It doesn’t seem all that long ago that RHE or RSHE was made statutory for schools in England but a lot has happened in the past four years. The Department for Education, in its recently published statutory guidance acknowledges that:

…the world in which children are growing up has become increasingly complex, both online and in the day-to-day, and that is having a profound effect on their lives, including how they build relationships.

At this stage, the new guidance is still a draft and we are now in a consultation period. All stakeholders have been invited to share their views on the proposed changes via an online survey. This survey will remain open until 11th July 2024.

This article looks at some of the key proposed changes or additions.

Introduction of age limits

The Government plans to introduce several statutory age restrictions for the teaching of certain topics. For example, sex education should not occur until Years 5 & 6, mirroring the science National Curriculum. They also say that FGM should not be taught before Year 9, although they allow an exception to be made where schools have identified a greater risk of FGM at an earlier age or if the school has pupils who have been affected by FGM and need support. With this in mind, two versions of the ‘Types of Abuse’ session in UKS2 are currently still available (one with FGM content and the other without).

The draft guidance says:

Schools should seek to follow these age limits at all times. However, flexibility may be necessary in order to respond promptly to issues that pose an imminent safeguarding risk to their pupils. In certain circumstances, schools may decide to teach age-limited topics earlier, provided it is necessary to do so in order to safeguard pupils and provided that teaching is limited to the essential facts, without going into unnecessary detail. Parents must be informed in these cases and appropriate safeguarding measures put in place.

Here at Ten Ten Resources, whilst providing a fully resourced scheme of work, we have always encouraged schools to adapt the programme to meet the needs of their particular cohort. In consultation with parents, individual schools have the knowledge and understanding of their pupils enabling them to make the important decisions around when it is appropriate to teach certain topics.

The new guidance indicates that if schools judge that certain topics should be taught sooner than the statutory recommendation, then safeguarding measures and informing parents should be part of that decision.

LGBTQ+ and Gender Reassignment

The statutory provision says that pupils must be taught about the legally ‘protected’ characteristics by the end of secondary school and that this includes gender reassignment and sexual orientation.

The guidance states that primary schools have discretion over whether to discuss families with same-sex parents or sexual orientation. However, these should be taught as part of the secondary curriculum.

The updated guidance is clear that schools should not teach about the ‘broader concept of gender identity’ and that caution should be exercised around this ‘highly contested and complex subject’. In our resources, while we talk about the relationship between gender and identity, we only do so in the context of explaining gender dysphoria or gender reassignment. Separate guidance has been issued (in draft form) to schools about support for gender-questioning pupils. The consultation period closed on 12 March. Our article exploring this more is available on the Hub.

How do we address these two protected characteristics within our programmes?

Life to the Full Primary refers to families with same-sex parents and it is at the discretion of the teacher whether this is discussed further within the session.

Life to the Full Plus has a classroom short in which the idea of gender identity is introduced with a clear explanation of what it means to experience gender dysphoria. This requires a Key Decision and is not part of the statutory RHE curriculum.

Gender dysphoria is discussed in the Year 8 session Appreciating Differences in Life to the Full Secondary.

In the new content we are developing for Life to the Full Secondary we are working on giving a more diverse representation of young people and of their views, including around sexuality.

We will be paying close attention to the final guidance and will continue to ensure our programmes are fully in line with statutory requirements.

Transparency for Parents

The new RSE guidance states that ‘Parents are the first educators of their children, and schools should make sure parents are aware of what is being taught in RSHE’. This principle and the concept of transparency for parents is nothing new for Ten Ten Resources. Parents already have access to the programme via the Online Parent Portal, mentioned with the new guidance as best practice. We also, on request, allow all parents to access the complete programme for three weeks.

We encourage schools to regularly update and consult with parents about what their children are taught in RSE. After consultation with parents and governors, primary schools can decide which of the seven Key Decisions they feel appropriate to include within the schools’ RSHE curriculum.

Parents in England do still have the right to withdraw their children from Sex Education, a right that does not apply in Wales. The guidance states:

Parents have the right to request that their child be withdrawn from some or all of sex education delivered as part of statutory RSE. Pupils are not able to request to withdraw. Parents do not have the right to withdraw their pupils from topics taught as part of the science curriculum, including science topics related to puberty or sexual reproduction.

New Topics

The Draft Guidance for RSHE includes several new topics or ones to be expanded upon. The guidance makes the point that:

There will be a range of opinions regarding topics within RSE. The starting principle should be that any applicable law should be taught in a factual way so that pupils are clear on their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Pupils should understand that the age of criminal responsibility is ten.

These new topics include:

  • Suicide prevention
  • Sexual harassment and sexual violence
  • Loneliness
  • The prevalence of ‘deepfakes’
  • Healthy behaviours during pregnancy
  • Illegal online behaviours including drug and knife supply
  • The facts about the risks of vaping
  • Menstrual and gynaecological health including endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and heavy menstrual bleeding.

As you will know, we regularly update our programmes and continually develop our resources to ensure they are in line with statutory requirements, engaging and accessible. Once the final guidance is published we will ensure that these additional topics are covered or changes made.

Schools of a religious nature

Finally, it is good to know that the guidance for schools of a religious nature remains pretty much unchanged from the 2021 curriculum. The new draft guidance states:

All schools may teach about faith perspectives on these topics. In particular, schools with a religious character may teach their distinctive faith perspective on relationships, and balanced debate may take place about issues that are contentious. For example, the school may wish to reflect on faith teachings about certain topics as well as how their faith institutions may support people in matters of relationships and sex. However, where RE is delivered in conjunction with RSHE, schools should ensure that content is differentiated for pupils so that it is clear where they are being taught content that reflects religious belief.

We are looking forward to the publication of the final guidance and will keep you updated on changes to our content that we will make in response.

Don’t forget that if you have any questions about Life to the Full or any of our other programmes we are always happy to help. You can get in touch via our website or