Exclusive: Half of parents unaware about compulsory RSE

If parents are unaware about relationships and sex education, it will be harder for them to follow up conversations in class at home, charity says

sex education

New research shows parents have a “worrying lack of knowledge and awareness” about the new relationships and sex education (RSE) curriculum set to be made compulsory in England’s schools from September 2020.

Under the Department for Education's statutory guidance, secondary school pupils will learn about topics including female genital mutilation, as well as sexting, pornography and coercive control.

Primary school pupils will be taught a separate relationships education curriculum in which they will learn about puberty, LGBT parents, online safety and how to recognise and report abuse, including sexual and emotional abuse, among other topics.

However, research among more than 1,000 parents revealed that 54 per cent had not heard of the new relationships education curriculum for primary schools, while 46 per cent were unaware of the RSE curriculum in secondary schools.


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The Family Stability Network (FASTN) charity, which carried out the research, said the results were “worrying.” It released them today to mark RSE Day 2019. Schools and practitioners are encouraged to share their RSE ideas and successes online using the hashtag #RSEDay.

FASTN chief executive Catherine Hine said: “If parents are not aware of relationships education and what it entails, it will be harder for them to support this learning at home or to follow up on the conversations their children are having in class.”

A total of 500 teachers were also interviewed as part of the research, with 58 per cent saying schools played a “very important” role in helping children to understand and be prepared for sexual relationships.

However, 23 per cent said they didn’t feel confident talking about RSE with parents or carers. Of those, 27 per cent said it was out of embarrassment, 18 per cent said it was owing to a lack of knowledge and 35 per cent said it was not knowing the parents/carers well enough.

A total of 48 per cent of parents also thought schools played a “very important” role in helping children to understand and be prepared for sexual relationships, while 37 per cent thought it was “quite important.”

Ms Hine added: “It’s great to hear that parents and teachers recognise the important role schools have in teaching children about relationship skills. The polling gives a clear signal that more needs to be done if we are to capitalise on the opportunity relationships education offers.”

FASTN is now calling on the government to ensure schools are fully supported to address this knowledge gap.

The DfE has already pledged £6 million to help train teachers in areas of the new curriculum, but the Sex Education Forum says that £60 million is needed.

LGBT lessons have caused outrage among some parents at Parkfield Community School in Birmingham, who staged protests outside the school. 

The headteacher of another Birmingham primary facing protests about LGBT teaching has said the government’s new relationship education guidance does not go far enough and will not stop demonstrations taking place.

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