The teaching of sex education is to be made compulsory in England’s secondary and primary schools, along with lessons in healthy living and well-being, the government has announced.
Also, under the plans, a 15-year-old will be able to overrule their parents’ wishes and decide whether they will opt into sex education lessons they may have been withdrawn from previously.
Damian Hinds, the Education Secretary, says youngsters should be able to request sex education before they turn 16.
Up until that point, parents will have the right to withdraw their child from sex education classes.
The plans have been unveiled as draft guidelines for England’s schools.
New guidelines update the current offering
The new guidelines update the current offering, which were last updated 18 years ago, with the guidelines now open to consultation.
The proposals highlight that pupils will be given mandatory lessons in healthy living and health education in all secondary and primary schools from September 2020.
The lessons will also help youngsters protect themselves against mental health issues.
The classes will cover physical health, particularly exercise, along with healthy eating and the benefits of them living a healthier lifestyle to help prevent future health issues.
‘Help ensure young people are prepared for the adult world’
Mr Hinds says that good mental and physical health will be “help ensure young people are prepared for the adult world”.
He added: “With compulsory health education we will give young people tools to thrive after leaving school.”
Under laws passed in 2017, relationship lessons are compulsory for primary schools, while relationships and sex education is compulsory for secondary schools.
With the guidance being updated means there’s a need to address current issues, including sexting, cyber-bullying and online safety.
The guidance highlights that pupils aged from 4 to 11 should be taught the principles and rules that will help protect them online and also how they can spot the risks and potentially harmful content.
Sex education lessons
Primary school pupils will also be taught in their sex education lessons why online gaming, computer games and social media have age restrictions.
The government has been facing increasing pressure from various parties to bring up-to-date sex and health education after fears that youngsters are left poorly-equipped to cope with the issues of cyber bullying, online porn and sexting.
The new law will be a big change for many schools in England since only those students at local authority-run secondary schools, which is around one in three, are currently offered relationships and sex education.