Legislation and Guidance

Legislation and Guidance

Index of Information on this page


SRE and the law

The October 2006 Amendment to the Education and Inspections Act places a statutory duty on schools to promote children’s wellbeing, as well as their academic achievement.


The amendment uses the definition of ‘wellbeing’ as outlined in the Children Act 2004 which includes the promotion of: physical and mental health, and emotional wellbeing; protection from harm and neglect; education, training and recreation; the contribution made by (a child) to society; and social and economic wellbeing. One of the Wellbeing indicators will require schools to deliver SRE. All indicators will be used by Ofsted to inspect schools to ascertain their effectiveness in promoting wellbeing of all the children and young people in the school.


•   The puberty, reproduction and infection related elements to SRE are contained in the National Curriculum (NC) 2000 Science orders and are mandatory for all pupils of primary and secondary age;

•   All schools must provide an up to date policy that describes the content and organisation of SRE provided outside NC science. It is the school governors’ responsibility to ensure that the policy is developed and made available to parents/carers for inspection;

•   Primary schools should have a policy statement that describes the SRE provided or gives a statement of the decision not to provide SRE other than that provided within NC science;

•   Secondary schools are required to provide an SRE programme which includes (as a minimum) information about sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS;

•   Special schools and middle schools may need to make separate arrangements for primary school aged children and secondary school aged children;

•   Parents have the right to withdraw their children from the SRE provided outside NC Science. They cannot withdraw their children from NC subjects


For further information see:

•   Sex and Relationship Education Guidance, 0016/2000 (DfES 2000)

•   National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (DH 2004)

•   Sex and Relationships Education Framework. 2005 Sex Education Forum, NCB

•   Sex and relationships education: support for school governors, Sex Education Forum,  Spotlight Series, 2004

•   Sex and Relationships Education in schools, HMI 433 (Ofsted 2002)

•   Time for change? Personal, Social and Health Education, HMI 070049 (Ofsted 2007)


The National Curriculum

Primary – Non-statutory framework for PSHE and Citizenship (2000)

This document has four main elements through which sex and relationships education can be developed and organised. These are:

•   Developing confidence and responsibility and making the most of abilities

•   Preparing to play an active role as citizens

•   Developing a healthy, safer lifestyle      

•   Developing good relationships and respecting the differences between people


PSHE Education is currently organised into two new non-statutory programmes of study:

  • Personal wellbeing
  • Economic wellbeing and financial capability


The non-statutory programme of study for PSHE Education is intended to support schools in developing coherent whole-school approaches to personal, social, health and economic wellbeing. It provides a context for schools to fulfill their legal responsibilities to promote the wellbeing of pupils and provide sex and relationships and drugs education. It also provides schools with an opportunity to focus on delivery of the skills identified in the framework for SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning).


For further information see:

http://www.qca.org.uk/curriculum for information on all subjects PSHE: Personal Wellbeing, Programme of study (non-statutory): Key Stage 3 (QCA 2007) PSHE: Personal Wellbeing, Programme of study (non-statutory): Key Stage 4 (QCA 2007)

Social Emotional Aspect of Learning (SEAL)

SEAL is a comprehensive approach to promoting the social and emotional skills that underpin effective learning, positive behaviour and emotional health and well-being in schools. SEAL aims complement the delivery of effective SRE.



The National Healthy Schools Programme

The National Healthy Schools programme(NHSP) played a key role in helping schools to deliver good quality PSHE programmes. Nationally 95% of schools have been involved in the programme. Schools that have achieved Healthy Schools Status have SRE programmes of study and schemes of work in place in line with national guidance.


The government has said that it wants Healthy Schools to continue, but also has said that there will be no central government funding after March 2011. The Healthy Schools website will close at the end of March, and all the resources and guidance will move to the DfE website. Healthy Schools status will no longer be nationally recognised but may be maintained locally. There is some more detail on the Healthy Schools website:




Policy Development

School governing bodies have an overall statutory responsibility for SRE policy development. They should also ensure that SRE is part of PSHE and is included in the school’s planning to secure adequate funding. Governing bodies are expected to involve parents, children and young people, and health and other professionals in SRE policy development.

National SRE Guidance (DfEE, 0116/2000) states that all schools must have an up-to-date SRE policy which:

•   Defines SRE;

•   Ensures that the needs of all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality, are met;

•   Describes how SRE is provided and who is responsible for providing it;

•   Explains that teachers should be able to deal honestly and sensitively with sexual orientation, answer appropriate questions and offer support;

•   Says how SRE is monitored and evaluated;   

•   Includes information about parents’ right to withdrawal;       

•   Is reviewed regularly;   

•   Is available for inspection and to parents/carers.


For further information see:

•   Sex and relationships education: support for school governors, Sex Education Forum, Spotlight Series, 2004 www.ncb.org.uk/sef

•   Developing sex and relationships education in schools: guidance and training activities for school governors, Frances and Power, 2004. www.ncb.org.uk/sef


Effective SRE policies should take into account the following issues:

Faith and culture

Children and young people from all faiths and cultures have an entitlement to SRE. SRE should be sensitive to the range of different values and beliefs within a multi-faith and multi-cultural society. To do this effectively SRE programmes must be developed in partnership with parents and the wider community. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) children and families are present in all schools, including faith schools. All schools also have a duty to prevent all forms of bullying including sexual, homophobic and transphobic bullying.

For further information see:

•   Faith, values and sex and relationships education, sex education forum factsheet 30, 2004, www.ncb.org.uk/sef



Schools need a confidentiality policy that is developed in partnership with young people and understood by them and their parents. Staff working in schools can never guarantee total confidentiality.


Teachers, schools nurses and outside visitors who are involved in the delivery of SRE need to set out clear boundaries which encourage discussion but make clear what will happen if a child or young person makes a disclosure that causes concern. There is no legal requirement for staff in schools to report knowledge of sexual activity amongst under-16s unless there are safeguarding concerns; where there are concerns the local safeguarding policy/protocols must be applied.


All staff involved in the delivery of SRE should provide information to young people about sources of 1:1 confidential sexual health advice, information and treatment, whether these are part of the school’s extended services or based in another setting.

For further information see:

•   Confidentiality: Promoting young people’s sexual health and well-being in secondary schools (Sex Education Forum Factsheet 38, 2007), www.ncb.org.uk/sef

•   www.northumberland.gov.uk/safeguarding


Sexuality, sexual orientation and sexual identity

National guidance is clear that SRE in schools should be relevant to, and inclusive of, all young people, regardless of their developing sexual identity. This fundamental principle applies to all schools whatever the phase, sector, culture or faith.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) young people report that a continued focus on biological and reproductive aspects means that the content of SRE is not something that they can relate to. A broader focus on emotional aspects of sexuality, with positive discussion about the feelings we experience during relationships, skills for negotiating difficulties, pleasure and the range of sexual identities would have meaning for all young people. When staff sign-post young people to confidential sexual health advice, information and treatment, they need to be mindful of the need to include sources of support for LGBT young people. Schools can request the support and expertise of LGBT agencies.


In addition to taking an inclusive approach to the delivery of SRE, schools also need to address explicit and implicit homophobia in schools. The negative impact of this on the attendance and attainment of LGBT young people is well documented, and schools need to take a whole school approach to addressing prejudicial behaviour and attitudes.

For further information see:

•   Sexual Orientation, sexual identities and homophobia in schools (SEF factsheet 32, 2005) www.ncb.org.uk/sef

•   The No Outsiders research project supports primary teachers to develop their work to tackle homophobic bullying and develop inclusive SRE www.nooutsiders.sunderland.ac.uk/about-the-project



A young person’s culture and ethnicity may have an impact on how likely they are to have talked about sex and relationships with their parents, whether they are likely to be sexually active at a young age, and what their beliefs are about sexuality. All young people have an entitlement to high quality, appropriate sex and relationships education. In a county that has increasing numbers of different cultures, schools will need to engage with children and young people, parents and the wider community to ensure that the content of SRE is relevant to the young people attending the school.



Schools can sometimes be fearful of encountering resistance by parents to the planned programme of SRE. Equally parents can assume that SRE will promote a particular set of values that may be at polar opposites from their own, or that SRE is delivered in a values vacuum. Young people can sometimes feel torn between the values and behaviour they have learned at home and those they hear and see on the street. Some acknowledge that they are grateful that schools provide them with SRE because their parents are unable to do so. SRE in schools creates the opportunity to safely explore and discuss differences in values and behaviour.


SRE is not value-free. However it is important that SRE/PSHE is set within a values framework.


It is important that such a framework supports an approach that enables young people to explore issues, values and social and moral dilemmas. Learning about personal, social, health and economic issues requires all children and young people to explore and understand a range of different attitudes, values and social, cultural and religious perspectives. Religious views and moral issues on contraception, relationships and marriage need to be included. 6


SRE allows learning to take place within a framework of a school’s core values of mutual respect, rights and responsibilities, including the promotion of equalities in regard to race, faith, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age. SRE needs to promote discussion of difference and promote positive and confident attitudes; to support young people to manage pressures to become sexually active until they are ready to enjoy and take full responsibility for a sexual relationship.


6 PSHE Association briefing: The Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum: Interim Report, December 2008