Last week we reported on the Education Select Committee’s report “Life Lessons: PSHE and SRE in schools”. This week, we’re commenting in greater detail on the recommendations and conclusions of this report.
“Life Lessons” provides many powerful reasons for teaching PSHE and SRE in schools. It also suggest that Sex and Relationships Education should have its title reversed, putting emphasis on relationships rather than sex – something that we at 3Di have been suggesting for some time.
For those who were quite rightly spending time away from education last week (during half term) here’s the link to the document.
There’s much to comment on within this report, particularly some notable views of seasoned professionals in this area of work. In our future posts on this document we’ll refer to these in greater detail.
For now though, we’d like to draw attention to a quote from Joe Hayman of the PSHE Association.
He “warned against the false dichotomy between PSHE as a discrete subject and the ‘embedded’ approach across other subjects.”
“English is a discrete subject, but it is reinforced in every other subject that is taught within the school […] There are distinct issues that we are covering in PSHE, such as issues relating to children’s mental health, that do require a safe space where those issues can be examined on their own. But that is not to say that that cannot be reinforced in [other parts of] the curriculum.”
Well said Joe.
The personal and social development of children and young people is the responsibility of everyone, including the children themselves, their parents and their carers. It shouldn’t be left to the teacher responsible for the teaching of a discrete PSHE lesson.
Through our writing on this subject and within our own practice in schools, we have always advocated a PSHE learning outcome for every lesson – coordinated and managed in a way that ensures every child receives the education to which they’re entitled.
And where does this entitlement come from?
Firstly, there’s the Education Act 2006 which places a duty on governing bodies to “promote the wellbeing of pupils at the school.” – cited on page 19 of this report. As the report says, the duty is there but specifications on how this duty can be measured are significantly weak. (More on this in later posts.)
Secondly, as referred to on page 14 of the report, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child clearly states in Article 17 that,
“children and young people have a right to information that is important to their health and wellbeing”.
There are other relevant articles within the UN Convention that are pertinent to the teaching of PSHE and are mentioned in the “Life Lessons” report.
“Article 29 also refers to encouraging children to “respect others”, and Article 34 requires governments to protect children “from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse”.
We’d go further and remind readers of other UN “articles” that are relevant to the teaching of PSHE and the development of personal and social wellbeing.
From one of our previous posts – children should
- Know their right to express their opinions (Article 12)
- Be enabled to discover and share their ideas (Article 13)
- Understand their right to free consciousness without religious indoctrination (Article 14)
- Be able to choose and nurture friendships (Article 15)
- Understand their right to privacy (Article 16)
- Know the role of the media in their lives (Article 17)
And . . .
We refer specifically to the following articles:
- Article 3 (Best interests of the child): The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. This particularly applies to budget, policy and law makers.
- Article 4 (Protection of Rights): Governments have a responsibility to take all available measures to make sure children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.
- Article 12 (Respect for the views of the child): When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account.
- Article 24 (Health and health services): Children have the right to good quality health care – and information to help them stay healthy.
- Article 29 (Goals of education): Children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest. It should encourage children to respect others, human rights and their own and other cultures.
(NB: We’re somewhat disappointed that when the “Life Lessons” report quite rightly referred to Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it omitted that first sentence, referring only to “respect others”.
We’d also remind politicians that this is a legally binding document that our government signed in 1990 – enforceable by law, yet largely ignored by education legislation, particularly with reference to accountability. (Refer specifically to Article 4).
So what on earth has prevented PSHE taking its rightful place in the National Curriculum, and what has prevented the wellbeing of pupils being at the forefront of the fundamental aims of education?
One has to conclude that current and previous governments have placed far too much emphasis on the immediate quantifiable outcomes of education (high stakes examinations) and far too little (if any) on the equally valuable but less easily measurable outcomes of nurturing and enabling the development of life skills.
Again, we have to say that carefully considered tracking systems for wellbeing would be an obvious solution to this problem of accountability.
(NB: Particularly noteworthy is the final quote from head teacher Jonny Mitchell from “Educating Yorkshire”)
Our next post will look in detail at the recommendations from this report. We’d sincerely hope that the existing accountability organisation, Ofsted, studies this report and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as they firm up their new and more enlightened framework for inspection, “Better Inspection for All” – with particular reference to the wellbeing of children and young people and how this should indeed be more accountable within reports on school effectiveness.