Relationships – Primary

To nurture the skills of resilience is key to providing young people with the ability to cope with stress, adversity, failure and challenges. Resilience is evident when young people have a greater ability to “bounce back” when faced with difficulties and achieve positive outcomes.

Resilience enables an individual to identify when a friendship or relationship feels unsafe, threatening or uncomfortable and provides the confidence and self-belief to persist in raising and reporting a concern.

Relationships Education is a newly statutory curriculum area which must now be delivered in all primary schools. Relationships Education (Link Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education guidance ( often covered as part of a wider subject called PSHE (Personal Social and Health Education).

Relationships Education is a very broad subject, which comprises learning about families and people who care for me, caring friendships, respectful relationships, online relationships and being safe. Children should learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships, focusing on their own experiences with family and friends both online and offline. The children also learn about ways to help themselves, to help others and to ask for help from trusted adults when needed.

In many Primary schools RSE (Relationships and Sex Education) is a topic which draws content from both the Relationships Education and Health Education requirements. Primary RSE often covers content about families and people who care for me and being safe (from the Relationships Education Curriculum) and health and prevention, with a focus on personal hygiene, and changing adolescent body from the Health Education curriculum.

Sex education is a small subset of learning, which the Department for Education (link Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education guidance ( recommends that schools deliver, but which is not statutory. Sex Education in Primary schools is defined as learning about ‘how babies are conceived and born’. Parents/carers have the right to request that their child is excused from this element. Parents/carers do not have the right to withdraw their child from either Relationships Education or Health Education. As with all areas of PSHE, schools should work in close partnership with families, to ensure that children are able to build healthy, respectful and caring relationships in all areas of their lives.

Children and young people are growing up in an increasingly complex world and may be living their lives seamlessly on and offline. This presents many positive and exciting opportunities, but also challenges and risks. In this environment, children and young people need to know how to be safe and healthy. They need to develop the skills to enable them to make healthy, safer choices online and offline. Also, they need to be supported in developing attitudes to towards themselves and others which enable them to make positive choices from a basis of knowledge and self-awareness. The challenges which many children and young people face, especially relating to mental health, friendship skills and physical wellbeing are immense but through high quality Relationships Education, schools can support their pupils to navigate some of these challenges positively.

There is no prescribed way that primary schools should manage their curriculum delivery, however for teaching to be effective the content should be broken down into themed age-appropriate units, which are revisited to build on prior learning. The units should be carefully sequenced within a planned programme or lessons.

In addition to a broad programme evidence (link to SRE – the evidence – March 2015.pdf ( shows that teachers should have some training, information should be accurate, skills and attitudes should be considered and there should be a strong partnership with parents/carers.

Primary schools are required to have a policy on Relationships Education. Schools must consult parents in developing and reviewing their policy. Schools should ensure that the policy meets the needs of pupils and parents/carers and reflects the community they serve. The policy must be made available to parents/carers on the school’s website. Maintained schools in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough may contact the PSHE Service (add link mail to:[email protected]) for a policy model and support.

Schools should also consult with parents/carers about the delivery of non-statutory Sex Education. Schools should ensure that that the right to withdraw their children from Sex Education is clearly communicated.

Schools should also communicate with families about the aims and content of Relationships Education lessons, listening to views and taking into account the needs of all children. They should share examples of resources to exemplify age-appropriate content and methodologies.

‘Extract from DfE Guidance Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education’

Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education guidance (


Guidance notes for primary teachers on teaching Relationships Education (February 2019)

  • The focus in primary school should be on teaching the fundamental building blocks and characteristics of positive relationships, with particular reference to friendships, family relationships, and relationships with other children and with adults.
  • This starts with pupils being taught about what a relationship is, what friendship is, what family means and who the people are who can support them. From the beginning of primary school, building on early education, pupils should be taught how to take turns, how to treat each other with kindness, consideration and respect, the importance of honesty and truthfulness, permission seeking and giving, and the concept of personal privacy. Establishing personal space and boundaries, showing respect and understanding the differences between appropriate and inappropriate or unsafe physical, and other, contact – these are the forerunners of teaching about consent, which takes place at secondary.
  • Respect for others should be taught in an age-appropriate way, in terms of understanding one’s own and others’ boundaries in play, in negotiations about space, toys, books, resources and so on.
  • From the beginning, teachers should talk explicitly about the features of healthy friendships, family relationships and other relationships which young children are likely to encounter. Drawing attention to these in a range of contexts should enable pupils to form a strong early understanding of the features of relationships that are likely to lead to happiness and security. This will also help them to recognise any less positive relationships when they encounter them.
  • The principles of positive relationships also apply online especially as, by the end of primary school, many children will already be using the internet. When teaching relationships content, teachers should address online safety and appropriate behaviour in a way that is relevant to pupils’ lives. Teachers should include content on how information and data is shared and used in all contexts, including online; for example, sharing pictures, understanding that many websites are businesses and how sites may use information provided by users in ways they might not expect.
  • Teaching about families requires sensitive and well-judged teaching based on knowledge of pupils and their circumstances. Families of many forms provide a nurturing environment for children. (Families can include for example, single parent families, LGBT parents, families headed by grandparents, adoptive parents, foster parents/carers amongst other structures.) Care needs to be taken to ensure that there is no stigmatisation of children based on their home circumstances and needs, to reflect sensitively that some children may have a different structure of support around them; e.g. looked after children or young carers.
  • A growing ability to form strong and positive relationships with others depends on the deliberate cultivation of character traits and positive personal attributes, (sometimes referred to as ‘virtues’) in the individual. In a school wide context which encourages the development and practice of resilience and other attributes, this includes character traits such as helping pupils to believe they can achieve, persevere with tasks, work towards long-term rewards and continue despite setbacks. Alongside understanding the importance of self-respect and self-worth, pupils should develop personal attributes including honesty, integrity, courage, humility, kindness, generosity, trustworthiness and a sense of justice. This can be achieved in a variety of ways including by providing planned opportunities for young people to undertake social action, active citizenship and voluntary service to others locally or more widely.
  • Relationships Education also creates an opportunity to enable pupils to be taught about positive emotional and mental wellbeing, including how friendships can support mental wellbeing.
  • Through Relationships Education (and RSE), schools should teach pupils the knowledge they need to recognise and to report abuse, including emotional, physical and sexual abuse. In primary schools, this can be delivered by focusing on boundaries and privacy, ensuring young people understand that they have rights over their own bodies. This should also include understanding boundaries in friendships with peers and also in families and with others, in all contexts, including online. Pupils should know how to report concerns and seek advice when they suspect or know that something is wrong. At all stages it will be important to balance teaching children about making sensible decisions to stay safe (including online) whilst being clear it is never the fault of a child who is abused and why victim blaming is always wrong. These subjects complement Health Education and as part of a comprehensive programme and whole school approach, this knowledge can support safeguarding of children.



Sensitive and complex issues will arise in Relationships Education, as pupils will naturally ask questions. When spontaneous discussion arises, it should be guided in a way which reflects the stated school aims and curriculum content. Questions relating to the planned curriculum for that age group or below are often best answered to the whole class to consolidate learning. Questions which go beyond the planned curriculum may be answered in a sensitive and age appropriate way, only to the pupil/s who have asked the question. Teachers may decide to inform families about questions which go beyond the planned curriculum, in order to further home/school partnerships. If a member of staff is uncertain about the answer to a question which goes beyond the curriculum, or indeed whether they wish to answer it, they should seek guidance from a school leader. If a teacher is unable to answer the questions or judges it best to defer answering, the child should be asked if they would like support to ask their questions at home or to another trusted adult.

Key principles for answering children’s questions include:

  • Acknowledge the question and give the message that it is okay to ask.
  • Avoid leaving the child with the impression that we are flustered, as this will reduce the likelihood of them asking questions in the future.
  • Check out the context of the child’s question before answering
  • Buy some time, but then make sure you get back to the child.
  • Check the child understands
  • Ask for guidance from a colleague.

Ensure that sharing personal information by adults, pupils or their families is discouraged. Where the question indicates the need for pastoral support, the conversation should be deferred to a time outside the teaching session and other colleagues may be involved. Where a question or comment from a pupil in the classroom indicates the possibility of abuse, coercion or exploitation, teachers must pass this information to their DSL in line with Safeguarding policy.

Sex Education in primary schools is defined as learning about ‘how a baby is conceived and born.’

There is some overlap with the statutory requirements of the national curriculum for science which requires that children learn about ‘sexual intercourse in some plants and animals’. Parents/carers do not have a right to withdraw their child from this learning if the school is following the national curriculum. Where the content is about human conception and birth, parents do have the right to withdraw their child.

Although the detail and biology of human sexual intercourse and conception are often taught at the end of primary school, schools may consider the building blocks which will enable children to understand this content. There may be links made with learning in science about baby animals and where they grow, or in sex education about human babies being a combination of cell from a male and cell from a female.

Families and people who care for me

  • That families are important for children growing up because they can give love, security and stability.
  • The characteristics of healthy family life, commitment to each other, including in times of difficulty, protection and care for children and other family members, the importance of spending time together and sharing each other’s lives.
  • That others’ families, either in school or in the wider world, sometimes look different from their family, but that they should respect those differences and know that other children’s families are also characterised by love and care.
  • That stable, caring relationships, which may be of different types, are at the heart of happy families, and are important for children’s security as they grow up.
  • That marriage represents a formal and legally recognised commitment of two people to each other which is intended to be lifelong.
  • How to recognise if family relationships are making them feel unhappy or unsafe, and how to seek help or advice from others if needed.

Caring friendships

  • How important friendships are in making us feel happy and secure, and how people choose and make friends.
  • The characteristics of friendships, including mutual respect, truthfulness, trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness, generosity, trust, sharing interests and experiences and support with problems and difficulties.
  • That healthy friendships are positive and welcoming towards others, and do not make others feel lonely or excluded.
  • That most friendships have ups and downs, and that these can often be worked through so that the friendship is repaired or even strengthened, and that resorting to violence is never right.
  • How to recognise who to trust and who not to trust, how to judge when a friendship is making them feel unhappy or uncomfortable, managing conflict, how to manage these situations and how to seek help or advice from others, if needed.

Respectful relationships

  • The importance of respecting others, even when they are very different from them (for example, physically, in character, personality or backgrounds), or make different choices or have different preferences or beliefs.
  • Practical steps they can take in a range of different contexts to improve or support respectful relationships.
  • The conventions of courtesy and manners.
  • The importance of self-respect and how this links to their own happiness.
  • That in school and in wider society they can expect to be treated with respect by others, and that in turn they should show due respect to others, including those in positions of authority.
  • About different types of bullying (including cyberbullying), the impact of bullying, responsibilities of bystanders (primarily reporting bullying to an adult) and how to get help.
  • What a stereotype is, and how stereotypes can be unfair, negative or destructive.
  • The importance of permission-seeking and giving in relationships with friends, peers and adults.

Online relationships

  • that people sometimes behave differently online, including by pretending to be someone they are not.
  • that the same principles apply to online relationships as to face-to-face relationships, including the importance of respect for others online including when we are anonymous.
  • the rules and principles for keeping safe online, how to recognise risks, harmful content and contact, and how to report them.
  • how to critically consider their online friendships and sources of information including awareness of the risks associated with people they have never met.
  • how information and data is shared and used online.

Being safe in relationships

  • what sorts of boundaries are appropriate in friendships with peers and others (including in a digital context).
  • about the concept of privacy and the implications of it for both children and adults; including that it is not always right to keep secrets if they relate to being safe.
  • that each person’s body belongs to them, and the differences between appropriate and inappropriate or unsafe physical, and other, contact.
  • how to respond safely and appropriately to adults they may encounter (in all contexts, including online) whom they do not know.
  • how to recognise and report feelings of being unsafe or feeling bad about any adult.
  • how to ask for advice or help for themselves or others, and to keep trying until they are heard,
  • how to report concerns or abuse, and the vocabulary and confidence needed to do so.
  • where to get advice e.g. family, school and/or other sources.
  • Key facts about puberty and the changing adolescent body, particularly from Age 9 through to age 11, including physical and emotional changes
  • About menstrual wellbeing including the key facts about the menstrual cycle













Source: Relationships Education RSE and Health Education (DfE) insert link Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education and Health Education guidance (

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