, schools have rightly had to focus on other things in recent months.
“This is a very welcome move from the Government to make sure schools that haven’t yet consulted will still be able to fully take parents’ views into account and fulfil their duty to provide RSE that is appropriate to pupils’ religious backgrounds.”