Withdrawing pupils from subjects

Find out which subjects parents can withdraw their children from and how these rules apply to maintained schools, academies and independent schools. Plus, get advice on disapplying pupils from the National Curriculum.

Last reviewed on 12 October 2023
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 9774
  1. Withdrawal is only a right in certain subjects
  2. Withdrawal on religious grounds
  3. Withdrawing pupils from optional GCSE subjects 
  4. How to respond to requests
  5. Disapplying the National Curriculum 

Withdrawal is only a right in certain subjects

Maintained schools

You must follow the National Curriculum. The following table shows which subjects parents have the automatic right to withdraw their child from:

SubjectAutomatic right to withdraw child?
Religious education (RE)Yes
Relationships and sex education (RSE) and health educationFrom some aspects – see below 
Art and designNo
Design and technologyNo
Physical education (PE), including swimming at either KS1 or KS2No

Relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education

Parents can withdraw their children from sex education, apart from the aspects covered by the science curriculum.

They can't withdraw their children from relationships or health education. 

Find out more about parents' right to withdraw their children from relationships, sex and health education (RSHE).


Swimming in KS1/KS2 (as it's part of the National Curriculum) – get more detail on your requirements for swimming Off-site PE activities arranged by the school as part