Following alarming headlines claiming ‘inappropriate content’ is being taught in schools, the government has today (31st March 2023) released details of its review of the Relationships, Sex, and Health Education (RSHE) guidance – which is worryingly reactionary, rather than being based on what young people say they need.
The government has announced:
- New Relationships, Sex, Health and Education (RSHE) statutory guidance will be completed by the end of the year “in response to disturbing reports that inappropriate material is being taught in some schools
- The review will be informed by an independent panel to be appointed over the coming weeks to provide external expertise
- The panel will advise on how to put in place clear safeguards to stop pupils from being taught ‘contested and potentially damaging’ concepts
- Priorities for the review include introducing age ratings, and making sure high- quality teaching materials are available for schools
- The Oak National Academy will develop curriculum materials to make sure every school can access ‘high-quality, compliant’ resources
- The Education Secretary will write to schools to make sure they share curriculum materials with parents
RSHE developed and delivered by specialists is critical for the safety and wellbeing of children, and tackling violence against women and girls (VAWG). That’s why the End Violence against Women Coalition (EVAW) and other campaigners fought long and hard for it to become compulsory in schools.
However, we know there is still a long way to go to ensure children and young people get the education they need.
Earlier this month, we wrote to the Education Minister seeking assurances that the RSHE review will not be unnecessarily politicised, and will be focused on what children and young people need to live happy and healthy lives as well as the urgent need to do more to tackle VAWG and the rising influence of online misogyny in schools.
It is essential that the specialist VAWG sector – which has a long history of delivering evidence-based and trauma-informed interventions with children and young people – has a critical role in the development and delivery of RSHE. We are therefore concerned to see that the Oak National Academy, which lacks specialist VAWG expertise, is the only organisation the government references as developing curriculum materials moving forward.
It is also critical that the review addresses the shocking but unsurprising findings of Ofsted’s recent review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges, which found almost all girls had experienced or witnessed at least one form of harassment or abuse. Ofsted’s review also echoed our call for a ‘whole school approach’ to tackling the issue.
We also await further detail on the expert panel the government has appointed to review the guidance and are deeply concerned about a potential gap in expertise regarding VAWG.
Deniz Uğur, Deputy Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
“Quality Relationships, Sex and Health Education based on consent and equality is absolutely critical for preventing VAWG. It is abundantly clear that this vital education must be driven and guided by a commitment to ensuring all young people receive the education they need to thrive and feel safe, and to tackling the cultural norms which underpin the epidemic of gender-based violence we see today.
The specialist VAWG sector consulted on the existing guidance at length, and is best placed to ensure this education delivers what young people need. We call on the government to ensure the expertise of the specialist VAWG sector is valued and included in this review, as well as the development and delivery of RSHE moving forward.”
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org 07960 744 502