A thoughtful and considered approach is essential for this issue.
SRE is compulsory in maintained secondary schools, and primary teachers may judge whether to teach it to primary children in later years. SRE must always be appropriate for the children concerned, in view of their age and religious and cultural background. Schools are required to have regard to the Secretary of State's statutory guidance which makes clear that SRE should ensure young people develop positive values and a moral framework that will guide their decisions, judgments and behaviour.
It is important to make sure that our young people have the right information and right advice, and that SRE 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, teaching must remain age-appropriate. I understand that the Secretary of State for Education is carefully considering all the options.
NEW CLAUSE 15:
I am informed that the Department for Education has been clear that the focus of teaching in primary schools will be on building healthy relationships and teaching young children how to stay safe. It is only when children reach secondary school that they will be taught about healthy adult relationships in more depth, with sex education delivered in that context. This will mean that from an early age children will be taught in an age-appropriate way about how to stay safe, including online, and how to recognise unhealthy relationships.
For faith school teaching I am encouraged that the proposals will allow schools the flexibility to decide how they deliver these subjects so that they can do so in way that meets the needs of their local community and, in the case of faith schools, in accordance with their faith. Schools will be required to publish a clear statement of their policy on these subjects and content, and to make this available to parents.
Importantly, parents will retain the right to withdraw children from sex education if they wish.
New clause 15 would place a duty on the Secretary of State to make regulations to introduce Relationships Education in primary schools, and Relationships and Sex Education in secondary schools as new statutory subjects in maintained schools, academies and independent schools. Content would include how to recognise and understand a healthy relationship, bullying, the meaning of consent, and exploitative relationships. The subject would also include teaching about the importance of online safety.
The new clause would require the Secretary of State to produce guidance that ensures the teaching of Relationships Education and Relationships and Sex Education is age appropriate and is sensitive to the religious background of pupils. It would also give a power to the Secretary of State to make PSHE statutory in primary and secondary maintained schools and academies if considered appropriate in the future.