The Government will bring forward a review of how Relationships and Sex Education is being taught in schools, following concerns that children are being exposed to “inappropriate” content, Rishi Sunak has said.
The Prime Minister said he has asked the Department for Education (DfE) to “ensure that schools are not teaching inappropriate or contested content” in Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE).
Mr Sunak told Prime Minister’s Questions: “Our priority should always be the safety and wellbeing of children and schools should also make curriculum content and materials available to parents.
“As a result of all of this, we are bringing forward a review of RSHE statutory guidance and we will start our consultation as soon as possible.”
His pledge came after Conservative MP Miriam Cates said pupils were being subjected to relationships and sex education classes that are “age inappropriate, extreme, sexualising and inaccurate”.
She told the Commons: “Graphic lessons on oral sex, how to choke your partner safely and 72 genders. This is what passes for relationships and sex education in British schools.
“Across the country, children are being subjected to lessons that are age inappropriate, extreme, sexualising and inaccurate, often using resources from unregulated organisations that are actively campaigning to undermine parents.
“This is not a victory for equality, it is a catastrophe for childhood.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We believe children should be supported to make informed decisions and those need to be factually based and age appropriate.
“So the PM has asked for the Department of Education to look at some of the issues raised by the MPs in the letter to him to make sure all schools are compliant with existing guidance.”
He stressed “clear guidance” already exists on external speakers and resources “and that’s something that we want the review to look at”.
The DfE will also conduct a consultation later this year, he said.
James Bowen, director of policy for school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “It is hard to be anything other than deeply concerned by this announcement.
“The overwhelming majority of schools are doing nothing more than following the Government’s own statutory guidance when it comes to relationships and sex education.
“It is worth remembering that the current curriculum was subject to extensive consultation before it was introduced.
“We have seen no evidence to suggest there is a widespread problem with pupils being presented with age-inappropriate materials and if this were the situation, we would expect it to have been picked up on a case-by-case basis.
“There is a real concern that this is a politically motivated review, rather than one based on the reality of what is happening in the vast majority of schools up and down the country.
“Our appeal to Government is to ensure this review is now handled with the care, sensitivity and impartiality it requires and to listen carefully to the most important voices – those of education professionals and pupils.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “The vast majority of schools are incredibly cautious and sensible about the teaching of Relationships and Sex Education and we disagree with the sweeping generalisation and inflammatory rhetoric from Miriam Cates in the Commons.”
He added: “We welcome the review of Relationships and Sex Education as part of an ongoing process of ensuring that schools and teachers are well-supported in delivering this topic, but our understanding is that this review has been on the cards for some time as one would expect given that this is a relatively new and very important part of the curriculum.”