Relationships, Sex and Health Education: Statutory Guidance - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 2:46 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Lords Spokesperson (Equalities) 2:46, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Earl for their remarks. I will start with the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The evidence we have heard from parents, schoolteachers and school leaders is that the lack of transparency with parents about what their children were being taught, and the teaching of contested material, in particular on gender identity, were very broken. Those are essential things that need fixing.

I turn to safeguarding, which both the noble Baroness and the noble Earl rightly raised. The noble Baroness said that school is a very important safeguarding agency and that talking about some issues gives children an opportunity to disclose and therefore to respond. The guidance is very clear on how to deal with safeguarding issues.

When we turn to the age-appropriate approach, which I think the noble Baroness agrees with, we see there is something about giving children this information in stages. They do not need all of it when they are very young. It must be phased and age-appropriate. In relation to menstruation specifically, the new guidance sets out that children should be taught about puberty, including menstruation, no earlier than year four, so that would be when children are eight or nine. That means that the majority of children will learn about puberty before it happens to them.

The noble Baroness talked about the importance of relationships education and different types of relationship. That is clearly set out in the curriculum we are consulting on, but the focus will be very much on the facts. For example, the protected characteristics will be clearly taught. Gender reassignment will be clearly taught as a factual thing that happens to adults. The noble Baroness raised the issue of school leaders. The guidance is out for consultation, so there is every opportunity for leaders and teachers to contribute to the consultation, and we would welcome that. She will also be aware that our expert panel included experts from the education system, as well as from health, in particular. I think that also addresses the question asked by the noble Earl about whether we have assessed whether we could increase the safeguarding risk. I hope the safeguarding risk does not stem from school, but I think the noble Earl means the ability to identify. Those issues were considered very carefully by the expert panel.