Campaigners criticise delay in updating sex education curriculum

Campaigners have criticised delays to the introduction of a new sex and relationships curriculum that will now not be made compulsory in schools in England until September 2020.

According to draft guidance published on Thursday, pupils are to be given lessons on consent and LGBT issues as part of government efforts to update sex and relationships education for the first time in a generation.

Though campaigners broadly welcomed the proposed changes, they said they were disappointed that the introduction of the new curriculum – which was due to be rolled out in schools by September 2019 – had been delayed by a year.

The new curriculum will include lessons about cyberbullying, how to stay safe on and offline, mental wellbeing and healthy lifestyles. It will also teach pupils how to recognise when they and others are struggling with mental health and how to respond.

Almudena Lara, the head of policy and public affairs at the children’s charity NSPCC, said: “Relationships and sex education was last updated a generation ago before social media, sexting, and online pornography.

“While compulsory lessons are a long-awaited step to help children understand and develop healthy relationships in an online world, we are disappointed that implementation is being delayed again to 2020.

“By then up to 1.4 million children will have started primary school without a requirement for clear age-appropriate lessons on consent, appropriate boundaries, healthy relationships and how to treat others.”

The Department for Education said all materials for the new curriculum at both primary and secondary level would be available to teachers by September 2019 but the curriculum would not be made compulsory until a year later, to give schools a chance to prepare.

Under the updated guidance, teachers will be required to talk to pupils about healthy relationships. Students will learn about the law on sexual exploitation, grooming, harassment and domestic abuse, and will have lessons on how to use technology safely, responsibly and respectfully.

The curriculum will also cover how to keep personal information private, how to navigate the virtual world safely and how to challenge harmful content. The proposals are subject to a 12-week consultation before final approval.

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said: “Many of today’s problems did not exist when we last gave schools guidance on how to teach relationships and sex education 18 years ago.”


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