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Relationships & sex Education (RSE)

RSE subject overview

RSE will continue to develop pupils’ knowledge on the topics taught at a primary level, in addition to the content outlined in this section.

By the end of secondary school, pupils will know:

  • That there are different types of committed, stable relationships.

  • How these relationships might contribute to human happiness and their importance for bringing up children.

  • What marriage is, including their legal status, e.g. that marriage carries legal rights and protections not available to couples who are cohabiting or who have married, for example, in an unregistered religious ceremony.

  • Why marriage is an important relationship choice for many couples and why it must be freely entered into.

  • About the characteristics and legal status of other types of long-term relationships.

  • About the roles and responsibilities of parents with respect to raising children, including the characteristics of successful parenting.


  • Determine whether other children, adults or sources of information are trustworthy.

  • Judge when a family, friend, intimate or other relationship is unsafe, and recognise this in others’ relationships.

  • Seek help or advice if needed, including reporting concerns about others.

By the end of secondary school, pupils will know

  • About the characteristics of positive and healthy friendships in all contexts (including online), including trust, respect, honesty, kindness, generosity, boundaries, privacy, consent and the management of conflict, reconciliation and ending relationships. This includes different (non-sexual) types of relationships.

  • Practical steps they can take in a range of different contexts to improve or support respectful relationships.

  • How stereotypes, particularly those based on sex, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability, can cause damage, e.g. how they might normalise non-consensual behaviour.

  • That in school and wider society they can expect to be treated with respect by others, and that in turn they should show due respect to others, including people in positions of authority and due tolerance of other people’s beliefs.

  • About different types of bullying (including cyberbullying), the impact of bullying, responsibilities of bystanders to report bullying and how and where to seek help.

  • About the types of behaviour in relationships that can be criminal, including violent behaviour and coercive control.

  • What constitutes sexual harassment and violence and why these are always unacceptable.

  • About the legal rights and responsibilities regarding equality, with reference to the protected characteristics defined in the Equality Act 2010, and that everyone is unique and equal.


By the end of secondary school, pupils will know

  • Their rights, responsibilities and opportunities online, and that the same expectations of behaviour apply in all contexts.

  • About online risks, including that material shared with another person has the potential to be shared online and the difficulty of removing potentially compromising material placed online.

  • Not to provide material to others that they would not want shared further and not to share personal material which they receive.

  • What to do and where to get support to report material or manage issues online.

  • The impact of viewing harmful content.

  • That specifically sexually explicit material, e.g. pornography, presents a distorted picture of sexual behaviours, can damage the way people see themselves in relation to others and negatively affect how they behave towards sexual partners.

  • That sharing and viewing indecent images of children is a criminal offence which carries severe penalties, including jail.

  • How information and data is generated, collected, shared and used online.


By the end of secondary school, pupils will know

  • About the concepts of, and laws relating to, sexual consent, sexual exploitation, abuse, grooming, coercion, harassment, rape, domestic abuse, forced marriage, honour-based violence and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and how these can affect current and future relationships.

  • How people can actively communicate and recognise consent from others, including sexual consent, and how and when consent can be withdrawn – this includes online.


By the end of secondary school, pupils will know

  • How to recognise the characteristics and positive aspects of healthy one-to-one intimate relationships, which include mutual respect, consent, loyalty, trust, shared interests and outlook, sex and friendship.

  • That all aspects of health can be affected by choices they make in sex and relationships, positively and negatively, e.g. physical, emotional, mental, sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing.

  • The facts about reproductive health, including fertility and the potential impact of lifestyle on fertility for both men and women.

  • The range of strategies for identifying and managing sexual pressure, including understanding peer pressure, resisting pressure and not pressurising others.

  • That they have a choice to delay sex or enjoy intimacy without sex.

  • The facts about the full range of contraceptive choices, their effectiveness and options available.

  • The facts around pregnancy including miscarriage.

  • That there are choices in relation to pregnancy, with legally and medically accurate, impartial information on all options including keeping the baby, adoption, abortion and where to get further help.

  • How the different sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are transmitted, how risk can be reduced through safer sex and the importance of facts about testing.

  • About the prevalence of some STIs, the impact they can have on those who contract them and key facts about treatment.

  • How the use of alcohol and drugs can lead to risky sexual behaviour.

  • How to get further advice, including how and where to access confidential sexual and reproductive health advice and treatment.


It is important to know what the law says about sex, relationships and young people, as well as broader safeguarding issues. This includes a range of important facts and the rules regarding sharing personal information, pictures, videos and other material using technology. This will help young people to know what is right and wrong in law, but it can also provide a good foundation of knowledge for deeper discussion about all types of relationships. There are also many different legal provisions whose purpose is to protect young people and which ensure young people take responsibility for their actions.

Pupils should be made aware of the relevant legal provisions when relevant topics are being taught, including for example

  • Marriage

  • Consent, including the age of consent

  • Violence against women and girls

  • Online behaviours including image and information sharing (including ‘sexting’, youth-produced sexual imagery, nudes, etc.)

  • Pornography

  • Abortion

  • Sexuality

  • Gender identity

  • Substance misuse

  • Violence and exploitation by gangs

  • Extremism and radicalisation

  • Criminal exploitation (for example, through gang involvement or ‘county lines’ drugs operations)

  • Hate crime

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM)