Ofsted’s PSHE Education report “Not Yet Good Enough” is depressing yet totally expected reading. Anyone who has specialised in this area of work, as we have, won’t be surprised by any of the findings but will remain alarmed and deeply concerned for the wellbeing of our children and young people.
(Please note that this report came out the day before yet another well-known prolific and persistent paedophilic sex-offender admitted his guilt to crimes carried out over many decades.)
The main findings of the “Not Yet Good Enough Report” were the following, with our initial comments in brackets:
- Learning in PSHE education was good or better in 60% of schools and required improvement or was inadequate in 40%. (If this was a statistic for any other subject in a school, heads would roll – literally. This means that 40% of schools are potentially failing in their duty to promote the wellbeing of their pupils.)
- Sex and relationships education required improvement in over a third of schools. (This is appalling. Sex education is statutory in all school, even if it’s limited merely to knowledge-based and scientific learning. 33% of schools can’t do this??)
- In primary schools too much emphasis is placed on friendships and relationships, leaving pupils ill-prepared for physical and emotional changes during puberty. (Children as young as 8 are starting puberty now. How is it ethically correct for a child to start her periods without having had any formal education about how her body is changing? Can you begin to imagine how frightening that could be? This statement is also indicative of some teachers’ inhibitions, and a lack of training for the teaching of SRE. Relationships education seems easier than having to deal with the big “S”.)
- In secondary schools too much emphasis is placed on ‘the mechanics’ of reproduction and too little on relationships, sexuality, the influence of pornography on students’ understanding of healthy sexual relationships, dealing with emotions and staying safe. (We can’t emphasise this enough – listen to young people! They are crying out for support on this. We are failing in our duty to provide quality education if we don’t talk about the things that are of most concern to our young people. We ignore the fact that pornography is readily accessible to our children, preferring to think of life before the Internet. It’s there, and it’s not going away. It’s giving some false interpretations of sex and we need to acknowledge its existence, tackling myths in the process.)
- Lack of high-quality, age-appropriate sex and relationships education in more than a third of schools is a concern as it may leave children and young people vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation. (We explore this in greater detail later, but let’s reiterate this now. This is a safeguarding issue. A minority of children are enduring sexual abuse and we perpetuate this abhorrent behaviour by not equipping young people with the skills and knowledge to speak and act to protect themselves. This is a gross dereliction of duty).
- In just under half of schools, pupils had received lessons about staying safe but few had developed the skills to effectively apply their understanding, such as the assertiveness skills to stand up for themselves and negotiate their way through difficult situations.(Quality PSHE has transferrable skills, relevant for a range of situations. Knowledge isn’t everything. Knowing how to behave as an outcome of learning is learning. Are we really saying that it’s appropriate for over 50% of our schools to not offer this sort of provision?)
- Most pupils understood the dangers to health of tobacco and illegal drugs but were less aware of the physical and social damage associated with alcohol misuse, including personal safety. (Looking at a range of data, the amount of children and young people who drink alcohol fairly regularly is alarming. Furthermore, we can’t be complacent about years of tobacco use reduction. In the most recent surveys on the subject, there’s been an increase in smoking.)
- Teaching required improvement in 42% of primary and 38% of secondary schools.(Nearly half of schools had teaching that “required improvement” in this area? How is this allowed to happen without a major outcry? We actually question this statistic and fear that it could be far greater. Please remember that a large majority of schools don’t even have PSHE or SRE lessons, so that actual numbers of teachers unable or unwilling to teach this subject is significantly larger than the one described here. They need help – which we and other PSHE colleagues are more than ready to provide.)
- By far the weakest aspect of teaching was the assessment of pupils’ learning which was often less robust for PSHE education than for other subjects. (This is an area of expertise that 3Di Associates can offer support with. Our model of assessment offers a unique tracking system that involves parents, pupils and teachers. We have to be very careful that we don’t get into a situation which judges or grades pupils. Rather, a tracking of PSHE should guide and support young people in their personal and social development.)
- The quality of leadership and management in PSHE education was at least good in 56% of schools, required improvement in 42% and was inadequate in 2%. (“Not yet good enough” is an understatement. It’s evident that the CPD programme for PSHE, introduced a decade ago, hasn’t had a lasting impact on the leadership and management of PSHE education. PSHE is not just a curriculum subject. It’s an important part of every aspect of school life. Leaders and managers need to recognise this fact, and need support to ensure that they are meeting the needs of all children.)
- In a third of primary and secondary schools the PSHE/SRE leader/coordinator was inadequately trained for a leadership role and given too little time to meet with their team. (How often have we seen inexperienced teachers being given the role of PSHE coordinator without the mandate for implementing the changes that they would like, assuming that they all have an understanding of the subject in the first place? We are talking about the integral life skills that our children are asking for support with. It’s just not good enough to give such roles to teachers who’ve not had training in PSHE. A national training programme has to take place and PSHE has to be a significant part of initial teacher training.)
There were additional findings and recommendations that we will explore in greater detail in a subsequent post but we wanted to place our initial thoughts on this document as a starting point for further discussion.
We are currently looking for schools to pilot an innovative and inclusive programme of training for PSHE education. If you would like your school to be involved, then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a parent and feel that your child’s school could benefit from our support, please refer the school managers to our website www.3diassociates.com