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Relationships and Sex education: Too Controversial or Absolutely Crucial?

By Mark Richards,

24 Jan 2020

The school curriculum will always divide opinion.

With something as fundamentally important as what and how our children are taught in school, it’s no surprise that people take different views. Parents think they know what is best for the children.

Teachers crave the trust, freedom and autonomy they believe they should have as professionals.

Governments wade in with policies that suit their ideological agenda. However, although there will always be differences in opinion and debates about how things should be done, the matter of what should be a taught tends to be met with broad agreement. The elephant in the room is Relationships and Sex Education. How should we teach Relationships and Sex Education? The fact that the Relationships and Sex Education hadn’t been updated since 2000 is perhaps a clear sign that successive governments have found it difficult to approach ‘the elephant’ because of the sensitive nature of the issue. However, most people would agree that an overhaul was overdue.

The internet and social media in particular have added a new level of pressures for young people that simply didn’t exist a generation ago.

The digital world can be tricky to navigate, so the new focus in the updated RSE curriculum is on topics such as the influence of social media, sexting, and the link between mental and physical health. Many people would take the view that these topics and issues are absolutely vital.

Indeed, some might say they are actually more important than aptitude in any academic subject, in the big scheme of things. So, one school of thought is that these matters are simply too crucial to not be taught in schools. Is Relationships and Sex Education too controversial? The other school of thought is that certain issues should not be taught in schools at all.

Anderton Park Primary School in Birmingham has been in the headlines for weeks recently.

Demonstrators have been protesting against the adoption of the ‘No Outsiders’ programme in some schools as part of new Relationships and Sex Education classes. A group of parents have been vehemently protesting against primary school children being taught that all sexualities and genders should be treated equally.

Schools who have taken the ‘No Outsiders’ programme on-board see it as an important way to promote LGBT equality and to challenge homophobia. To the neutral observer of the protests in Birmingham, it would appear that a degree of misinformation about what children actually will be taught has been spread.

However, the manner in which the demonstrations escalated – to the point that a High Court injunction had to be served to (temporarily, at least) end the dispute – shows the level of anger and strength of feeling around the issue. The simple fact is that whenever an aspect of the school curriculum conflicts with either religious belief or strongly-held personal opinion on a particular issue, controversy is bound to follow.


1- Government issues new guidelines on sex and relationships education

2- UK overhauls sex education for primary and secondary school students

3- The mobile phone in schools debate rumbles on