Addressing sexual harassment and abuse in schools — the role of PSHE education
Recent events have again drawn attention to the prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse in society, and in our schools. This comes as no surprise to those of us in the sector who have campaigned for years for PSHE education to have better status on the curriculum — primarily to help keep children and young people safe and healthy as part of broader whole-school efforts.
This is why the introduction of statutory Relationships Education in primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education in all secondary schools (along with Health Education at all key stages) was so welcome, and necessary. Though we are still in the early stages of making sure it translates to high standards across all schools, this does represent a milestone in raising the status and profile of PSHE education at a time when it’s never been more important.
Of course it’s been an incredibly difficult year for all schools and staff, and therefore not ideal circumstances in which to get the new RSHE requirements right. With this in mind, the Department for Education has given a little leeway on timescales, though still expects schools to have key aspects in place now, and the remainder for the beginning of the new school year.
Ofsted too will be looking at PSHE education / RSE as part of its current review into sexual abuse in schools — and how schools can be further supported to deliver this vital curriculum.
We also strongly believe in the need to tackle contributory factors and challenge a culture that allows such issues to arise. We therefore recommend that you’re familiar with our recent teacher briefing on addressing pornography through PSHE education, and the accompanying paper by Clinical Psychologist Dr Elly Hanson on the impact of pornography on young people. This is an issue we’ll revisit over the coming months alongside an update on our guidance on teaching about consent.
And in light of the recent focus on peer harassment and abuse, we would recommend consulting Government guidance ‘Sexual violence and sexual harassment between children in schools and colleges’, which includes advice on how to help prevent and respond to issues.
We also worked with Medway Public Health Directorate on ‘Managing Healthy and Unhealthy Relationship Behaviours’ guidance and lessons, and have quality assured two education resource packs to support relevant Home Office campaigns — ‘Something’s not Right’ (which focusses on identifying and reporting abuse) and ‘Disrespect NoBody’, which focusses on teenage relationship abuse.
Other relevant quality assured resources include ‘Working out Relationships’ KS4 lesson plans from the University of Exeter to help students identify — and exit from — controlling relationships; and ‘Relationships Safety’ resources from the Alice Ruggles Trust, which include a focus on harassment.
Our Programme Builders feature all of these resources and more, and will support you to plan this content within the context of your broader PSHE education programmes. And whatever stage you’re at with preparation for statutory RSHE we’re here to help; through our resources, guidance and this term’s CPD training courses.