Government inaction on child safety education leaves children at risk

  • Telegraph reports that a year after Rotherham child sexual exploitation (CSE) inquiry, child safety education lessons remain optional, despite survivors’ ‘scathing’ verdict on the education they receive
  • PM has called CSE ‘a national threat’, but six months after Commons Education Committee recommended all pupils receive lessons on staying safe, government still has not responded
  • Child safety experts NSPCC, Barnardo’s and the Children’s Commissioner urge the government to act to make PSHE statutory

A Daily Telegraph report has highlighted the role of PSHE education in addressing child sexual exploitation and the danger of government inaction.

PSHE education is the school subject which addresses personal safety (including online), bullying and healthy relationships, crucial learning if children and young people are to keep themselves safe from harm. There is clear evidence that pupils have healthier relationships and are more likely to report abuse when they receive such lessons.

Yet a year on from the Jay report into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham, and six months after the Downing Street summit at which David Cameron met survivors and called CSE a ‘national threat’, the Government has left PSHE education as optional for schools, despite survivors’ ‘scathing’ verdict on the education they received on staying safe while at school.

A series of recent CSE inquiries have recommended that topics such as consent and healthy relationships are taught in all schools to help prevent future cases of exploitation and abuse, yet a generation of children remain at risk: according to Ofsted, PSHE provision is sub-standard in schools and is often taught by untrained teachers in insufficient curriculum time.

In February, the Commons Education Committee recommended that PSHE be made a statutory part of the curriculum in order to ensure all pupils receive the learning they need on issues like consent. Six months on, the Government has still not responded to this recommendation.

PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman said:

“A year on from the Jay report and six months after David Cameron called CSE a national threat, government still hasn’t taken action to ensure all pupils learn how to keep themselves and others safe. Parents, teachers, young people, and child safety experts are united in their calls for action: the government cannot just sit on its hands while children’s safety is at stake”

And in the Telegraph article, leading child safety experts discuss the need for urgent government action on statutory PSHE:



NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: 

“With the potential dangers from online sexual predators and the horrifying exploitation cases of recent years there couldn’t be a more crucial time for children to learn about staying safe.

“There is no question PSHE should be on every curriculum as it is at the frontline of child protection. Without it there is a worrying gap that could leave children at serious risk of harm and sadly ignorant about healthy and caring relationships.”

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield OBE said:

“If we are to help to protect all children from the sexual abuse and exploitation we have seen in towns such as Rotherham, it is critical that we equip them with the skills to identify unhealthy relationships.  For this reason I am a strong supporter of making PSHE statutory and available for all children and including within it, a relationships component.   We will not be doing all we can to minimise harm until we do so.”

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said:

“One year ago the Jay report exposed a horrific level of child abuse in Rotherham. Children were failed many times and this must never happen again. We know that any child, regardless of background or upbringing, can become a victim of this terrible crime. Whenever and wherever we open a service we find children who urgently need our support.

“Victims are never to blame for the abuse they suffer, but a key part of preventing child sexual exploitation is teaching young people how to spot the signs of grooming. It is vital the government prioritises lessons about healthy relationships and ensure the involvement of parents and recognise their hugely important role. These lessons must address the needs of all children including LGBT young people and those with a disability.”




1.    PSHE education is a non-statutory school subject which teaches children the skills, knowledge and attributes to prepare for life and work. Topic areas include mental and physical wellbeing, healthy relationships, keeping safe, and skills for work.

2.    The PSHE Association is an independent charity, and the national subject association for personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, providing advice and support to a network of over 9,000 teachers and other professionals working in schools across England.

3.    For press or media enquiries between 9am - 5pm call John Dillon on 020 7922 7950. For out-of-hours inquiries, please call 07740 110 186.

4.    The Commons Education Committee inquiry reviewed the quality of PSHE education in schools, and ways to raise standards. The report was published on 17th February 2015 and concluded that PSHE education should be given statutory status in schools’ curriculums.

5.    Reports into child sexual exploitation in all reinforce the need for children and young people to be taught how to keep themselves and others safe. Page 71 of the Jay report (August 2015) states that survivors of CSE in Rotherham were “scathing” about the education they received. 

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