What does the statutory guidance say?
The statutory guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) sets out what schools are required to teach within RSHE. When it comes to LGBT topics, the statutory guidance states that secondary schools must teach about ‘the facts and the law about sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity in an age-appropriate and inclusive way. All pupils should feel that the content is relevant to them and their developing sexuality’. You’ll find a useful summary from the DfE here.
What could an LGBT-inclusive RSHE curriculum look like?
In the statutory guidance on RSHE, the DfE outlines what pupils should know by the end of secondary for each of the major topics. This is required content. Below, we’ve included some examples of how LGBT-specific content could be woven through each topic – these are our suggestions and are intended to get you started.
Pupils should 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.
- that marriage represents a formal and legally recognised commitment of two people to each other which is intended to be lifelong.
- the characteristics and legal status of other types of long-term relationships.
- the roles and responsibilities of parents with respect to raising of children, including the characteristics of successful parenting.
- how to: determine whether other children, adults or sources of information are trustworthy.
- how to: judge when a family, friend, intimate or other relationship is unsafe (and to recognise this in others’ relationships); and how to seek help or advice from others if needed.
- that the law says same-sex couples can get married and adopt children.
- that ‘different types of committed, stable relationships’ includes same-sex relationships.
- when teaching about recognising whether a relationship is safe and accessing help or support, we recommend that you include examples and case studies about LGBT people and include support services (both local and national) for LGBT people. Find recommendations in our Introduction to Supporting LGBT Children and Young People.
- Respectful relationships, including friendships
Pupils should know:
- 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 relationship.
- practical steps they can take in a range of different contexts to improve or support respectful relationships.
- how stereotypes, in particular stereotypes based on sex, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability, can cause damage (e.g. how they might normalise non-consensual behaviour or encourage prejudice).
- that in school and in wider society they can expect to be treated with respect by others, and that in turn that they should show due respect to others in turn. This includes respecting people in positions of authority and due tolerance of other people’s beliefs.
- about different types of bullying (including cyberbullying), the impact of bullying, the responsibilities of bystanders to report bullying, and and how and where to get help.
- that some types of behaviour within relationships are criminal, including violent behaviour and coercive control.
- what constitutes sexual harassment and sexual violence and why these are always unacceptable.
- the legal rights and responsibilities regarding equality (particularly with reference to the protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010), and that everyone is unique and equal.
- that some people may be less interested in romantic relationships or may not want to have a romantic relationship at all, and there’s nothing wrong with this. Some people who aren’t interested in having a romantic relationship may describe themselves as aromantic.
- how to recognise HBT bullying and how to respond to it safely, in line with your setting’s policies.
- how stereotypes, including stereotypes about LGBT people, can be harmful.
- how gender stereotypes can be harmful to people of all genders and to LGBT people specifically – for example, the stereotype that all men have a high sex drive and want to have sexual relationships with women.
- legal rights and responsibilities around equality, including the Equality Act 2010 and how it protects many different people from discrimination: we recommend that you explicitly include LGBT people when teaching about this.
- how to respond with respect and care if a friend comes out as LGBT.
- Be aware: You could explicitly talk about homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination, why this is wrong and what the law says. You could also help pupils understand that some people might experience multiple forms of discrimination (for example, a disabled trans person may experience transphobia and ableist discrimination; a Black gay man may experience racism and homophobia) – support pupils to understand the impact this can have, and ensure pupils know how to report all forms of prejudice-based bullying at school
- Online and media
Pupils should know:
- their rights, responsibilities and opportunities online, including that the same expectations of behaviour apply in all contexts, including online.
- about online risks, including that any material someone provides to another 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 is sent to them.
- what to do and where to get support to report material or manage issues online.
- 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 (including those created by children) is a criminal offence which carries severe penalties including jail.
- how information and data is generated, collected, shared and used online.
- when teaching about different types of harmful content and how to report them, consider including HBT language, HBT bullying online and extreme content targeted at LGBT people, such as anti-LGBT hate speech or materials about conversion therapies.
- when teaching about online safety and the risks of meeting up with someone you have previously only spoken to online, include LGBT people in any case studies or examples to ensure LGBT pupils understand that this teaching applies to them just as it applies to their non-LGBT peers.
- Stonewall and CEOP’s guide to online safety, Staying Safe Online, has lots of useful information and advice.
- Being safe
Pupils should know:
- the concepts of, and laws relating to: sexual consent, sexual exploitation, abuse, grooming, coercion, harassment, rape, domestic abuse, forced marriage, honour-based violence and 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 (in all contexts, including online).
- which local and national support services LGBT young people can access for confidential advice, information and support – including services their families can access. Our Introduction to Supporting LGBT Children and Young People resource includes lots of recommendations.
- Be aware: The same principles of staying safe apply to all children and young people, whether they are LGBT or not, but it will be helpful to ensure that your case studies, examples, videos etc. include LGBT characters. This shows pupils that this teaching applies to LGBT people and the relationships they have, or may go on to have, just as it applies to people who aren’t LGBT.
- Intimate and sexual relationships, including sexual health
Pupils should 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 or 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 men and women, and menopause.
- that there are a 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 to enjoy intimacy without sex.
- the facts about the full range of contraceptive choices, their efficacy, and options available.
- the facts around pregnancy, including miscarriage.
- that there are choices in relation to pregnancy (with medically and legally 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), including HIV/AIDs, are transmitted.
- how risk can be reduced through safer sex (including through condom use) and the importance of and 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.
- Be aware: The same principles around consent, respect, safety from coercion and peer pressure apply to LGBT and non-LGBT pupils. All pupils should know that they never have to consent to sexual activity if they don’t want to and they always have a right to withdraw their consent.
- that some people will not experience sexual attraction or will not be interested in sexual activity, and some will only feel sexual attraction sometimes – and this is normal. Some people who aren’t interested in having sex or who only feel sexual attraction sometimes might describe themselves as asexual or ace. See the Stonewall Glossary of Terms, for more info.
- that safe sex includes consent and respect, as well as protection from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and managing the risk of unplanned pregnancy where relevant – and that this applies to LGBT people just as it applies to those who aren’t LGBT.
- we recommend all pupils, regardless of gender identity or sexual or romantic orientation, are taught about all the different methods of contraception, including methods to protect against unplanned pregnancy and methods to protect against STIs, as well as where contraception can be bought or accessed for free.
- what HIV is and how it is transmitted; explaining which groups experience the highest prevalence of HIV infections, while also explaining that HIV can affect anyone, regardless of their gender identity or their sexual or romantic orientation, or that of their sexual partners; the importance of regular HIV testing for at-risk people; how and where to get tested; what PrEP is, who can access it and how.
- Be aware: If you are signposting to external resources or agencies where pupils can get further information, advice or support about safe sex and sexual health, we recommend that you include local and national services for LGBT young people.
- Mental wellbeing
Pupils should know:
- how to talk about their emotions accurately and sensitively, using appropriate vocabulary.
- that happiness is linked to being connected to others.
- how to recognise the early signs of mental wellbeing concerns.
- common types of mental ill health (e.g. anxiety and depression).
- how to critically evaluate when something they do or are involved in has a positive or negative effect on their own or others’ mental health.
- the benefits and importance of physical exercise, time outdoors, community participation and voluntary and service-based activities on mental wellbeing and happiness.
- about the impacts of HBT bullying and other forms of anti-LGBT discrimination on the mental health of LGBT children and young people.
- that being LGBT is not a mental health condition, but experiencing bullying, poor treatment or isolation can make LGBT young people more likely to experience poor mental health outcomes.
- how to support good mental health and emotional wellbeing, including through safe, age-appropriate access to community with other LGBT young people – for example, through an LGBT youth group or an appropriately moderated online forum.
- Internet safety and harms
Pupils should know:
- the similarities and differences between the online world and the physical world, including the impact of unhealthy or obsessive comparison with others online (including through setting unrealistic expectations for body image) and how people may curate a specific image of their life online.
- the risks involved in over-reliance on online relationships, including social media.
- the risks related to online gambling, including the accumulation of debt.
- how advertising and information is targeted at them and how to be a discerning consumer of information online.
- that the internet can also be a negative place where online abuse, trolling, bullying and harassment can take place, which can have a negative impact on mental health.
- how to identify harmful behaviours online (including bullying, abuse or harassment) and how to report, or find support, if they have been affected by those behaviours.
- the impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of LGBT young people of being exposed to HBT language and content.
- how to set boundaries around personal internet usage and protect their emotional wellbeing online, for example through limiting screen time; blocking people who harass, bully or discriminate; using privacy settings to limit access to their social media pages.
- the different types of extreme content LGBT young people might encounter and the harmful impact they can have, including anti-LGBT hate speech and materials about conversion therapies. How to report extreme content and how to seek support if exposed.
- Physical health and fitness
Pupils should know:
- the positive associations between physical activity and promotion of mental wellbeing, including as an approach to combat stress.
- the characteristics and evidence of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight, including the links between an inactive lifestyle and ill health, including cancer and cardiovascular ill health.
- about the science relating to blood, organ and stem cell donation.
- how gender stereotypes and homophobia, biphobia and transphobia can stop people (including LGBT and non-LGBT people) from participating in the kinds of sports or physical activities they most enjoy.
- that everybody has a right to choose the sports and activities they want to participate in, regardless of their gender or sexual or romantic orientation. Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign is a good place to look for information on this topic – see our Rainbow Laces activities for schools.
- Be aware: It will be helpful to provide information about how trans pupils can access advice or support within the school if they have worries or questions about taking part in sports – for example, questions about where they will get changed, or what they can wear during PE.
- Health and prevention
Pupils should know:
- about personal hygiene.
- germs including bacteria and viruses, how they are spread, treatment and prevention of infection, and about antibiotics.
- about dental health and the benefits of good oral hygiene and dental flossing, including healthy eating and regular check-ups at the dentist.
- (late secondary) the benefits of regular self-examination and screening.
- the facts and science relating to immunisation and vaccination.
- the importance of sufficient good quality sleep for good health and how a lack of sleep can affect weight, mood and ability to learn.
- (late secondary) that every person with breast tissue, including men, should perform regular self-examination to identify early signs of breast cancer, and how to do this.
- (late secondary) that every person with a cervix should be aware of early indicators of cervical cancer and should attend regular cervical screenings when invited to do so by their doctor (usually from the age of 25) – this is regardless of whether they are sexually active and regardless of the gender of their sexual partners.
- Changing adolescent body
Pupils should know:
- key facts about puberty, the changing adolescent body and menstrual wellbeing.
- the main changes which take place in males and females, and the implications for emotional and physical health.
- that most people will experience changes to their body during puberty, and that puberty can affect different people’s bodies in different ways.
- each pupil should have access to information that is relevant to their body and the physical changes they might experience during puberty (as well as the emotional changes they might experience).
Be aware: A trans pupil’s body might be changing during puberty in a way that doesn’t match their gender identity – for example, a trans boy going through puberty might be experiencing some of the same physical changes that girls experience.
Avoid splitting pupils by gender if you can, so that pupils can learn about the ways in which all bodies change during puberty, and find the information that’s relevant to their experience. This is also relevant at late secondary, as pupils begin to learn about self-examination and cervical screening.
If, after exploring all other alternatives, a school decides to group some activities by gender, they should make it clear that trans pupils can participate in the gender group they feel most comfortable, and provide opportunities in advance for trans pupils to discuss how they’d like to receive this teaching with their teacher.
The DfE’s guidance on the Equality Act in schools makes clear that ‘Pupils undergoing gender reassignment should be allowed to attend the single sex class that accords with the gender role in which they identify’. As not all pupils (trans or cis) may want to receive this teaching in (gender) groups, schools should proactively plan different ways to deliver this teaching (for example in smaller group/1-2-1 teaching) – this is particularly helpful in ensuring non-binary pupils are included.