The press release issued by the Department for Education on 23 October 2023.
Education Secretary’s letters make crystal clear that schools must share relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) curriculum material with parents.
The Education Secretary is writing today, 24 October, to all schools in England to make clear that they can and should share relationships, sex and health (RSHE) curriculum materials with parents.
In addition, she has penned an open letter to parents – which encourages them to have confidence in their right to know what their children are seeing and being taught in the classroom.
The letter makes clear that companies providing teaching resources cannot use copyright law to forbid schools from sharing materials, and any attempt to do so through contract terms would be unenforceable and void.
If a provider were to attempt to forbid sharing with parents when asked, schools should continue regardless, because a blanket ban would contradict the clear public interest in parents being aware of what their children are being taught.
In the event that a school is faced with contractual clauses, the Education Secretary is backing schools defending parents’ rights with a practical sample letter that all schools can adapt and send to external providers making clear such clauses are void on the grounds that they are unenforceable.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said:
No ifs, no buts and no more excuses. This government is acting to guarantee parents’ fundamental right to know what their children are being taught in sex and relationships education.
Today I’m writing to schools and parents to debunk the copyright myth that parents cannot see what their children are being taught.
Parents must be empowered to ask and schools should have the confidence to share.
Parentkind’s Chief Executive Jason Elsom said:
Parentkind welcomes the Department for Education’s timely move to strengthen parental rights in the teaching of RSHE. The key to children receiving appropriate and beneficial relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) teaching is full transparency with parents.
When we polled parents on RSHE earlier this year, a clear picture emerged. Parents wanted to be consulted by schools in advance and agreed that the teaching of the subject was important.
Our research clearly demonstrates that when parents are consistently informed about RSHE in advance, they are significantly likelier to have confidence in the curriculum and be supportive of the content. This move should help to reassure parents about the content and provision of RSHE.
The Education Secretary first wrote to all schools in England in March in light of concerning reports of the teaching of inappropriate materials as part of the RSHE curriculum.
This letter was clear that the government was initiating a thorough review of the curriculum supported by an independent panel, but that in the meantime schools should not enter contractual conditions that prevent them sharing RSHE materials.
The new letter provides the most categorical position on the application of copyright law in this area to date – as part of the government’s overriding approach to empower both teachers and parents to defend their rights.
It makes clear that where parents cannot attend a presentation or they are unable to view materials via a “parent portal”, such as a school website, schools may provide copies of materials to parents to take home on request, providing parents agree to avoid copying the content or sharing it further.
The Education Secretary and departmental officials have been listening closely to parents and teachers as part of the thorough review into the RSHE curriculum and will publish the updated guidance for full public consultation later this year.