From September 2020, LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education will be taught in all schools across England.
Following an extensive call for evidence and a three-month consultation period, on February 25th the Department of Education (DfE) announced changes to the curricula. Three new compulsory subjects will be taught- health education for all ages, relationship education in primary school and relationship and sex education (RSE) in secondary school.
In relationship education, primary school students will learn about the concept of family and different family models, including same-sex families.
The new guidelines state that secondary students need to understand "that some people are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), that this should be respected in British society, and that the law affords them and their relationships recognition and protections."
LGBT issues such as homophobia and damaging negative stereotypes will be part of the course.
The guidelines also state that "Schools should make decisions about what it is appropriate to teach on this subject and when, based on the age, development and religious backgrounds of their pupils, and should involve their parents in these decisions."
“Almost twenty years on from the last time guidance on sex education was updated, there is a lot to catch up on,” said the education secretary, Damian Hinds on Monday.
“Although sex education is only mandatory to teach at secondary, it must be grounded in a firm understanding and valuing of positive relationships, and respect for others, from primary age.”
“In turn, positive relationships are connected with good mental health, which itself is linked with physical wellbeing. So, it is appropriate to make health education universal alongside relationships and sex education.”
Under the new guidelines, primary school students will learn about mental health and the link with physical health. They will be taught basic self-care, including nutrition, online safety, the dangers of excessive online activity and how to recognise when they or others are struggling with their mental health.
Students over the age of 11 will be taught about female genital mutilation (FGM), that it is illegal and what support networks are available. The government also wants students to learn about honour killings, domestic violence, forced marriage, grooming and menstrual health.
Secondary students will learn about depression and anxiety and how to spot the warning signs in themselves and others. They will be taught about the effect of alcohol and drugs on mental and physical health, how to talk about their feelings accurately and sensitively and how to access professional help.
Secondary students will also be taught online safety topics, plus how internet content can promote an unhealthy view of sex and relationships.
Teachers will receive training and support before they deliver the new curricula.
Following a backlash from religious parents who do not want LGBT issues taught in school and a petition calling for parents to retain the right to opt their children out of sex education, Damian Hinds announced on Monday that students will be allowed to request sex education lessons three terms before their 16th birthday. Until then, parents have the right to withdraw their children from sex education, except in exceptional circumstances.