Changes to the teaching of relationships and sex education and PSHE - consultation response

In 2018 we responded to the Department for Education's proposed changes to the teaching of RSE (relationships and sex education) and PSHE (personal, social, health and economic), recommending a holistic, age appropriate approach.

We recommended a holistic, age appropriate approach to teaching of these subjects, and advocate strongly for the embedding of RSE into the current PHSE curriculum.  We do not support the ranking of subjects by importance, but do note the importance of maternal health and wellbeing on the long  term health and wellbeing outcomes of children and young people (CYP). 

Download consultation document, Relationships education, relationships and sex education, and health education in England (PDF)

Our response

  • The RCPCH supports a holistic approach to delivering PSHE to ensure the curriculum is designed around interrelated themes rather than focused on specific subject areas in isolation of the wider health and wellbeing agenda. We agree with the themes set out by the PSHE Association - ‘relationships’, ‘health and wellbeing’ and ‘living in the wider world’ and which embeds relationships education within PSHE.
  • We firmly believe that PSHE should be delivered by appropriately trained staff, who are adequately resourced, further reinforcing a need for PSHE to be made a statutory part of the curriculum.
  • It is a fundamental right for CYP to receive comprehensive health and wellbeing education, which is developed across key themes as set out by the PHSE Association - ‘relationships’, ‘health and wellbeing’ and ‘living in the wider world’.
  • An open dialogue between school and parents is essential to the development of RSE, with an engaged community of parents more likely to understand the value of the programme.

Our recommendations

  • We have made recommendations for statutory PSHE provision for many years, highlighting the important role it can play in reducing child mortality, improving mental health and wellbeing, tackling obesity and improving maternal health.
  • There should be a holistic approach ensuring education extends beyond the classroom in partnership with the wider community. This approach to the delivery of RSE would ensure that CYP are well supported to access additional support and care which may be required; for example, access to family planning services or relevant agencies if they are at risk of, or experiencing abuse.
  • There should be cross-curricula support of the learning in PHSE, and annual topical discussions/teaching are not enough. Messages need to be consistent and repeated throughout a child’s education.
  • Learning needs to be internal and external to the classroom, ensuring not just knowledge, but that CYP are supported in accessing services they may need, and fostering a culture optimal to the promotion of mental health within schools.

We respond to a wide range of consultations to ensure that the College’s position, and ultimately children’s health, is represented. Members can get involved in current consultations by contacting the Health Policy team: