Skip to main content

New school rules on teaching sex education & gender identity

Teacher in primary class
A new policy will soon be published that will strictly regulate what younger children learn in regards to sex education and the concept of gender identity. Primary school headteacher Matt Revill provides an in-depth look at this controversial change and shares his views as an educator.

Sex education, often referred to as Relationships and Health Education (RHE), has been a cornerstone of the curriculum in England. It aims to help children understand relationships, health and personal safety. However, recent changes are about to alter this landscape significantly.

What’s the new policy?

A recent report by the BBC highlights that starting soon, primary schools will be restricted when teaching sex education to children under nine years old. Additionally, discussions about gender identity will face stricter regulations. The new guidelines, expected to be published shortly, are intended to offer clearer direction for teachers and reassure parents about age-appropriate content.

Concerns and controversy

Not everyone supports these changes. In the media, Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of the school leaders' union NAHT, questions the necessity and effectiveness of such rigid age limits. He argues that there is no substantial evidence indicating widespread issues with current teaching practices. Whiteman warns that restricting discussions might push children to seek information from unreliable sources, potentially harming their understanding and safety. As educators and parents, we all know the risks involved with children seeking to find answers from the internet. 

Current curriculum: what do children learn now?

Since September 2020, relationships education has been mandatory in primary schools. Lessons cover healthy relationships, family dynamics, online safety and puberty. Secondary school curricula expand to include sexual relationships, consent, online abuse, domestic abuse and female genital mutilation (FGM). These topics are crucial in helping children navigate an ever-changing world safely and knowledgeably.

Adapting to modern challenges

In the BBC article, educators emphasise the need for flexibility in the curriculum. Pepe Di'Iasio, headteacher and General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, points out that issues like sharing explicit images on social media are becoming relevant at younger ages. Primary schools are increasingly dealing with online safety issues as more children have access to their own devices. Additionally, children today encounter diverse family structures, making it vital that children understand how their family dynamics can be different to their classmates, so that they can show kindness and respect to everyone.

What can parents do?

If you're a parent concerned about these new guidelines, consider the following steps:

  • Communicate openly
    Talk to your child about what they learn in school. Address their questions and concerns, and encourage open discussions.
  • Engage with schools
    Reach out to your child’s teachers and school leaders to understand how they plan to implement these new guidelines. Express your views on inclusion and comprehensive education. Schools welcome open dialogue to ensure the curriculum meets everyone’s needs.
  • Advocate for flexibility
    Join other parents in advocating for a curriculum that adapts to the changing needs of children, providing them with accurate, age-appropriate information.

Looking ahead

The ultimate goal of sex education is to equip children with the knowledge they need to navigate relationships and personal health safely and confidently. While the new guidelines aim to protect young children, it’s crucial to ensure they don’t inadvertently limit the education and support students receive. By staying informed and involved, parents can help shape a positive educational experience, ensuring every student is included and well-informed.


Matt Revill is a primary school headteacher with over 20 years experience of working in schools. He has worked in a range of settings and currently works within a multi-academy trust of 14 schools. In his free time, he enjoys reading, computing, holidaying and spending time with his family and friends. Matt has a son who is currently working his way through A-levels at college.

Matt Revill photo