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RSE teaching resources must be evidence-based and feature robust facts and statistics, says new Government guidance

Resources used to teach the new statutory relationships and sex education curriculum must be ‘evidence-based’ and feature ‘robust facts and statistics’, according to new Government guidance published today.

The guidance, which is designed to help school leaders and teachers prepare to teach the new curriculum that came into force on 1 September, says resources used by teachers must come from a ‘credible source’. It also instructs schools to ‘exercise extreme caution’ when working with external agencies, taking care to avoid working with groups that ‘take or promote extreme positions’.

Humanists UK, which has campaigned for fully inclusive relationships and sex education (RSE) for well over fifty years, has welcomed this aspect of the guidance, saying it should help to prevent organisations peddling junk science and other harmful myths about relationships and sex from gaining entry into schools. However, it cautioned that exceptions to the law that allow faith schools to teach RSE in accordance with the tenets of their religion mean that it is still possible for children to receive biased and scientifically dubious messages in these lessons.

There are a number of organisations that propagate misinformation about sex and sexual health, but nevertheless operate in schools across the UK. This is particularly the case with respect to abortion. Just last year, the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) launched a factsheet on abortion and abortion care for schools challenging ‘junk science’ on the topic. This followed joint research by Humanists UK and Brook exposing many anti-abortion groups spreading such misinformation.

The Government’s implementation guidance has been published as part of a package of support to enable teachers to teach RSE effectively. This includes training modules on various aspects of the curriculum, and advice on creating an inclusive classroom environment, as well as the duties and responsibilities placed on schools by the Equality Act 2010. It follows Ofsted guidance, published last week, stating that schools that fail to meet these duties, including by teaching respect for LGBT people, risk being downgraded at inspection.

Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham commented:

‘We’re pleased this new guidance makes it crystal clear that there is no place for pseudoscience in RSE and any resources used in classrooms must be based on robust evidence and drawn from credible sources.

‘However, we are concerned that faith-based carve-outs in the legislation underpinning the subject mean that children may still receive factually inaccurate information about important topics like sexual health and abortion because these are taught from a religious perspective.

‘To make RSE lessons fit for purpose, the curriculum must be fully objective and accessible to all children regardless of their background or the school they attend. We therefore urge the Government to remove all faith-based exemptions from the subject and ensure that every child grows up healthy, happy, and safe.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Education Campaigns Manager Dr Ruth Wareham at ruth@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3000 or 07725 110 860.

Read our most recent article on new Ofsted guidance that says schools must teach respect for LGBT people.

Read our piece on the introduction of relationships and sex education in England.

Read our article on a proposed legal threat against compulsory RSE.

Read more about our work on relationships and sex education.

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by over 85,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

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