The government's decision to review personal, social, health and economic education has been welcomed by the association tasked with promoting the teaching of the subject.
A review of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education was announced by the minister of state for schools, Nick Gibb, on 21 July 2011. The review follows the government's commitment, expressed in the white paper on education ‘The Importance of Teaching', and recognises the value of the subject – taught well – in helping children "make safe and informed choices, and play a role in helping to tackle public health issues, such as substance misuse, and supporting young people with the financial decisions they must make".
The government's belief that "all pupils should benefit from high-quality PSHE education" is synonymous with the PSHE Association's mission to improve the quality of PSHE education for all children and young people. As such, the PSHE Association will be supporting the review by every possible means to help progress this shared intention.
PSHE education deals with real life issues which affect children, young people, their families and their teachers. It engages with the social and economic realities of their lives; their values, experience and the attitudes and emotions they bring to their education as well as their knowledge and understanding. This means that what is learnt in PSHE education can have an immediate application in the lives of children and young people.
Academic achievement as prescribed in the English Baccalaureate will be greatly undermined if young people are subject to violence in their relationships or at home; are unable to resist the pressure to smoke, take drugs, or drink excessive amounts of alcohol; are unable resist the pressure to enter into premature sexual relationships; and are unable to manage their personal finances and avoid debt.
Young people are more likely to do well at GCSE if they:
• have a greater belief in their own ability at school
• believe that events result primarily from their own behaviour and actions
• find school worthwhile
• think it is likely that they will apply to, and get into, higher education
• avoid risky behaviour, smoking, cannabis use, anti-social behaviour, truancy, suspension and exclusion
• do not experience bullying
Schools should have the flexibility to develop the PSHE education curriculum in the way that is appropriate to the school community and responsive to the needs of pupils. This also means engaging effectively with parents.
Young people, their parents and their teachers all believe PSHE education is important:
"PSHE is important because it provides us with opportunities to discuss complex issues in a safe environment. There are many topics that it can be awkward to talk about but in PSHE we tackle these issues head on and are given relevant advice, including who to talk to." (Year 10 student)
"PSHE is important. It deals with the world as it is and not as we would like it to be. It addresses issues that are important to young people and, if they are not dealt with, will become barriers to learning and achievement and will impact on GCSEs in Maths and English. It develops skills that can be applied across the curriculum (e.g. developing oracy) and contributes to whole school ethos." head teacher, Swanlea School, Tower Hamlets.
Parents also want PSHE lessons to cover the topics of environmental issues and religion as well as bullying, personal safety and friendships. 30% of parents also want children to be taught about gender identity at primary school. Presently many PSHE lessons are taught by class teachers, but 61% of parents feel that these lessons need to be taught more by experts. (See: sex and relationships survey of over 1,300 parents by Netmums, 2011)
Critical to the provision of high quality PSHE education is the need for well trained, highly skilled, confident, competent teachers. This single need has been repeatedly identified by Ofsted subject inspections. (See: ‘Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education in Schools 2006-2009 ' report by Ofsted, 2010')
The consultation ‘Training our next generation of outstanding teachers' (DfE June 2011) notes that that "teachers with good subject knowledge are more effective" whilst the new Teachers' Standards in England from September 2012 (TDA July 2011) require all teachers to "Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge" whilst "managing behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment". Why should it be any different in demanding that all teachers, new and existing, with responsibility for teaching PSHE education, meet these exacting standards both in training and in the delivery of their teaching to children and young people?
Policymakers must continue to support schools to provide the highest quality PSHE education if young people are to live healthier lives, achieve their potential and contribute responsibly to their communities and society.
Throughout recess, ePolitix.com will be focusing on a different policy theme each week. This week we are featuring articles with a focus on education.