Amendments made to the ‘Children and Social Work Bill’ were made for both primary and secondary schools - including independent schools and academies - but the statutory requirements are different dependent on age.
The Department for Education (DfE) said that the new curriculum could be taught from September 2019.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, welcomed the changes, saying: “We are thrilled the government has listened to our campaign to provide all school children with age-appropriate school lessons on sex and healthy relationships to help keep them safe.
“We believe this will give children the knowledge and skills they need to help prevent them being groomed and sexually exploited.”
What will primary schools be teaching?
All children from the age of four will now be taught about “safe and healthy relationships”. The main focus for children aged four to 10 years old will be on building healthy relationships and staying safe.
And in case you are worried that your children will be viewing materials that are not appropriate for younger students, the law has been caveated with the fact that all primary education is required to be ‘age appropriate’,
This means ‘Relationship Education’ will be distinct from the sex education programme for older pupils.
Justine Greening said, in a statement: “These subjects form part of the building blocks young people need to thrive in modern Britain. At the moment, too many young people feel they don’t have the relationships and sex education they need to stay safe and navigate becoming an adult.”
Do I have any say in what my child learns?
Yes, despite the law making this new curriculum compulsory in all schools, parents will still have a right to withdraw children from sex education after viewing the school policy on what is going to be taught – a requirement under the new legislation.
Does the school have any say in what my child learns?
Schools will have flexibility over how they deliver these subjects, so they can develop an approach that is integrated (and sensitive to) the needs of local communities and, in the case of faith schools, in accordance with their faith.
How will the government choose what to teach?
The DfE has stated that the government will work with teachers, parents and safeguarding experts to develop age-appropriate subject content for all key stages, which includes a focus on protecting children from harm and staying safe online.
Will the curriculum include LGBT relationships?
As of yet there has been no official announcement about what the curriculum will include - although it is expected there will be lessons on pornography, grooming and online exploitation for some age groups.
So it is not yet clear whether LGBT relationships will be covered, but sexual health charity the Terrence Higgins Trust is supportive of the move and said it could be set to change the lives of generations to come.
Chief executive Ian Green said: “Until now, there has been nothing in place to ensure we are safeguarding all young people by discussing issues such as consent, abuse and what a healthy relationship looks like from a young age, in a safe environment and with trained professionals.
“Only then can we ensure that all young people - wherever they go to school, and whatever their sexuality – are empowered to make positive and informed decisions and to have healthy relationships, which they are ready for, and want.”
How has this changed the current law?
The statement said that current legislation, which was put in place in 2000, is becoming “increasingly outdated” as it fails to address risks that have grown in recent years, such as sexting.
Currently only pupils attending local authority run secondary schools – which represent around a third of secondary schools – are guaranteed to be offered current sex and relationships education.