Delivery of relationships, sexual health and parenthood education in Scottish schools: draft guidance

Draft revised statutory teaching guidance for relationships, sexual health and parenthood (RSHP) education currently subject to public consultation until 23 November 2023.

2. Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) Education

Learning and Teaching RSHP education

2.1. Curriculum for Excellence positions all learners at the heart of education, supporting them to develop the four capacities:

  • successful learners;
  • confidential individuals;
  • responsible citizens; and,
  • effective contributors.

2.2 RSHP education sits within one of the eight curriculum areas, Health and Wellbeing (HWB). The development of skills and knowledge in HWB sits at the very centre of all learners’ educational experiences, from age 3 to 18.

2.3. Inclusive RSHP education, as part of the HWB curriculum, is a key priority in equipping all children and young people with the knowledge, understanding and skills to make informed decisions and consensual choices about all aspects of their health and wellbeing.

2.4 The Scottish Government considers that RSHP education complements other aspects of a child and young person’s learning and makes an important contribution to their development. This helps fulfil their right to learn about their growing bodies, relationships (including online relationships), sexuality, sexual health and parenthood, as set out in paragraph 4.7 below. It supports learning and understanding of healthy relationships, develops personal resilience and can encourage a bystander approach, where individuals are not looked on as potential victims or perpetrators but as empowered and active bystanders with the ability to support and challenge their peers in a safe way[11]. It can be used as a preventative tool to help reduce domestic abuse, gender based violence, and ensures the importance of appropriate boundaries for all children and young people are understood.

2.5 While in school settings, RSHP education will predominantly be delivered through Health and Wellbeing / PSE and Religious and Moral Education (RME). RSHP education should also have a role in promoting the ethos of a school by bringing pupils together and creating a sense of community. Schools are therefore encouraged to inform parents and carers of their ethos to help support their whole school approach.

2.6. Along with literacy and numeracy, health and wellbeing is one of the three core areas that are the responsibility of all staff in the school. Health and Wellbeing / PSE assists educational practitioners to establish open, positive, supportive relationships across the school community. Children and young people will feel they are listened to and feel secure in their ability to discuss sensitive aspects of their lives. This includes promoting a climate in which children and young people feel safe and secure and modelling behaviour which promotes health and wellbeing and encouraging this in others. Educational practitioners can do this through a whole school approach using learning and teaching methodologies which promote effective learning and by being sensitive and responsive to the wellbeing of each child and young person. When delivering learning and teaching in RSHP education, the responsibility for all, in this case, is the relationships aspect of this topic.

2.7. Schools and teachers should refer to their own school’s context, using people and places in their local area, or the individual interests of classes and pupils, to choose topics to focus on when developing learning and teaching in RSHP education. Actively involving children and young people in the co-design process will help make lessons more relevant and therefore more rewarding for them.

2.8. Using community‑based partners, such as school nurses, drug and alcohol education workers, sexual health clinicians and specialist third sector agencies can enhance, but must not replace, the delivery of RSHP education by teachers/educational practitioners in schools. Making links between education and relevant services, such as youth work and sexual health services, is essential in helping children and young people learn about local services first hand and which, in turn, can help build confidence if young people need to use a service in the future. This can also build their self‑confidence to help make informed and responsible decisions for themselves as part of growing up.

Engagement in learning

2.9. Parents and carers play a key role in all aspects of their children’s education; they are their primary educators. Therefore, the collaborative partnership schools have with parents and carers should be a key element of RSHP education delivery. It is good practice for schools to regularly involve parents and carers in discussions on curriculum content, including RSHP education, in line with the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006[12].

2.10. Parents and carers should be given advanced opportunity to view key teaching materials and to ask questions about any aspect of the RSHP education programme. Evidence indicates, where this has happened, parents and carers feel more confident about speaking to their children at home and answering their questions, for example, on sexual health, relationships and physical development.

2.11. Children and young people have a right to learn about their growing bodies, relationships (including online relationships), sexuality, sexual health and parenthood. Therefore, schools should work collaboratively between children and young people, as well as parents and carers, when developing their RSHP education programme. This can help fulfil the requirements of UNCRC Article 12[13]. The programme should be founded on full and frank information, and include sharing the curricular materials with parents and carers within appropriate and clear communication mechanisms.

2.12. Under Article 12 of the UNCRC, every child and young person who is capable of forming their own views has the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting them, with those views being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child and young person. Schools should include children and young people in decisions about their school experience, ensuring their views are taken into account. Doing so would be in line with section 2(2) of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000 and help to demonstrate compatibility with this article as well as contributing to the other articles in the UNCRC.

Withdrawal from RSHP education

2.13. Having given parents and carers the opportunity to view the key teaching materials, they can decide to withdraw their children from participation in the sexual health elements of RSHP education. This option should be made known to parents and carers and their views respected. Parents and carers should be provided with sufficient information on which to base a decision about choosing this option. The option of withdrawal should be balanced with the child’s right to education.

2.14. Where a child or young person is withdrawn from RSHP education, suitable arrangements should be made, in conjunction with parents and carers, and the child or young person, for them to participate in an appropriate alternative activity, that aligns with the experiences and outcomes of Curriculum for Excellence, and does not impact on their comprehensive and holistic education. The diagram below outlines some of the areas of consideration for parents and carers seeking to withdraw their child or young person from RSHP education. However, while schools should do their best to accommodate, it is acknowledged it can sometimes be a significant challenge for them to put a suitable alternative in place, in addition to existing curriculum design. Any potential negative impacts on the curricular progression of the child or young person or their right to an education should be conveyed to parents and carers.

2.15. Mechanisms for prompt appeal regarding withdrawal or suitable alternative arrangements at local authority level should be provided in cases where a parent, carer or young person remains dissatisfied after consultation with the school. The school handbook should set out the arrangements around consulting parents, carers and young people and the way in which their concerns can be raised, whether that be informally or through more formal processes, such as the local authority’s complaints process.

Diagram outlining some of the areas of consideration for parents and carers seeking to withdraw their child or young person from RSHP education

Share RSHP education material in advance of learning.

Meet any parent/carer concerned about planned RSHP education. Things to cover in meeting:

What are the main areas of concern?

How would you like to see your concerns addressed?

What alternative learning, ensuring a comprehensive and holistic approach and curriculum, should the child/young person receive as an alternative?

Ensure referral pathways are clear should parent/carer wish to take their concerns further.

Parents/carers or child/young person would still like to be removed from RSHP education. Arrangements should be made for alternative positive educational provision. Ensure parents/carers and child/young person are aware that alternative provision will be made. Monitor impact of removal on child/young person to ensure they are not exposed to bullying or harassment from peers and their learning remains on par with their peers.

Parents/carers or child/young person are content to continue to receive RSHP education as outlined by the school. Consider what adjustments may be required to learning intentions on the back of concerns raised.

Review withdrawal at appropriate points throughout the year, do not assume it should continue. Ensure balance of the best interests and rights of the parents/carers and of the child/young person remain at the heart of decision making. Children and young people with a learning disability or who require additional support may require more bespoke learning activities and this should always be discussed with parents/carers and children/young people.

Monitoring, Tracking and Assessment

2.16. Provision of age and stage appropriate RSHP education for children and young people helps equip them with the values, skills and attitudes required to develop resilience as well as healthy, respectful emotional and sexual relationships.

2.17. Health and Wellbeing Experiences and Outcomes clearly articulate a set of statements for learning and progression in RSHP and should be used in conjunction with the Personal and Social Education Benchmarks by all practitioners and relevant stakeholders to effectively plan and assess children and young people’s progress. In addition to supporting professional judgements to monitor and track progress in learning, the Experiences and Outcomes in tandem with the Benchmarks promote consistency in the delivery of RSHP education and ensure children and young people receive progressive, comprehensive and holistic learning and teaching in this aspect of health and wellbeing.



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