We’ve been here before with promise after promise, so please excuse those of us in the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) community who haven’t quite popped the champagne corks following yesterday’s announcement from S of S Justine Greening that statutory SRE (now to be known as RSE with the emphasis on relationships) is going to be included in the Children and Social Care Bill.
Until it’s embedded in legislation, we’ll smile, celebrate this major step forward and wait patiently for the ink to dry on the dotted ‘i’s and the crossed ‘t’s.
However, it now seems highly likely that relationships education is going to be compulsory for all and we’d like to express our enormous gratitude to all those who’ve campaigned over decades for the rights of our children and young people to be taught about these important aspects of learning within schools and colleges.
As one colleague pointed out on social media this morning “sensible people have been doing it anyway”, but she is one of the minority who saw the importance of relationships education early in her career and resolutely worked to maintain a place for personal and social development within her school when the pressure of SATs, the inability of Ofsted to inspect (or fully value) this area of work and the innumerable changes to the National Curriculum led to all manner of constraints on the time and energy afforded to PSHE.
Our own efforts to ensure that relationships education became an agreed entitlement for all is well documented within this blog (see the links at the end of this post). Almost to the point of exhaustion we’ve written about this need – not only for statutory Relationships and Sex education but also for the need to ensure that school staff are sufficiently trained to give our children and young people the best experience of this part of education.
That plea remains.
Statutory RSE is one massive move forward, but ensuring “outstanding” PSHE and RSE education requires significant amounts of training – for young people, for parents/carers, for support staff, for teaching staff, for initial teacher training, for school managers, for governors, for Ofsted inspectors, for politicians. For some, it also requires a huge shift in thinking – a reinvention of the purpose of education that goes beyond “academic attainment” or “preparing children for adult life” to a new realm of inclusive learning fit for the 21st century.
That inclusive learning means our children and young people should have the opportunity to develop all of their intelligences: their intellect and their knowledge about how relationships flourish, how to manage their feelings, their ability to restrain their instinct in certain circumstances, their understanding of themselves – who they are and what they’re capable of, their ability to socialise, empathise, collaborate, create, their ability to use their senses to explore and learn about themselves and their world, their ability to be live virtuously and develop a set of grounding principles and values – unique to themselves yet simultaneously shared.
Intellect, instinct, social, personal, physical, spiritual intelligences – developed, nurtured and combined to make us emotionally intelligent and thereby able to live life well.
It was never a question of “either/or” with regard to learning “facts” in a knowledge based curriculum or teaching relationships education. The two should have been working hand in hand for years to support the development and growth of each individual.
That it’s taken until 2017 (with a further 2½ years before implementation) to legitimise and make compulsory personal, social and relationships education is an indictment on those who should have done it previously – but there’s no purpose in naming and blaming today.
For now, we are thankful that sense has finally prevailed and the value of nurturing good relationships and managing feelings will be taking its rightful place in the national curriculum.
More hard work begins now. The government looks like it’s going to be consulting about content and age-appropriateness of learning. We’re really looking forward to contributing to this particular consultation – and would encourage others to do so when it’s announced.
In the meantime, as our colleague said – many have been teaching excellent PSHE and SRE for years. For those like her, well done and continue the good work. For anyone else, we’re here to help. Contact us!
Previous posts on SRE – or RSE – and PSHE.
Top Tips on the Teaching of Relationships and Sex Education
Response to the Education Select Committee’s “Life Lessons” report.
Sexualised society and the Prevalence of Pornography
Reviewing PSHE and the National Curriculum
More on Relationships and Sex Education