The Education Select Committee of the House of Commons has today published its report on the teaching and importance of PSHE and SRE.
The cross-party committee unsurprisingly yet pleasingly recommends that PSHE, with Sex and Relationships Education as a key component, should be a “statutory subject”. Please note their recommendation, which we’ve been suggesting for some time, that SRE should be renamed RSE – with the emphasis on relationships rather than sex.
“We recommend that the DfE develop a workplan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and RSE as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools, setting out its strategy for improving the supply of teachers able to deliver this subject and a timetable for achieving this.
The statutory requirement should have a minimal prescription in content, and should be constructed with the aim of ensuring that curriculum time is devoted to the subject. Alongside this, statutory guidance should be developed to enhance schools’ duty to work with parents in this area and secure and effective home-school partnership.”
Page 53 of the report: Life Lessons
This is excellent news for those of us who’ve spent our entire career trying to persuade policy makers of the importance of personal, social, health education. It’s excellent news for the thousands of young people who have consistently said that their PSHE provision is insufficient. Their time has passed but at least future generations may receive the education to which they’re entitled at long last.
We say “may” because we’ve been here before. There have been plenty of occasions when the statutory status of PSHE has been discussed.
In 2010, PSHE nearly received statutory status in the “wash-up” of legislation before the General Election. There was the Macdonald report in 2009, which also recommended statutory PSHE http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/pdfs/2009-macdonald-pshe.pdf
There was also the excellent “Not Yet Good Enough” Ofsted report on PSHE https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/370024/Not_yet_good_enough_personal__social__health_and_economic_education_in_schools_-_report_summary.pdf
And there was the somewhat flimsy PSHE review of 2013.
However, there’s a fundamental shift in this report.
For decades, all attempts to make PSHE a statutory subject have been directly linked to raising pupil attainment. Whilst many in the field have always recognised this subject for its own importance and value, seemingly the only way to make it appeal to policy makers was to identify the evidential links between pupil achievement in tests and exams and their general wellbeing.
This report talks about wellbeing as a vital part of education in its own right. Furthermore, it implies that the balance has been wrong for years. “Standards” have been the focus with little emphasis given to the harmful effects of ignoring and neglecting wellbeing.
Here are some quotes from the conclusions in this report.
“The Government’s current strategy for improving PSHE and SRE in schools is weak, and the recent actions taken by the Government are insufficient to make much difference.
Destination measures, parental choice and schools publishing their curricula online will not in themselves lead to the required improvement in PSHE. There is a mismatch between the priority that the Government claims it gives to PSHE and the steps it has taken to improve the quality of PSHE teaching.”
Page 35 of the report: Life Lessons
“We recommend that the Government explore how pupil wellbeing could be measured in schools.”
Page 21 of the report: Life Lessons
“We recommend that the Government take steps to incentivise schools to raise the quality of PSHE and SRE in schools.”
Page 28 of the report: Life Lessons
It’s a very readable document but the complexity of this subject results in the report being quite lengthy. Therefore we’ve summarised the main conclusions and recommendations which can be found on page 55 of the report.
- The quality of PSHE and SRE should be measured through Ofsted, and through levels of parent and student satisfaction
- Government should explore how wellbeing could be measured
- Government should incentivise schools to raise the quality of PSHE and SRE
- Government should formally endorse the 2014 guidance for SRE (http://www.sexeducationforum.org.uk/media/17706/sreadvice.pdf)
- Government should monitor compliance of statutory requirement for schools to publish their PSHE and SRE provision
- DfE should restore the National PSHE CPD programme
- All teachers should have at least one teacher trained for the teaching of PSHE and SRE
- Government should ensure there are sufficient school nurses trained
- SRE should be renamed RSE – Relationships and Sex Education
- Parents and schools should work together in the area of PSHE and SRE
- Schools should be required to run regular consultations with parents on the school’s SRE provision
- Ofsted should inspect school’s engagement with parents on SRE
- Ofsted should clearly state where PSHE relates to safeguarding and SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural) development
- Government should commission Ofsted to produce regular subject reports on the quality of teaching for PSHE and SRE
- DfE should ensure that primary children be taught proper names for genitalia as part of the National Curriculum
- DfE must clarify current status of SRE
- Parents’ right to withdraw their children from elements of SRE should remain
- PSHE and SRE should be statutory subjects
- DfE should develop a workplan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and RSE as statutory subjects with minimal prescriptive content
This is all good news and should these recommendations be adopted into legislation we’ll be delighted. We’re just slightly disappointed that such a seminal piece of work should be published during half term when teachers ought to be having a break, whilst we recognise that many are indeed working throughout the week.
We’ll write more about these recommendations at a later date but for now we’ll remain hopeful and jubilant with a sincere hope that our optimism won’t be thwarted once more.
Read more on PHSE and SRE – From our archive