Ofsted will check school 'readiness' to teach relationships and sex education from January

Schools will have their “readiness” to teach the new relationships and sex education curriculum assessed by Ofsted from January, the watchdog has said.

And schools failing to teach about LGBT relationships from the summer term in 2021 risk a ‘requires improvement’ judgment for their leadership and management.

New guidance issued by Ofsted this morning confirms inspectors will begin looking at how prepared schools are to meet the Department for Education’s statutory guidance on RSE when full inspections resume, currently slated for January.

However, although inspectors will comment on schools’ readiness to comply with the guidance in their reports from the new year, school compliance “will not impact inspection judgments until the start of the summer term 2021”.

Teaching relationships education is compulsory in all schools from this year, with sex education also compulsory in secondary schools. However, due to the coronavirus outbreak, the DfE has given schools “flexibility over how they discharge their duty within the first year of compulsory teaching”.

Schools have been told they “should aim to start preparations to deliver the new curriculum as soon as possible and start teaching the new content by at least the start of the summer term 2021”, but “should still be able to show how they will cover the whole curriculum in the future”.

Ofsted has published new guidance today on inspecting the teaching of protected characteristics, prompted by questions from schools about what to teach – particularly in relation to sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

The guidance states that separate to the requirement to teach RSE, inspectors will gather evidence on how schools promote equality “and pupils’ understanding of the protected characteristics”, which will be used to inform their judgment on the personal development of pupils.

From January, inspectors will comment in reports if they find that primary and secondary schools do not teach about LGBT relationships and don’t yet have “adequate plans” to meet the DfE’s statutory guidance by the start of the summer.

From the start of summer term, if a secondary school is not teaching about LGBT relationships, inspectors “will consider this when making the leadership and management judgement”, and schools “will not ordinarily receive a judgement for this better than requires improvement”.

For primary schools not teaching about LGBT relationships from summer 2021, this will not have an impact on the leadership and management judgement “as long as the school can satisfy inspectors that it has still fulfilled the requirements of the DfE’s statutory guidance”.

“If it cannot do this, for example if it has failed to consult with parents, inspectors will consider this when making the leadership and management judgement.”

Again, schools found to have failed to do this “will not ordinarily receive a judgement for this better than requires improvement”.

Inspectors will not “specifically explore the school’s readiness to comply with the DfE’s statutory guidance” during interim visits this term. However, schools can choose to discuss it with inspectors, who “may comment on this in the letter published after the visit”.

Ofsted guidance also states that schools “are at liberty to teach the tenets of any faith on the protected characteristics”, but “must also explain the legal rights LGBT people have under UK law, and that this and LGBT people must be respected”.