DfE call for evidence on PSHE - a crucial opportunity

The DfE call-for-evidence on PSHE, including relationships and sex education (RSE), closes soon. This is a crucial opportunity to influence the future of PSHE education and make the case for its statutory status on the curriculum for all pupils, in all schools.

It’s vital that the voices of those teaching PSHE are heard, so we call on everyone in our community to submit evidence by the 12 February deadline. The call-for-evidence is open to anyone, so we also encourage responses from parents, young people and others with an interest in children and young people’s health, safety and preparation for life and work.

While the Government’s commitment to statutory relationships and sex education is welcome, this alone will not effectively prepare children to maintain safe, healthy relationships. To achieve its potential, RSE must be part of a broader programme of PSHE education. This view is shared by leading voices in the sector including the NSPCC, the national policing lead for child protection and abuse and the Sex Education Forum.

Introducing statutory status for the whole of PSHE education is by far the easiest option for schools to implement, which is one of the reasons teaching unions including NAHT, NEU and ASCL are calling for statutory PSHE in its entirety, including but not limited to RSE.

Strengthening the status of RSE alone would also fail to address other crucial aspects of PSHE, from mental and physical health to online safety, drugs education to employability and careers, as well as emerging issues such as tackling extremism and fake news. This is your opportunity to argue for your subject’s status and present evidence and examples of the impact of effective, timetabled PSHE education programmes.

Here are a few key points to consider in your response:

  • Relationships and sex education (RSE) will be ineffective if the whole of PSHE isn’t granted statutory status at the same time: While making RSE compulsory for all pupils from 2019 is a welcome step, it won’t effectively prepare children to maintain safe, healthy relationships in isolation.
  • RSE must remain as part of broader PSHE education: This is to guarantee effectiveness but is also easiest for schools to implement, as this is the model already followed by the vast majority of schools offering high quality RSE.
  • Improving the status of RSE alone will fail to address other crucial aspects of PSHE, from mental and physical health to online safety, drugs education to employability and careers, as well as emerging issues such as tackling extremism and fake news.
  • Your evidence on the impact of regular, planned PSHE in your school: This is a huge opportunity to achieve statutory status for the whole of PSHE education, involving regular lessons, taught by well trained and supported teachers. Any evidence of the benefits of an effective, timetabled PSHE programme based on your own experiences would be invaluable, as would examples of positive impact on your pupils’ wellbeing, health, behaviour and academic attainment.
  • The importance of statutory status for PSHE: PSHE has proven benefits to children and young people’s health (mental and physical), safety (online and offline) and in preparing them for life and work. Many thousands of pupils miss out on these benefits due to it not having the same statutory status as other subjects. Priorities for statutory PSHE are that it should enable regular lessons for all pupils, in all schools, taught by trained and supported teachers.
  • Emphasising broad themes, not isolated topics: PSHE cannot and should not be seen as a list of isolated topics that could be prioritised, but as a coherent programme involving interdependent and overlapping themes.  In our programme of study we express these as ‘health and wellbeing’, ‘relationships’ and ‘living in the wider world’.
  • The importance of knowledge, skills and attributes:  PSHE education develops the underpinning skills and attributes applicable to all aspects of life – for example resilience, critical thinking skills and managing risk – through the context of subject knowledge in different topic areas
  • Core learning with flexibility to tailor: These core themes should form the basis for planning PSHE in all schools, with flexibility for schools to tailor programme content to the needs of their own pupils and communities.

Visit the Government's call for evidence page to submit evidence and you can read the PSHE Association's own submission below (note that it is important to use your own words when responding rather than copying and pasting answers from us or others.)

The DfE are also keen on hearing young people's views, so the Association has produced free lesson plans - one or key stage 2 and another that covers key stages 3 and 4 - to help teachers facilitate feedback sessions with groups of young people.

A reminder too of our ‘Curriculum for Life’ report on the weight of evidence and support for statutory PSHE education, and evidence of PSHE’s impact on academic attainment highlighted in a recent Pro Bono Economics review.

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