Schools are being given until 2021 to officially put inclusive sex ed courses into practice

By Hanna McNeila.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the latest wave of the Black Lives Matter movement, students and teachers alike have been calling upon education systems around the world to make changes to curriculums, insisting that they be more diverse and widely representative. Although not all demands have been met with immediate reform, as of Sept. 1, LGBTQIA+ relationships will be a part of Sex Ed in English Schools.

As a result of a landmark ruling last year, schools across the U.K. must teach inclusive Relationship and Sex Education courses (RSE). Schools are being given until 2021 to officially put these courses into practice. Although the 1988 legislation (Section 28) that forbade promoting homosexuality in schools was reversed in Scotland in 2000 and in England and Wales in 2003, the topic has remained somewhat taboo in schools across the U.K.

As the new school year begins, institutions are beginning to implement changes to their sex ed programs, as the new law states that students must be taught about sexual orientation and gender identity. Mo Wiltshire, Stonewall’s director of education referred to the new law as “momentous and life changing” in an op-ed for The-i. Wiltshire also stated that “this kind of teaching will help foster inclusion, acceptance and understanding in our classrooms, playgrounds and school corridors.”

Despite the progressive nature of the new laws, there have been comments of concern regarding the specifics of the reforms. In an op-ed in, Humanists U.K. Education Campaigns Manager, Ruth Wareham, expressed concerns about the effectiveness of the law.

“While the new law is a real cause for celebration, the government guidance associated with it is far from perfect. Schools are permitted to delay or omit content, including about LGBT people, on faith grounds, and parents are still allowed to prevent their children from receiving any sex education until the later stages of secondary school.”

According to the House of Commons library, “parents are free to withdraw their children from SRE if they wish to do so. The only exceptions to this are the biological aspects of human growth and reproduction that are essential elements of National Curriculum Science.” However, children may ‘opt in’ as they approach 16, without parental consent. They also stated that “faith schools are permitted to teach “within the tenets of their faith.”