Major changes to sex and relationships education announced across Wales.

Thirty years since Section 28 was introduced in schools in Wales, England and Scotland, Education Secretary for the National Assembly for Wales, Kirsty Williams, has announced major changes to Sex and Relationships Education in Wales (SRE).

Following a review of the subject by an expert panel led by Professor Emma Renold, Professor of Childhood Studies at Cardiff University, the Education Secretary has announced that this area of study will become Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) – a statutory part of Wales’ new curriculum which will be in place from 2022.

At present, SRE is a statutory part of the basic curriculum in Wales but it is down to schools to decide their approach to the subject and this sometimes doesn’t stretch beyond the biological aspects of human relationships.

RSE represents a major departure from these traditional approaches because it broadens this area of study and places an emphasis on forming and maintaining healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships.

Learners will also be given a much broader understanding of sexuality that is fully inclusive of LGBTQI+ learners and includes wider issues such as consent, domestic abuse and respecting diversity.

The decision to change the focus of this area of study to relationships and sexuality, as well as the decision to make it statutory, reflects its immense importance in terms of how learners understand themselves, each other, their community and society.

When Wales’ new curriculum is in place in 2022, RSE will become statutory from the age of five to 16, but learners will not be taught about topics for which they are not developmentally ready.

“The days of traditional sex education are long gone; the world has moved on and our curriculum must move with it,” said Williams.

“Sex should never be taught in isolation for the simple reason that it is about so much more than just sex; it’s also about relationships, rights and respect and that must go hand in hand with a much broader understanding of sexuality. Anything less does a disservice to our learners and teachers.

“The fact is relationships and sexuality shape our lives as well as the world around us. They are a fundamental part of who we are and how we understand ourselves, each other and society.

“By creating RSE as a statutory area of study in our new curriculum for Wales, we will support our young people in developing healthy relationships, maintaining good mental health, and keeping physically and sexually safe.

“Of course, thirty years on from the introduction of Section 28, we will also ensure that RSE is fully inclusive of all genders and sexualities and meets the needs of LGBTQI+ learners.

“Crucial to all of this will be ensuring that our teachers have the knowledge and confidence to provide the RSE our learners deserve. That’s why we’re providing to ensure that we get the training and professional development right.

“Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher denounced local education authorities for teaching children that ‘they have an inalienable right to be gay. I want all our learners to know that they have an inalienable right to be happy – this is the driving force behind the changes we’re proposing.”

As well as reflecting this name change, the guidance will provide schools with greater support on a range of topics such as education for LGBTQI+ learners and prevention of violence against women and domestic abuse.