Education Secretary appoints advisory panel to ensure age-appropriate RSE lessons

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

A new independent advisory panel is being set up by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan to ensure that the content of controversial Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSE) lessons are age-appropriate. 

It follows a backlash from parents and Christians among others about some of the inappropriate resources being used in RSE lessons. 

The expert panel will advise the Department for Education on its review of the RSE curriculum which aims "to ensure that RSHE is taught in an age-appropriate and factual way in England". 

"The wellbeing and safeguarding of children is our absolute priority, and I share the concerns of parents and teachers about reports that inappropriate lessons are being taught in schools," said Mrs Keegan. 

"The vast majority of teachers do an incredible job navigating these complex and sensitive issues. But the review of the statutory guidance - with the help of this expert panel - will provide clear safeguards against children being taught concepts they are too young to understand or that are inappropriate for their age.

"I'm determined to bring forward new guidance as quickly as possible, and schools should continue to engage with parents on lessons that cover the teaching of sensitive issues." 

The panel is formed of Professor Dame Lesley Regan, professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Imperial College London, Sir Hamid Patel, Chief Executive of Star Academies, Helena Brothwell, Regional Director of School Improvement for David Ross Academy Trust, human rights barrister Alasdair Henderson, and Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families in England.

They will consider evidence about how RSE is being taught in English schools and decide whether age ratings need to be introduced. 

The government said there was "no room for disturbing or inappropriate content to be taught in schools" and that it is taking "robust action" to ensure that parents are informed about what their children are learning in RSE.

The panel's work will be completed by September. The government review into RSE will conclude at the end of the year, following a consultation in autumn. 

Sir Hamid said: "The panel will offer insight on how schools can deliver a high quality RSHE curriculum for all our young people in a way that is age-appropriate, objective and wisely informed by the needs and views of children, parents and families from all backgrounds, across the country.

"The review is a welcome opportunity to provide clarity for teachers on expectations, alongside transparency and reassurance for parents."