Headteachers have welcomed new Department for Education guidance about LGBT content in lessons, in which Damian Hinds “strongly encourages” primaries to discuss families that have same-sex parents with pupils.
The DfE guidance, released today, follows calls from the NAHT headteachers’ union for stronger government backing for primary schools over the issue after protests outside school gates.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT, said: “The secretary of state has now made it abundantly clear that it is appropriate to teach primary-age children that there are different kinds of relationships, and that not every family is the same.”
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He described today’s statement as “a clear signal to schools, that when it comes to talking to pupils about the different kinds of families and relationships they may encounter in their lives, it’s a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.”
In a statement issued at the same time as the guidance, Mr Hinds said: “Children will, of course, find out about all sorts of things, including the diversity of our society, anyway – the question is where and how is it best to do so – in class, on the internet, or in the playground.
“I would strongly encourage schools to discuss with children in class that there are all sorts of different, strong and loving families, including families with same-sex parents, while they are at primary school.”
Relationships education will become compulsory for primary-age pupils, and relationships and sex education (RSE) will become compulsory for secondary-age pupils, from September 2020.
Health education will also become mandatory for all pupils in state-funded schools from the same date.
Relationships education at primary level will include:
- How to treat each other with kindness, consideration and respect.
- That mental wellbeing is a normal part of daily life and why simple self-care – like getting enough sleep and spending time outdoors and with friends – is important.
- The importance of staying active, and recognising the early signs of physical illness – ensuring pupils understand how mental and physical health are linked.
- Age-appropriate online safety – including what to do if they come across things they are uncomfortable with, the importance of respect for others even when posting anonymously, and the risks of talking to people on the internet that they don’t know in real life.
At secondary, pupils will build on topics taught at primary age with a range of new content to ensure young people know how to look after their physical and mental health, including:
- What healthy and unhealthy relationships look like and what makes a good friend, colleague and successful marriage or committed relationship.
- Ensuring pupils can spot the signs of common mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, in themselves or others.
- At the appropriate time, developing intimate relationships and making safe, informed and healthy choices.
- How to discuss emotions accurately and sensitively.
- The impact of alcohol and drugs on physical and mental health, and how to access professional help.
- Online safety topics, including the serious risks of sharing private photos, the impact of viewing explicit or harmful content – including how to report it and get support – as well as how the internet can sometimes promote an unhealthy view of sex and relationships.