Legislation and Guidance

These guidelines have been written to take account of, and in accordance with, legal and curriculum requirements and national guidance documents.

In school settings the law relating to SRE is contained in the 1996 Education Act and the 2000 Learning and Skills Act.  Every local education authority, head teacher and governing body has a statutory responsiblity to take account of this guidance, which requires that SRE be provided.  Furthermore, a written SRE policy must be in place, available for Ofsted and parents to inspect, and should be available to anybody planning or delivering SRE.  The DCSF SRE Guidance document (DfES 0116/2000) builds on these legal requirements and emphasises best practice by recommending that SRE is planned and delivered as part of Personal, Social, Health and Education.

Section 78 of the Education Act 2002

Section 78 requires governing bodies for all maintained schools to provide a curriculum that "promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of scoeity, and prepare pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life".

The 1996 Education Act

The Act consolidated all previous legislation and:

  • made mandatory the SRE elements in the National Curriulum Science Order across all Key Stages
  • stated that school governors must provide an up-to-date policy describing the content and organisation of SRE provided outside the National Curriulum Science Order
  • required primary schools to have a policy statement describing the SRE provided or give a statement of the decision not to provide SRE outside that within the Science Order
  • required secondary schools to provide an SRE programme to include, as a minimum, information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.

Education and Inspections Act 2006

Section 38 (1) of the Education & Inspections Act 2006 states that:

"The governing body of a maintained school, shall, in discharging their functions relating to the conduct of the school:

  • promote the wellbeing of pupils at the school, and
  • promote community cohesion.

Education and Inspections Act 2006

The governing body of a maintained school shall, in discharging those functions...

  • have regard to any relevant children and young people's plan
  • have regard to any views expressed by parents or registered pupils.

In this section "wellbeing" in relation to pupils at a school in England, means "their wellbeing so far relating to the matters mentioned in section 10 (2) of the Children Act 2004".

The Children Act 2004

Section 10 (2) of the Children Act 2004 defines wellbeing, for an individual, as made up of:

  • physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing
  • protection from harm and neglect
  • education, training and recreation
  • the contribution made by him to society
  • social and economic wellbeing.

The Learning and Skills Act 2000 requires that young people:

  • learn about the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children
  • and are protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate having regard to the age and the religious and cultural background of the pupils concerned.

Significant aspects of SRE remain part of the National Curriculum Science in all four Key Stages.  These must be taught to all pupils; parents and carers cannot withdraw pupils from such lessons.

The National Curriculum for key stages 3 and 4 is changing.  SRE remains an important part of the Science curriculum, with changes to science and the introduction of a new PSHE non-statutory programme of study, Personal Wellbeing, which includes the requirements for SRE and drugs education.  The new programme of study are being introduced from September 2008 for Year 7 pupils, who will be the first cohort to follow them.

The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

Discrimination on Grounds of Sexual Orientation

This legislation, preventing discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, came into force on 30 April 2007.  It made provision for the introduction of regulations to extend the protection already in place against discrimination in the areas of goods, facilities and services on the grounds of sexual orientation unlawful.

For schools this applies to admissions, benefits and services for pupils and treatment of pupils.  For local authorities the provisions extend to the exercise of their functions.