1. There’s no such thing as a GCSE or an A Level for Personal, Social and Health Education – therefore it’s regarded by many schools, parents, teachers and students as peripheral to the main business of schools, if indeed PSHE exists in any meaningful (c.f. tokenistic) way at all.
2. Learning about our wellbeing – about our bodies, about our health and fitness, our relationships, our spiritual needs, our psychology, our sexuality, etc – is unarguably the most important undertaking of any young person, and should therefore be at the heart of what happens in schools – whether or not politicians agree that personal and social development should be compulsory.
Obviously we’re not advocating the awarding of grades for PSHE, any more than we’d advocate grading ‘creativity’ or ‘imagination’. It would be absurd.
We’re asking a simple question. What will it take to bring home the fact that many educationalists and indeed those who run our school system need to reverse their mindset and put students and the wellbeing of students (and not simply their academic attainment) at the centre of all that happens in schools?
How many more cases of sexual predation, of parental neglect and harming, of obesity, of diabetes due to obesity, of unwanted pregnancy, of depression and mental ill-health in young people do we need to know about before significant change takes place?
Personal and social development needs to permeate the ethos and the practices of every school – with all that means in terms of funding, time allocations and staff training. How can we say we’re safeguarding our children when we allow them to remain ignorant of crucial issues ranging from abuse and consent to obesity, physical fitness, social resilience, emotional literacy and spiritual wellbeing?
Does anyone seriously think these matters are really at the centre of our concerns about children and young people when all we hear from most politicians and most commentators are concerns about attainment and academic success? Let every one of them examine their consciences and say whether they’ve ever said or written a single word to imply that we have our educational priorities in this country completely upside down.
In the meantime here are links to two articles that were published this week which ought to be compulsory reading for anyone who cares about our educational priorities and about the wellbeing of every individual as well as the functioning of our society.
Food is a drug, and we have to learn to say no
Our entire relationship with food has to change if we are to tackle the obesity crisis. It’s time to go back to school
The facts are chilling: one in seven hospital patients in the UK are diabetic; 3.8 million of us have diabetes; one in three is overweight; one in four is clinically obese; and 37% of 11-year-old children are overweight or obese. We are one of the most unhealthy countries in the world. Even moderate obesity will reduce life expectancy by an average of three years. And living with diet-related diseases means heart trouble, cancers, strokes, liver failure, wobbly knees, bad skin and amputation of limbs. It means hospitals spending fortunes to enlarge beds, operating tables, doorways and wheelchairs. Food-related illnesses now kill more people a year than smoking does, and disable an unknown number.
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Why all students need sexual consent education
The meaning of sexual consent is often misunderstood in disturbing ways by young people. There’s the idea that if you wear sexy clothing you’re asking for it; that silence during a sex act equals consent; and that women are always falsely accusing men of sexual assault and rape. Surveys have shown that one in two boys and one in three girls think it is OK to sometimes hit a woman or force her to have sex. All of which suggests a new approach is necessary. We need to teach young women and men about affirmative, enthusiastic and informed consent.
Does anyone, apart from our late, unlamented secretary of state for education, seriously believe that an absence of knowledge about, say, history will inevitably damage our mental and physical health and our entire wellbeing?
Does anyone seriously doubt that ignorance about highly complex issues to do with our personal, social, physical and emotional wellbeing will continue to have a massive influence on our ability to function well and live well as complex human beings?