Ministers consider ‘age ratings’ in relationships education review

The government is reviewing statutory relationships, sex and health education guidance

The government is reviewing statutory relationships, sex and health education guidance

New workforce data shows an increasingly grim outlook for teacher recruitment and retention

Ministers will consider introducing “age ratings” in new relationships, sex and health education (RHSE) guidance “to prevent children being taught concepts that they are too young to understand”. 

The Department for Education has announced an independent, expert panel will advise on the review, brought forward after concerns about “age-inappropriate material” being taught in some schools.

Draft guidance will be published “in the coming months” with a public consultation to conclude by the end of the year. It will come into statutory force “as soon as possible after that,” DfE said. 

The panel will bring together input from health, children’s development, curriculum and safeguarding.

They will also “draw on close work” with inspectorate Ofsted to “understand what material is currently used in the classroom and consider what improvements might need to be made”. 

When formed, the panel will advise on how to put in place “clear safeguards to stop pupils from being taught contested and potentially damaging concepts”.

This includes considering “age ratings setting out what is appropriate to be taught at what age, to prevent children being taught concepts they are too young to understand”. 

As previously announced, Oak National Academy’s second tender round for curriculum resources will include citizenship and RSHE.

Keegan tells schools to provide materials to parents

Education secretary Gillian Keegan has written to schools today to remind them they are required by law to publish their RSHE policy and consult parents on it. 

They should also provide all curriculum materials to parents and stop entering into contracts that seek to prevent parents from seeing materials, she added.

Keegan said the “urgent review” will get to the “heart of how RSHE is currently taught and should be taught in the future”. 

“This will leave no room for any disturbing content, restore parents’ confidence, and make sure children are even better protected.”

But Geoff Barton, general secretary of heads’ union ASCL, said it “is very disappointing to see education secretary Gillian Keegan’s implicit criticism of schools when she says the review will restore the confidence of parents”.

“In fact, the vast majority of schools teach this subject cautiously, sensitively and in an age-appropriate manner. Claims made about inappropriate teaching are overblown, sweeping and supported by evidence which is flimsy at best.”

Barton said government has provided “very little training support for the teaching of this subject and we sincerely hope the review that is due to take place will make recommendations around providing more and better-resourced training”. 

“This is such a sensitive and difficult subject to navigate that it really requires the provision of specialist teachers, but the government expects it to be taught by existing classroom teachers who are also teaching other subjects.

“As ever, it expects to deliver major policies on the cheap, and then is quick to criticise schools.”

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