Govt announces ‘expert panel’ to review how sex education is taught in schools

The government has announced the appointment of an “expert panel,” which includes prominent Muslim educationalist Sir Hamid Patel, that it will conduct a review into how Relationship, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) is being taught in schools.

The announcement follows years of complaints and protests by mainly faith groups, including Muslims, about explicit LGBTQ and other age-inappropriate content being taught in primary and secondary schools.

Last week Education Secretary Gillian Keegan announced the formation of an “independent expert advisory panel” which will advise on the review of the relationships, sex and health education curriculum.

“This is the next step in progressing the government’s mission to ensure that RSHE is taught in an age-appropriate and factual way in England,” the Department for Education said.

The panel will provide “expert advice” to the Education Secretary on what is appropriate to be taught in RSHE and at what age.

They will consider evidence provided by Ofsted on what is happening on the ground in schools to ascertain where clear age ratings are needed, to reassure parents that there is no room for disturbing or inappropriate content to be taught in schools.

The panel includes Sir Hamid Patel, Chief Executive of Star Academies which runs several Muslim schools around the country.

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He said: “The panel will offer insight on how schools can deliver a high quality RSHE curriculum for all our young people in a way that is age-appropriate, objective and wisely informed by the needs and views of children, parents and families from all backgrounds, across the country.

“The review is a welcome opportunity to provide clarity for teachers on expectations, alongside transparency and reassurance for parents.”

This is the first review of the statutory guidance since it came into force in 2020. It will provide an opportunity to consider whether the guidance covers the right topics and offers teachers clarity on how to teach sensitive subjects and engage parents positively.

It will be completed by the end of the year, following a consultation in the autumn.

Mufti Hamid Patel

In March, the Education Secretary wrote to all schools reminding them that parents should be able to view all curriculum materials, especially for sensitive topics like RSHE.

Gillian Keegan, said: “The wellbeing and safeguarding of children is our absolute priority, and I share the concerns of parents and teachers about reports that inappropriate lessons are being taught in schools.

“The vast majority of teachers do an incredible job navigating these complex and sensitive issues. But the review of the 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 that are inappropriate for their age.

“I’m determined to bring forward new guidance as quickly as possible, and schools should continue to engage with parents on lessons that cover the teaching of sensitive issues.”

Apart form Sir Hamid Patel the other panel members are:

  • Professor Dame Lesley Regan, professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Imperial College London and the government’s first ever Women’s Health Ambassador.
  • Helena Brothwell, Regional Director of School Improvement for David Ross Academy Trust.
  • Alasdair Henderson, barrister specialising in public law, human rights and equality law.
  • Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families in England.

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