In September 2020 Relationship Education (RE) and Relationship & Sex Education (RSE) will become compulsory in all schools across England. This includes Islamic, other faith, private, state, academy, etc. schools.

RE will be taught as compulsory from Reception Class upwards in both primary and secondary schools.

Sex Education will be taught as compulsory in all secondary schools and may be taught as optional in primary schools.

Parents need to know their rights and become active in their child’s school in having a say in how RE/RSE will be implemented.

The current situation (2018)

  • Parents currently have the right to withdraw their child from all aspects of Sex & Relationship Education (SRE). They will have this right until September 2020.

From September 2020

  • From September 2020, Relationship Education will become compulsory in all primary and secondary schools in England from Reception Class upwards. Parents do not have the right to withdraw their children from Relationship Education at any age.
  • From September 2020, Sex Education will become compulsory in all secondary schools in England. If you wish to withdraw your child from Sex Education in secondary school then you need to get permission from the Head Teacher. The ultimate decision on whether you can withdraw your child is down to the discretion of the Head teacher.
  • Sex Education is not compulsory in primary schools but primary schools are allowed to teach it if they want and many do. However, a parent has the automatic right to withdraw their child from sex education if taught at primary school.

Parent’s right to become involved in how schools will teach RE/RSE

  • As a parent, you have the right to get involved in the school’s RE/RSE policy development. The government strongly encourage schools to consult and work with parents in the design and implementation of RE/RSE in schools.
  • Parents have the right to know what will be taught to their child in RE/RSE and when.
  • Schools must inform parents about their right to withdraw their child from some or all of sex education when delivered as part of RSE.
  • Parents have the right to see the RE/RSE resources the school plans to use – the school is obliged to make these available for parent to view.
  • Parents have the right to ask the school any questions they wish in regards to RE/RSE.
  • Parents have the right to request workshops or meetings on RE/RSE at the school to find out more and discuss their opinions on the school’s approach to RE/RSE.

The National Curriculum

  • Parents do not have the right to withdraw their child from national curriculum science which may include aspects of Sex Education.
  • Parents do not have the right to withdraw their child from any national curriculum subjects.


  • Schools have been told that the religious backgrounds of children must be considered and RE/RSE matters must be taught in an appropriate manner. Religion is a protected characteristic under the 2010 Equality Act.
  • Faith schools will be allowed to teach their distinctive faith perspective on relationships as long as a balanced debate is facilitated about contentious issues.

A child’s right to choose

  • Three terms before a child turns 16 – the child themselves will be given the right to decide if they wish to attend sex education against their parent’s wishes or head teacher’s discretion.


  • Schools do not have to wait until September 2020 to implement RE/RSE; they are in fact encouraged to begin early and to offer a more comprehensive education in this area than the minimal legal requirements outline.
  • Many schools are already introducing RE/RSE into their curriculums.

Alternatives to school

  • Currently in the UK parents have the right to Home Educate their child and they do not have to teach the national curriculum or RE/RSE.

Above information correct on 9th October 2018.

Government Finalised Draft RE/RSE Guidelines can be downloaded HERE


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