Relationships, sexual health and parenthood education in schools - draft statutory guidance: consultation

This consultation seeks views on draft updated statutory guidance on the delivery of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) education in Scottish schools. The draft guidance is an update to guidance originally published in 2014 and reflects recommendations from the PSE Review and LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group.

Consultation on, the revised Conduct of Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education in Schools teaching guidance


Section 56 of the Standards in Scotland's Schools etc Act 2000[1] provides the Scottish Ministers with the power to issue statutory guidance to education authorities on how sex education should be conducted in Scottish schools.

There have been established principles and aims, provided by previously issued guidance, which set the foundations of good and relevant learning in relationships, sexual health and parenthood education. These have remained central throughout the development of this updated draft guidance.


Sex education could be defined as a lifelong process whereby children and young people acquire knowledge, understanding and skills, and develop beliefs, attitudes and values about their sexuality and relationships within a moral and ethical framework. The suggested key principles are that:

  • sex education should be viewed as one element of health and wellbeing education, set within the wider context of health promotion and the health promoting ethos of the school;
  • sex education should contribute to the physical, emotional, moral and spiritual development of all children and young people within the context of today's society;
  • education about sexuality and relationships should reflect the cultural, ethnic and religious influences within the home, the school and the community;
  • sex education should be non‑discriminatory and sensitive to the diverse backgrounds and needs of all children and young people; and,
  • sex education starts informally at an early stage with parents and carers, and continues through to adulthood both within the home and at all stages of school life.


The key aims of sex education are to:

  • provide accurate and relevant information about the physical and emotional changes children and young people will experience throughout their formative years and into adulthood;
  • establish an awareness of the importance of stable family life and relationships, including the responsibilities of parenthood and marriage;
  • provide opportunities for children and young people to develop personal and interpersonal skills that will enable them to make and maintain appropriate relationships within the family, with friends and within the community;
  • enable children and young people to develop and reflect upon their beliefs, attitudes and values in relation to themselves and others within a moral, ethical and multi‑cultural framework;
  • foster self‑awareness and self‑esteem and a sense of responsibility and respect for themselves and for others;
  • provide opportunities for children and young people to consider and reflect upon the range of attitudes to gender, sexuality and sexual orientation, relationships and family life;
  • develop an appreciation of, and respect for, diversity and of the need to avoid prejudice and discrimination; and,
  • provide information about and skills to access, where appropriate, agencies and services providing support and advice to young people.

In 2014, the Scottish Government published updated guidance for teachers on the conduct of teaching RSHP education[2]. This guidance was developed over the course of 2013 to take account of the introduction of Curriculum for Excellence, where sex education forms part of the broader subject of RSHP education, and the Marriage and Civil Partnerships legislation. More recently, work to embed LGBT inclusive education across the curriculum[3] and to review the delivery of Personal and Social Education (PSE)[4] have both recommended the 2014 guidance be updated. RSHP education is also identified as a key strand in work to prevent and tackle gender based violence and sexual harassment, through support for development of understanding of appropriate boundaries, consent and healthy relationships. These issues have been shown up by the recent work to highlight the experience of sexual harassment and gender based violence in schools and society, highlighted through Equally Safe and Everyone's Invited.

In addition to the recommendations made in critical pieces of work, and given the passage of time and the change in social fabric, the 2014 guidance was becoming outdated in providing suitable guidance for teachers on delivering RSHP education. The availability of a suite of dedicated resources to support teachers to deliver meaningful RSHP education, increased the need for teaching guidance to match the current, relevant and age and stage appropriate resources now available for teachers.


Within Curriculum for Excellence, relationships, sexual health and parenthood education is part of the Health and Wellbeing Experiences and Outcomes[5]. The intent is that learners develop an understanding of how to maintain positive relationships with a variety of people and are aware of how thoughts, feelings, attitudes, values and beliefs can influence decisions about relationships and sexual health. They also develop their understanding of the complex roles and responsibilities of being a parent or carer.

What is not in the scope of this guidance consultation

This consultation is on the draft guidance on the delivery of relationships, sexual health and parenthood education in Scottish schools. It is not a consultation to seek views on the health and wellbeing curriculum on RSHP or on guidance and tools already available to support delivery of RSHP education in Scotland, provided by other organisations. Comments on those matters are outwith the scope of the consultation on the draft guidance and will not be considered.

Actions taken in preparing draft updated guidance

In preparing updated guidance, the Scottish Government brought together a core group of skilled and experienced stakeholders, representing a wide range of interests. The Scottish Government then engaged widely with key stakeholders and interested organisations on key themes the guidance should look at based on the recommendations received and the following sections set out the areas the Scottish Government and consulting partners focussed on in updating the guidance.

How the guidance document is structured

The draft statutory guidance is structured through four sections. This consultation seeks specific comments, on the draft guidance including the provision of alternative wording where concerns about drafting are raised. Comments should be specific and include the relevant paragraph number in order to ensure accurate consideration of comments.

Section One: Introduction

This section of the statutory guidance explains its basis and application.

Question 1: Introduction

Is the draft introduction clear on the status and application of the guidance? Are there further additions required?

Section Two: – RSHP Education

This section of the statutory guidance explains the purpose of RSHP education. It explains the lenses through which RSHP education should be delivered to ensure a consistent and meaningful approach to learning.

Question 2: Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood Education

How clear is the purpose of the RSHP education section?

Parents and carers are the primary educators of their children. They should be aware of the content of proposed RSHP education and should continue to have the opportunity to withdraw their child(ren) from RSHP education should they have concerns about the appropriateness of the content of the proposed learning.

The revised guidance has been updated to provide more detailed guidance on how parents' and carers' rights can be honoured as well as the steps that can be taken to fulfil their decision to withdraw their child.

Question 3: Parental engagement and ability to withdraw from RSHP learning

Is the guidance sufficiently clear in relation to the rights of parents and carers; is the process for withdrawing a pupil sufficiently clear?

Section Three: Embedding RSHP Education as a Whole School Approach

The increasing use of the internet and social media by children and young people brings both benefits and difficulties to their daily lives. The PSE Review[6] also highlighted the issues faced by children and young people as they conduct relationships online in an ever increasing way.

In addition, there have been several other areas where it has been highlighted more detailed guidance is needed for teachers to ensure specific topics are highlighted in a consistent and robust manner. These are set out in more detail below.

Question 4: Embedding RSHP Education as a Whole School Approach

How effective is the guidance in explaining the key issues to be highlighted to teachers in delivering RSHP education? How does this help bring consistency to learning?

Question 5: Consent and healthy relationships

Is the guidance sufficiently clear in supporting consent and healthy relationships having a greater focus in RSHP education?

Question 6: Faith, belief and RSHP education

Is the guidance sufficiently clear in ensuring faith and belief is accurately captured in RSHP education?

Question 7: Gender Inclusive Education

Is the guidance sufficiently clear in ensuring gender inclusive language is used to deliver RSHP education?

Question 8: Understanding of Variations in Sex Characteristics (VSC) sometimes referred to as or Differences in Sex Development (DSD) or Intersex

Is the guidance sufficiently clear in explaining and including VSC/DSD/intersex people in RSHP education?

Question 9: LGBT inclusive RSHP education

Is the guidance sufficiently clear in ensuring RSHP education is LGBT inclusive?

Section 4: Key Learning Points for RSHP Education

These are devised as the key learning points teachers should follow in the delivery of relationships, sexual health and parenthood education.

Question 10: Key Learning Points for RSHP Education

Are these key learning points sufficiently clear in explaining the requirements for RSHP education?

Question 11: Pupils with Additional Support Needs

Is the guidance sufficiently clear in explaining the requirement for pupils with Additional Support Needs to have RSHP education?

Section 5: RSHP: Policy, Guidance and Resources

This section of the statutory guidance contains areas of further information for teachers and schools to support their delivery of RSHP education.

Question 12: RSHP: Policy, Guidance and Resources

Does the guidance provide sufficient resources and signposts to support teachers in delivery of RSHP education, if not, which resources do you think are missing?



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