Each nation of the UK has curriculum guidance which sets out how schools should educate children and young people about healthy relationships.
In England, the Department for Education (DfE) has published statutory guidance about how Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education should be implemented (DfE, 2019a). This should take place from September 2020 (DfE, 2020a).
The DfE has also published guidance on planning your relationships, sex and health curriculum (DfE, 2020b) and training materials on teaching about relationships, sex and health (DfE, 2021). The training materials include modules for primary and secondary school teachers on topics such as caring friendships, online relationships, sexual relationships and consent. They also include a module on teaching relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) to pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
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The DfE has also published guides that primary and secondary schools can use to explain RSE to parents (DfE, 2019b).
The House of Commons Library provides answers to frequently asked questions about RSE in schools in England (House of Commons Library, 2019).
In Northern Ireland, relationships and sexuality education is taught as part of Personal Development and Mutual Understanding in primary schools, part of the Personal Development and Home Economics statements of requirement for Key Stage 3 and as a statutory component of the Personal Development strand of Learning for Life and Work at Key Stage 4. The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) provides guidance on what should be included at each level (CCEA, 2019c).
The CCEA also provides guidance and resources on relationships and sexuality education for primary and post-primary children (CCEA, 2020).
In Scotland, Relationships, sexual health, and parenthood (RSHP) education is part of Health and wellbeing; one of eight curriculum areas of Curriculum for Excellence, introduced in August 2010 for 13- to 18-year-olds. Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) Scotland has developed an RSHP online resource. It provides learning activities, lesson plans and resources for all year groups in mainstream, specialist and non-denominational and denominational schools (RSHP Scotland, 2021).
In Wales, the Welsh Government has published guidance on the new curriculum for primary and secondary schools (Welsh Government, 2020). The curriculum includes an area of learning and experience on health and wellbeing, which covers topics including recognising relationships and developing and maintaining healthy ones. The curriculum will be implemented from 2022.
Guidance across the UK highlights the importance of providing inclusive and accessible sex and relationships education (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, 2019a; 2019b; Department for Education, 2019a; Scottish Government, 2014; Welsh Government, 2020).
When teaching children and young people about sex and relationships, it’s important to make sure you’re representing everyone in the class. Use resources that reflect a broad range of people, for example different sexualities, gender identities, races, cultures and disabilities. You should also make sure teaching reflects different kinds of families, for example single parents, same sex parents, adoptive parents, foster care and residential care (Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment, 2019a; 2019b; Department for Education, 2019a; Scottish Government, 2014; Welsh Government, 2020).