DfE will issue further guidance on right to withdraw from sex education

The Department for Education will issue further guidance on how heads should handle requests to withdraw pupils from sex education, a senior adviser to the government has said.

Ministers have come under increasing pressure to clarify the “exceptional circumstances” in which headteachers can refuse to allow pupils to be withdrawn from the lessons.

Under the current system, parents have an automatic right to withdraw their children from sex education.

Under the new regime, due to be introduced in September next year, parents will have the right to request withdrawal until three terms before their child’s 16th birthday, and headteachers will be expected to accept their wishes unless they have a good reason.

The DfE has resisted calls for more guidance on the “exceptional circumstances”, amid concerns schools could use any such advice definitively.

But today, Ian Bauckham, a school leader who advised the government on the development of its new relationships, sex and health education guidance, told a Westminster Education Forum event that upcoming implementation guidance would seek to “reflect current thinking about exceptional circumstances”.

“I can’t promise you a definitive list of all exceptional circumstances. If such a list existed and was easy to formulate, we would have put it in the guidance,” he said.

“The very reason that the circumstances are exceptional is that they are very rare and each one is in a sense unique. But we will try to respond to the clear wish in the sector to have a little bit more shape to our plans.”

Bauckham also raised the possibility that further funding for training and support for schools to implement the new guidance may be forthcoming, after several delegates warned the £6 million allocated by the government so far is too little.

Although he said there were ways of spending the £6 million “in an effective and economical way” to reach all schools, he accepted it didn’t sound like much when divided between all schools nationwide.

“It may be that further funding is allocated to this in due course,” he said.

Lucy Emmerson, from the Sex Education Forum, told the event today that the sector would need closer to £60 million to properly prepare.

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  1. Gordon Keitch

    Parents should not be able to withdraw their children from any subject: just imagine what would happen if children were allowed not to attend maths lessons.