There was an interesting article published on the website of the PSHE Association yesterday concerning PSHE and whether it should be considered a ‘core subject’ within the Basic Curriculum. The article also considered whether PSHE has become increasingly marginalised as schools strive to raise attainment in the core subjects :
The effects of the EBacc and why only a broad & balanced education will meet 21st century needs
Within this article there are some interesting quotations:
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers has expressed concern that schools “will be forced, by league table pressures, to focus disproportionately on a limited range of academic subjects, at the expense of the practical application of skills.”
The Association of School and College Leaders (ACSL) said recently that “A narrow diet of academic qualifications is not enough to meet the needs of a 21st century workplace”.
This view is echoed by many in the business community:
Caroline Waters OBE – Director of People and Policy, BT Group plc – spoke at our conference this year about how we “need to develop a workforce that is flexible, open to new ideas, who can work together on problem solving” and how “PSHE education is not just a ‘nice to have’ but essential for the economy”.
The CBI, UK’s primary organisation lobbying on behalf of business, is keen for an increase in academic subject standards but also recognises the importance of a broader skill set. Secondary Schools’ main focus should be on developing these broader skills for working life according to their latest Education & Skills survey of 542 organisations.
Parents too understand the importance of PSHE education and related learning in school. According to the report: ‘A New Conversation With Parents: How Can Schools Inform and Listen in a Digital Age?’, parents place not only place emphasis on good levels of literacy and numeracy but also understand the huge significance of “the social and emotional development of pupils, their wellbeing and the opportunities to develop according to their specific personal or special needs.”
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation also highlights how PSHE education can help young people achieve their full academic potential. The research indicated that young people are more likely to do well at GCSE if they (1) have a greater belief in their own ability at school; (2) believe that events result primarily from their own behaviour and actions (3) find school worthwhile (4) think it is likely that they will apply to, and get into higher education (5) avoid risky behaviour, smoking, cannabis use, anti-social behaviour, truancy suspension and exclusion, and (6) do not experience bullying.
So, what needs to happen?
We believe, as the subject association representing PSHE teachers and practitioners, that PSHE education as a whole should be included in the Basic Curriculum. This would make it a requirement for schools to ensure these topics are given the importance they deserve.
Really?!! Is this the very best we can do? Isn’t this a bit . . . feeble?
Isn’t this playing the same top-down game as the politicians? Simply tell schools what to do, insist that it’s a ‘requirement’, and leave it at that? Isn’t there something . . . more?
A different approach might involve the teaching profession as a whole agreeing that PSHE isn’t just another ‘subject’ that needs its own slot in the timetable (although dedicated time for personal and social learning is necessary and important). PSHE is much too important to treat it like any other curriculum subject.
Surely the teaching profession as a whole should be speaking with one voice to say to politicians, parents, and if necessary to headteachers and governors – this is important, this is a crucial part of every child’s education, and every teacher and teaching assistant has a vital role to play in enabling children and young people to make rapid, clear and necessary progress with their personal, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and physical development.
In order to foster these developments we, as teachers and as important adults in children’s lives, spend our days modelling good communication, positive interactions and respectful conversations.
We talk endlessly about needing “good behaviour” in classrooms and schools, but what we really mean is we work hard every day to help pupils to understand and to practice self-discipline, self-awareness and self-respect, as well as respect for others.
Good teachers enable their students to work on empathy and to develop the key skills needed for collaboration and cooperation. We encourage them to help one another, and to care about one another.
The best teachers find opportunities to talk to students about values, and about virtue. We show them in all our day to day interactions the key values we hold dear, and we demonstrate the virtues we believe are part and parcel of ‘spiritual intelligence’.
We talk with them from a very early age about the wickedness of violence, bullying and anti-social behaviour, and about the foolishness of poor eating habits, smoking, drug abuse and lack of proper exercise. Nobody tells good teachers to do these things – they just do them. It’s what good teachers do. We even talk to their parents about such things!
It takes a whole village to raise a child, and it takes a whole school to ensure that every child is spending each and every day working towards high levels of personal, social, emotional and spiritual intelligence. No teacher and no adult who works in a school can cop out of this. We don’t need to be told to work on raising the levels of all these intelligences in all our pupils. We don’t need to be given permission to do so either, with or without the ‘core subject’ status. The best teachers are doing it already, because they see the need to. We’re all in this together. We just have to ******* DO IT.
Naturally some teachers are more confident than others when it comes to these broader aspects of learning and life in schools. PSHE and SMSC specialists can play a key role in the professional development of their colleagues when it comes to the work that we all do with coaching and mentoring pupils and addressing the personal, social and emotional skills they need in order to be effective learners and positive members of their peer group, sports team, project group, form group, etc.
Of course we also need to ensure that we – as individuals and as staff teams within schools – also possess very high levels of multiple intelligences: personal, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual intelligences. None of us can afford to be complacent, and all of us are hopefully engaged in lifelong learning towards ever-higher levels of all these intelligences. But we owe it to our pupils as well as ourselves to make sure that PSHE is seen to be at the heart of what happens in all good schools.
This is about far more than creating a good ‘ethos’ in schools, or about developing ‘soft skills’ for future employment. This is about the fundamental aims of education.