BHA: Government publishes Framework for Sexual Health Improvement

On Friday the Department of Health published its sexual health policy document, A Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England. The document sets out the Government’s policies and ambitions around unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, HIV, sexual health services and abortion. It also sets out the situation with respect to sex and relationships education (SRE). The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the report, but regrets that steps have not been taken to improve the quality of SRE.

On SRE, the report sets as ambitions that ‘All children and young people receive good-quality sex and relationship education at home, at school and in the community’, and that to prevent teen pregnancy, ‘All young people receive appropriate information and education to enable them to make informed decisions.’  It goes on to say:

Both young people and parents want high-quality education about sex and relationships.

The provision of sex education is a statutory requirement for maintained secondary schools. What schools include in their sex-education programme is a matter for local determination; however, all schools must have regard to the Secretary of State for Education’s Sex and Relationship Education Guidance. The guidance ensures that pupils develop positive values and a strong moral framework that will guide their decisions, judgement and behaviour. It ensures that pupils are taught about the benefits of loving, healthy relationships and delaying sex, and also provides that pupils are aware of how to access confidential sexual health advice and support.

Academies do not have to teach sex education, but are required through their funding agreements to provide a broad and balanced curriculum. They are also required to have regard to the Sex and Relationship Education Guidance when providing sex education.

All schools delivering sex and relationship education are required to ensure that their pupils receive high-quality information on the importance of good sexual health.

When teaching sex education in schools, the Secretary of State for Education’s Sex and Relationship Education Guidance makes clear that pupils are to be taught how to avoid being exploited or pressured into unwanted or unprotected sex, and how the law applies to sexual relationships. Schools should, therefore, ensure that pupils learn about issues relating to sexual consent.

BHA Head of Public Affairs Pavan Dhaliwal commented, ‘We welcome this report, and the range of strong ambitions it sets out. We also welcome the Government reaffirming its support for all young people receiving good quality sex and relationships education.

‘However, this support must now be met with action. The situation as it stands in many schools is inadequate, and this is concisely summed up by the brazen (albeit factually accurate) statement in the report that “Academies do not have to teach sex education”. Urgent reform is needed to make comprehensive, high quality SRE a statutory entitlement for all young people in all schools, whatever their type.’


For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs, at or on 0773 843 5059.

Read the new Department of Health publication, A Framework for Sexual Health
Improvement in England:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on PSHE and sex and relationships education:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.