Younger pupils will not be taught about gay relationships, minister insists
Schoolchildren as young as four will not be taught about gay and transgender relationships as part of new compulsory lessons, ministers have insisted.
New curriculum guidelines announced by the Government will introduce dedicated lessons about relationships, keeping safe on the internet and looking after their own mental health.
Pupils will learn the link between physical and mental health, with lessons focused on the importance of getting enough sleep, the dangers of sexting, and spotting anxiety in their friends.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Monday, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said that primary school pupils will be taught about “respectful relationships” and respect for all kinds of people.
When asked if this included teaching children as young as four or five about gay and transgender relationships, he said not at that age.
Mr Hinds added: “We are saying that in primary school they should learn about respectful relationships.
“When you start to talk about different adult relationships, that has to be done in an appropriate way. It is not about saying this stuff all happens at the age of five.
“At a young age, what we are talking about is having respect for all kinds of people. You have to have respect for all the different families you come into contact with.
“Nobody is suggesting that there should be these difficult conversations with children at that age, but relationships in the broader sense, friendships, interactions and how you interact with other children and adults. That’s very important from a very young age.”
Three new subjects – relationships education from primary school, relationships and sex education at secondary school, and health education for all ages – will form part of the school curriculum in England from 2020, with teachers deciding how frequently to hold age-appropriate lessons.
The new guidelines coincide with the first shake-up of sex education for two decades.
But MPs will on Monday debate a petition calling for parents to have the right to opt their child out of relationship and sex education.
The petition, which has gathered more than 106,000 signatures, said: “We have grave concerns about the physical, psychological and spiritual implications of teaching children about certain sexual and relational concepts proposed in RSE and believe that they have no place within a mandatory school curriculum.”
In a statement, Mr Hinds said it was “appropriate” to make health education universal alongside relationships and sex education.
“It will help children learn how to look after themselves, physically and mentally, and the importance of getting away from the screen and the headphones,” he said.
“And it can help young people be resilient as they chart a course through an ever more complex world.”
Under the plans, children as young as four will be taught self-care – such as getting enough sleep and spending time outdoors.
They will also receive lessons in online safety, such as what to do when they come across something they find uncomfortable, trolling, and chatting to strangers.
The announcement follows intense pressure for action in safeguarding vulnerable people, highlighted by the case of 14-year-old Molly Russell who killed herself in 2017. Her family found material relating to depression and suicide when they looked at her Instagram account after her death.
According to the curriculum guidelines produced on Monday, secondary school pupils will be taught about female genital mutilation (FGM) – focusing on awareness, the availability of support networks, and reminding them that it is illegal.
Students aged 11 and older should also be taught about other forms of honour-based abuse, as well as grooming, forced marriage and domestic abuse as part of a strengthened curriculum, the Department for Education said.
Teachers at secondary school will have to take lessons on online safety topics, including the serious risks of sharing private photos, the impact of viewing explicit or harmful content – including how to report it and get support – as well as how the internet can promote an unhealthy view of sex and relationships.