An expert panel will be set to review sex education in England’s schools, with updated guidance in September to ensure no “disturbing or inappropriate content” reaches pupils.
This review comes amid concerns from teaching unions and more than 50 organizations and charities, who fear the move is politically motivated.
Rishi Sunak announced the review in March, after Conservative MP Miriam Cates claimed children were being taught “graphic lessons on oral sex, how to choke your partner safely, and 72 men “.
Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, said: “The welfare and safeguarding of children is our absolute priority, and I share the concerns of parents and teachers about reports that inappropriate lessons are taught in schools.
“The review of 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 are inappropriate for their age.”
An independent investigation for the Isle of Man government in March found claims that children had been left “traumatised” by sex education taught by a drag queen at a school in island “inaccurate”. The release of the results of the investigation resulted in death threats against the teachers.
“It’s worth noting that the current curriculum was subject to extensive consultation before it was introduced,” James Bowen, director of policy for the National Association of Head Teachers, said in March. “We have seen no evidence to suggest that there is a widespread problem of students being presented with age-inappropriate material, and if this is the case, we expect it to be caught on a case-by-case basis.”
Members of the independent expert advisory panel, who are expected to give their time on a voluntary basis, will begin work immediately, taking into account the evidence provided by schools watchdog Ofsted to determine where clear age ratings are needed. . The panel is expected to complete its work for consultation by the end of September, with a full review of the guidance expected to be completed by the end of the year, according to the Department for Education.
The panel was made up of Prof Dame Lesley Regan, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Imperial College London and the government’s first ever women’s health ambassador; Sir Hamid Patel, the chief executive of Star Academies; Helena Brothwell, a regional director of school improvement for the David Ross academy trust; Alasdair Henderson, a lawyer specializing in public law, human rights and equality law; and Isabelle Trowler, the government’s first chief social worker for children and families.
This is the first review of the law’s guidance since it came into force in 2020.