Teachers are being asked for their views on what should be included in the new sex and relationships education curriculum.
The government has launched a “call for evidence” to help update guidance on what should be taught when the subject becomes compulsory in all schools in 2019.
Parliament voted earlier this year to make relationships education compulsory for all children from the age of four, and sex education compulsory for all children aged 11 and over.
Currently only local authority-maintained schools have to teach sex education as part of the national curriculum, but from September 2019, this requirement will be extended to academies.
It is unacceptable that relationships and sex education guidance has not been updated for almost 20 years
Ministers will also update guidance on sex and relationships education curriculum content, to reflect issues that have become more prolific as use of the internet by young people has increased, such as pornography, sexting and staying safe online. The guidance has not been updated since 2000.
The call for evidence is made today by the education secretary Justine Greening, and will last for eight weeks. It is not a formal government consultation, but any member of the public can respond, though the government is especially keen to hear from teachers, parents and young people.
The exercise will seek to establish what teachers think they should be teaching their pupils to help them “navigate the modern world they are growing up in”.
It will also explore how parents expect their children to be taught about sex and relationships in a “safe and age-appropriate way”, and what children think they need to understand, and the online risks they are concerned by.
“It is unacceptable that relationships and sex education guidance has not been updated for almost 20 years especially given the online risks such as sexting and cyberbullying our children and young people face,” said Greening.
“Young people must have an education that teaches them the importance of healthy and stable relationships. This call for evidence is about giving teachers, parents and especially young people a chance to help shape that new approach and I’d urge them to take part.”
It has been welcomed by the National Education Union, which represents more than 450,000 school teachers, leaders and support staff.
But Dr Mary Bousted, the union’s joint general secretary, said effective sex and relationships education would require investment in training for teachers.
“[The government] also needs to ensure schools have high-quality resources and enough time in the school curriculum to teach sex and relationships education,” she said.
“Primary school children need to be given the correct names of body parts, and to learn about menstruation and puberty. [It] also needs to be fully accessible to pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, promote gender equality, and be LGBT+ inclusive.”
The call for evidence takes the form of an online survey.