At Diversity Role Models our mission is to create an education system in which every young person will know they are valued and supported, whoever they are. The changes to Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) provide a unique opportunity for schools to embed LGBT+ inclusive teaching into their policies, practices, curriculum and culture. We’re excited to continue to support schools through these changes and wanted to share with you what we feel these changes mean for young people, schools and us at DRM.

1) Compulsory RSE

As of September 2020 Relationship Education will be compulsory in primary schools, Relationship and Sex Education will be compulsory in secondary schools, and health education will be compulsory in all state-funded schools. This means, for the first time, all schools will be required to teach about the diversity of families, respectful relationships and friendships and how to stay safe, happy and healthy. Our student workshops at both primary and secondary level will be invaluable to schools in meeting their obligations under the new guidance in an open and positive manner.

2) LGBT+ inclusive RSE

Students at secondary school will be taught “the facts and the law about sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity in an age-appropriate and inclusive way”. The guidance here is clear that “sexual orientation and gender identity should be explored at a timely point and in a clear, sensitive and respectful manner” that recognises that young people may be discovering their sexual orientation or gender identity.  There must be equal opportunity to explore healthy same-sex relationships and all pupils should feel the content is relevant to them. This means that not only will LGBT+ identities be explored in-depth, as we do in our workshops, but also will be ‘mainstreamed’ across all elements of RSE, as we have recommended and supported staff to do through our staff training.

Primary pupils will be given the building blocks to healthy, respectful relationships. This will include exploring how “other’s families, either in schools or in the wider world, sometimes look different from their family, but that they should respect those differences”. What better way to do so than by hearing a role model share the story of their unique family life? They will also learn about same-sex marriage, respecting others who are different, different types of bullying and the negative impacts of stereotyping. This education is a vital tool in preventing bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity before it happens and building schools that celebrate our differences.

3) A continued commitment to LGBT+ inclusion

These changes offer a wonderful opportunity for schools to update, revamp and recommit to creating a truly LGBT+ inclusive provision of RSE. All schools will have to update their policies and adapt their teaching to ensure they are complying with the new guidance, as well as other key drivers such as the new Ofsted framework and the Equality Act 2010. We have worked with so many inspiring teachers and school leaders, who have paved the way for LGBT+ inclusive teaching in their schools. The opportunity to update their policies and curriculum offers a chance to build on the existing work and recommit to creating a safe and supportive learning environment for all.

4) Making the positive case for LGBT+ inclusion to Parents and Carers

Parents and carers will still have a right to withdraw their children from some, or all, of sex education. However, much of what is outlined in relationship education such as learning about different families will allow children to explore differences in a positive and respectful manner without having it tied to sex education. Students will also be able to opt themselves in to sex education once they reach within three terms of their 16th birthday regardless of their parent’s view.  Parents will need to be consulted on the changes made to school policies. However, Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, made clear that parents will have no right to veto the content and ultimately it is the schools’ decision what they teach. We believe that open and clear communication with parents is the best way to address misconceptions about RSE and the opportunity to discuss this with parents will be a valuable opportunity for schools to share the importance of teaching LGBT+ inclusive RSE.

5) How we will continue to support schools

Given the big changes taking place, our work is more important than ever in supporting schools on their journey to LGBT+ inclusion. Our student workshops, for both primary and secondary, will be a superb tool that teachers can use to explore issues such as stereotyping, different families and LGBT+ identities in an age-appropriate, positive and respectful manner. Having trained over 5,000 teachers we look forward to supporting even more to share the wealth of resources that are available to teach RSE in a way that is relevant and inclusive of all students. School leaders, such as Heads, Deputies and Governors, will be able to access bespoke training that we are developing to help them prepare for the changes to RSE. One of the most exciting opportunities is also the chance to support schools in sharing with parents and carers the duties and obligations schools have in creating an LGBT+ inclusive school. We firmly believe that clear, honest and positive communication can help bring parents on board with the school’s journey in adapting to the changes to RSE.