RSHE explained for Parents/Guardians

This page is designed to support Parents/Guardians to understand the subject ‘Relationships, Sex and Health Education’ (RSHE) which has to be taught by law in all Secondary schools in England. We aim to help you understand why the subject is important, what is included and the role you can play in your young persons education.

It is likely your child attends a school that partners with us at Life Lessons so we will explain our approach here and have included a selection of sample lesson materials for you to view.

Note all information here relates to Secondary education only (KS3 & KS4)

Why RSHE matters

A goal of education is to equip young people with the skills and knowledge to be successful in life. The definition of ‘success’ is different for us all, it could be that a rewarding career or having a family are important.

Whichever path our young people choose to take their academic qualifications alone will only get them so far. They also need life skills and knowledge in order to make good decisions, build strong and healthy relationships, understand and look after themselves and to stay safe on their journey.

Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) is a subject taught in school where young people learn these skills, where they learn about themselves, their values and consider the perspectives of people different from themselves as they do so.

Statutory requirements

In 2020 RSHE became compulsory in schools. In order to make the curriculum inclusive for all, the Department for Education consulted with parents, young people and professionals. A particular focus in the requirements was on educating young people to have healthy and consensual relationships (previously, only sex education was compulsory and was covered mainly in science).

Visit the Dept for Education website for the full statutory requirements in secondary education

We include below a summary, by the end of secondary school pupils should know the following:

Families expand
  • About different types of committed, stable relationships.
  • How these relationships might contribute to human happiness and their importance for bringing up children.
  • About marriage and long-term relationships  including legal rights.
  • The roles and responsibilities of parents with respect to raising of children.
  • How to seek help and support others in unsafe relationships.
Respectful Relationships, including Friendships expand
  • The characteristics of positive and healthy friendships (including online). 
  • How stereotypes are damaging and the legal rights and responsibilities regarding equality
  • How to show respect towards others and show tolerance of other people’s beliefs.
  • About types of bullying, the impact of bullying, responsibilities of bystanders to report bullying and how and where to get help.
  • Criminal behaviour within relationships including violence and coercive control.
  • Sexual harassment and sexual violence and why these are always unacceptable.
Being Safe expand
  • 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).
Online and Media expand
  • Their rights, responsibilities and opportunities online.
  • About online risks, including the sharing of materials.
  • What to do and where to get support for any issues.
  • The impact of viewing harmful content specifically.
  • Sexually explicit material and its impact on future relationships.
  • Criminal behaviour related to indecent images.
  • How information is collected, shared and used online.
Intimate and Sexual Relationships, including Sexual Health expand
  • How to recognise the characteristics and positive aspects of healthy intimate relationships. 
  • That all aspects of health can be affected by choices they make in sex and relationships.
  • The facts about reproductive health, including fertility and menopause.
  • That there are a range of strategies for identifying and managing sexual pressure.
  • That they have a choice to delay sex or to enjoy intimacy without sex.
  • The facts about the full range of contraceptive choices, efficacy and options available.
  • The facts and choices around pregnancy including miscarriage, adoption and abortion.
  • How the different sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDs, are transmitted, how risk can be reduced through safer sex and the importance of and facts about testing.
  • 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.
The Law expand

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 (incl. nudes and sexting)

  • Pornography
  • Abortion
  • Sexuality and gender identity.
Physical and Mental Wellbeing expand
  • The information they need to make good decisions about their own health and wellbeing. 
  • How to seek support as early as possible from appropriate sources.
  • About  self-control and self-regulation.
  • About the stigma attached to health issues, especially mental health.
Menstruation expand

Key facts about the menstrual cycle including what an average period is, about a range of menstrual products and the implications for emotional and physical health.

Who does the guidance apply to?

Curriculum focusA legal requirementOptional but recommended
Relationships Sex and Health Education (RSHE)All schools providing secondary education years 7-11, including:
– All through schools including academies and free schools
– Middle schools
– Independent schools 
– Alternative provisions and pupil referral units (PRUs)
– Non-maintained/ maintained special schools
The statutory requirements do not apply to sixth form colleges, 16-19 academies or Further Education (FE) colleges.

Although we would encourage them to support students by offering these subjects.
Health EducationAll maintained schools including:
– Schools with a sixth form
– Academies
– Free schools 
– Non-maintained special schools
– Alternative provisions and pupil referral units (PRUs)
The statutory requirement to provide Health Education does not apply to independent schools.

PSHE is already compulsory as independent schools must meet the Independent School Standards as set out in the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014.

Life Lessons and how we work with your child’s school

Life Lessons was founded by former teacher Nicole Rodden and Jamie O’Connell in 2019 after recognising the challenges schools would face following the UK government’s changes to the statutory requirements for teaching RSHE in schools.

The vision for Life Lessons is simple, we aspire to a world where all young people are equipped to be healthy, make good decisions and navigate the social and emotional complexities of life and we aim to do this by supporting schools to implement a whole-school approach to RSHE.

To do this Life Lessons have developed a range of materials to support schools. These include:

    • A full set of 1 hour lessons to deliver upon your statutory requirements

    • Mini lessons for use in form time and assemblies that are based on topical/current affairs

    • Training for teachers

All materials are kept up to date and are 100% editable and flexible meaning a school may choose to use some of the materials but not all of them.  And the PSHE lead in a school can edit our lessons to better suit the needs of parents and the local community.

Our approach to RSHE that supports a healthy school culture

How we help schools and other organisations

Life Lessons and our Approach expand
  • Life Lessons take an evidence based approach, using best practice recommended by the government endorsed PSHE Association to create our lesson materials.
  • Unlike other providers, we update our materials ongoing so our lessons reflect what’s going on in the world and in the lives of young people.
  • Life Lessons support our whole school approach with materials designed for use to deliver the curriculum but also to reinforce important themes elsewhere in form times and assemblies.
  • Life Lessons do not have any ‘agenda’ with our materials other than believing that topics that affect a young person’s life now, and in the near future need to be talked about. Our materials, in particular our videos, make discussion much easier as they model the conversation in the classroom. 
  • The teachers we work with benefit from ongoing training and support from the Life Lessons team.
Our Resources expand
  • Across 3 Seasons, Life Lessons have filmed 62 young people aged 14-25 from all over the UK, representing different sexualities, cultural and faith backgrounds.
  • Schools access 320 peer-led videos, embedded into lessons that model the discussion to students in the classroom
  • How can we expect a non-specialist teacher to be an expert on FGM, gangs, diversity and inclusion or STIs? We shouldn’t expect this – Life Lessons bring the experts to schools in a sustainable way. Schools access 210 expert videos, embedded into lessons that model the expert view to the classroom
  • Schools also get access to a full spiral curriculum of lessons covering years 7-13 that use these videos to model discussion using our simple pedagogy of watch-discuss-do.
How the Life Lessons approach supports your child’s RSHE education expand

We support students to: 

  • Be safer in school, out of school and online
  • Develop the knowledge and skills to look after themselves in the world
  • Respect others in the community and in wider society
  • Have healthy attitudes to relationships of all kinds
  • Read between the lines of what they see online


Your child will develop skills useful for a successful life:

  • Critical thinking to support good decision making
  • The vocabulary and confidence to talk about matters that affect them now and their lives ongoing
  • Reflection skills
  • Active listening
Age Appropriateness expand

Schools must be sensitive to teach topics at a time that will most benefit the safety and development of the child. The maturity and development of children varies hugely and this is influenced many factors including: 

  • A child’s homelife – language and openness modeled by parents/carers. 
  • The influence of other people including friends and older siblings. 
  • Access to technology and the world of adult focussed content it opens up.
  • Neurodivergence.
School curriculum expand

Schools typically use a combination of the following inputs to develop and deliver their curriculum:

  • National statistics and evidence – for example recommendations published by the PSHE Association or by national charities such as the NSPCC
  • A spiral curriculum format – this means themes are revisited throughout a child’s time in secondary education, each time revisiting the topic in an age appropriate way.
  • An awareness of the community students are growing up within including police data
  • Surveys with students and parents
  • Their understanding of pupil maturity based upon their behaviour, language and prevalence of safeguarding concerns raised in schools
  • Two classes within the same year group could in theory receive different lessons based upon a judgment of maturity and need.
  • Through the delivery of interventions with a pupil(s) who needs education on a specific topic without a whole class receiving that lesson. 
  • Feedback from parents!
Example Resources

KS3: Bullying

Here is a year 7 lesson on identifying and challenging bullying. The lesson contains lots of discussion prompts to encourage students to build their oracy skills and share their thoughts about such an important issue.

Example Resources

KS4: Influencing other

This is a year 10 lesson about being influenced and influencing others. The aim of this lesson is to support students to be able to identify and evaluate different influences in their lives and consider how they can positively impact others.

Example Resources

KS5: Social media

Here is a year 12 lesson on tackling the topic of using social media responsibly. This lesson encourages students to consider strategies for using social media safely and responsibly and also reminds students of the law around the sending of images online.