It has been 30 years since Section 28 was introduced in schools in Wales, England and Scotland.

Section 28 prohibited schools and local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality. The interpretation of the law meant that teachers were forbidden from mentioning the existence of gay people in schools. The legislation was repealed in Scotland in 2000 and in England and Wales in 2003.

To mark the anniversary, Welsh education secretary Kirsty Williams has announced major changes to Sex and Relationships Education in Wales and its place in the curriculum.

Following a review of the subject by an expert panel led by Professor Emma Renold, professor of childhood studies at Cardiff University, Williams has announced that this area of study will become Relationships and Sexuality Education, a statutory part of Wales’ new curriculum.

At present, SRE is a statutory part of the basic curriculum in Wales but it is down to schools to decide their approach to the subject, and this sometimes doesn’t stretch beyond the biological aspects of human relationships.

Placing an emphasis on forming and maintaining healthy, happy and fulfilling relationships, RSE represents a major departure from these traditional approaches.

Learners will also be given a much broader understanding of sexuality that is fully inclusive of LGBT+ learners and includes wider issues such as consent, domestic abuse and respecting diversity.

Williams said:

The days of traditional sex education are long gone; the world has moved on and our curriculum must move with it.

Sex should never be taught in isolation for the simple reason that it is about so much more than just sex; it’s also about relationships, rights and respect and that must go hand in hand with a much broader understanding of sexuality. Anything less does a disservice to our learners and teachers.

The fact is relationships and sexuality shape our lives as well as the world around us. They are a fundamental part of who we are and how we understand ourselves, each other and society.  

Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher denounced local education authorities for teaching children that "they have an inalienable right to be gay”. But now, Wales is "leading the way" in terms of modernising sex education in schools. In England, the government is currently analysing feedback from a consultation on sex education with a view to modernising its teaching.

UK faith schools have also come under scrutiny this year, after a report found that many still ban the promotion of homosexuality.

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