The teaching of subjects that fall under the umbrella term of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education is an issue that MPs are raising in debates at Westminster with increasing urgency.
Recent calls for individual elements of the PSHE curriculum to become compulsory have included:
• A call by the All Party Group on Financial Education for statutory financial literacy education.
• A call for statutory relationship education by a cross-party committee inquiry into teenage pregnancies
• A call for compulsory lessons on body image by the All Party Group on Body Image
• A 10 Minute Rule Bill introduced by Diana Johnson MP to make provision to include relationship, drug and alcohol education in the National Curriculum, which I supported.
We also had a call for a commitment to effective drugs education from the Home Affairs Committee in their report “Drugs: Breaking the Cycle”
The Government’s review of Personal, Social, Health and Economic education was launched in July 2011. In launching the review, the Schools Minister said that OFSTED had reported some weaknesses in schools visited, although PSHE education was judged to be good to outstanding at three-quarters of the schools. The report noted that pupils needed more knowledge and better understanding in education on relationships; drugs and alcohol; and mental and emotional health.
It is clear that all pupils should benefit from high-quality PSHE education. The first issue I am raising in the debate is about relationship education. In my constituency, and for Salford as a local authority, teenage pregnancy rates are a continuing concern.
The latest figures published show Salford had a teenage conception rate which was the highest in Greater Manchester and much higher than rates in both the North West region and England and Wales. Where teenage conception rates have decreased elsewhere they actually increased in Salford in the latest year’s figures.
In 2007, Salford City Council held an inquiry into the extent and effectiveness of the teaching of relationship education in our schools and colleges. The inquiry found that, where the teaching of PSHE was not seen as a priority, delivery of relationship education was patchy.
Also, that although schools cited “more training for staff” as a key improvement area, teachers were not always being released for professional development PSHE courses.
The Salford inquiry concluded that there needs to be direction from government to make relationship education “a consistent and compulsory part of the national curriculum.” However, the clauses in Labour’s Children and Families Bill to make PSHE education compulsory, including one year of relationship education, were lost in the legislation “wash-up” process before the 2010 General Election.
Council funding for projects on Teenage Pregnancy have also disappeared in the cuts of £90 million made to Salford Council’s budget over three years.
The inquiry report had commented that:
“Teenage pregnancy is a serious social problem. Having children at a young age can damage young women’s health and well-being and severely limit their education and career prospects. While individual young people can be competent parents, all the evidence shows that children born to teenagers are much more likely to experience a range of negative outcomes in later life.”
We still have concerns about those negative outcomes. There are also new concerns about how young people can be protected from adults who would groom them for sex or adults who abuse and assault young people, as described in the horrific allegations made against Jimmy Savile.
Relationship education can equip children with the knowledge and the skills to understand what constitutes inappropriate behaviour from an adult. It can help them to resist pressure from adults who want to harm them and also let them know how to get help and support when they need it. The National Children’s Bureau says that PSHE education is vital to safeguarding children on these issues.
PSHE education can also play a role in tackling or reducing bullying. It can provide a structure for schools and young carers’ projects to be able to identify and support young carers. Many young carers are likely to be shouldering practical, emotional and financial responsibilities normally taken on my adults. PSHE education can help inform them about those extra burdens they shoulder.
My conclusion is that failing to make important subjects compulsory within the Curriculum will mean that some schools’ delivery of education on those vital subjects will be patchy at best or non-existent at worst. It is time that all pupils benefited from PSHE subjects being taught at the most effective level possible.
Barbara Keeley MP's Westminster Hall debate was at 9.30 - 11am on Wednesday 16 January.
Response: The PSHE Association
We welcome Barbara Keeley's support for PSHE education which, as she notes, helps children on a range of important issues such as financial literacy and teenage pregnancy, as well as playing a critical role in keeping them safe.
High-quality PSHE education binds these diverse issues together by supporting children to develop the tools they need to make good decisions - such as managing emotions and analysing risk - and is most effective when delivered in a regular timetable slot by teachers who are trained in, and comfortable with, the subject area.
While the challenges faced by children across the country will vary, high-quality PSHE education equips pupils to make good decisions whatever their circumstances and is therefore crucial for every child. In addition to their efforts on a national level, we call on MPs to work with us to make high-quality PSHE education a fixture in schools in their constituencies.
Response: Personal finance education group(pfeg)
Personal Finance Education Group welcomes cross-party support for financial education
pfeg (Personal Finance Education Group) welcomes yesterday’s debate entitled The Government’s Review of Personal, Social, Health and Financial Education. pfeg has long campaigned for the inclusion of personal finance education as a statutory strand of PSHE education in schools, a recommendation reiterated by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Financial Education for Young People’s report Financial Education and the Curriculum.
Representing the views of the APPG at the debate were Justin Tomlinson MP (Chair), Andrew Percy MP (Vice Chair) and Andrew Bingham MP (group member). Bingham stated ‘there are so many pressures on children leaving school that they should have a better-rounded education’. pfeg believes that high-quality financial education throughout schooling will ensure that young people leave school with the knowledge, confidence and skills to manage their money well.
Responding Minister, Elizabeth Truss MP, concluded by saying ‘we are incorporating more financial education into the mathematics curriculum, such as understanding money, compound interest rates, loan repayments and applying percentages or ratios.’
pfeg would urge the minister to consider the APPG’s recommendations that personal finance education should be taught cross-curricular in mathematics and PSHE education with the financial numeracy aspect situated in maths and the subjective aspects taught in PSHE education. In addition, PSHE education should be clearly defined into four separate strands, one of which should be personal finance.