The government confirmed last week that it will be compulsory for all schools to teach the health and relationships aspects of PSHE education from 2020. This is a huge win for those of us campaigning for years to ensure PSHE has higher status in schools. Our new briefing goes into more detail on what it means in practice but at its most basic pupils will be far more likely to benefit from an education that keeps them safe, healthy and prepared for the realities of modern life – and this must be celebrated.
When announcing the requirements, the Education Secretary encouraged schools to build on what they’re already doing well through PSHE rather than ‘starting from scratch’. 85% of schools already teach PSHE that covers learning about health and relationships, but these new requirements support a levelling up of PSHE standards across all schools.
Now every child, in every school, will be guaranteed a PSHE education that covers mental health and wellbeing, physical health (including healthy lifestyles and first aid) and learning about safe, healthy relationships, including understanding consent and negotiating life online.
And while we were disappointed that the economic wellbeing strand of PSHE wasn’t made compulsory at the same time – and we will keep fighting for this – schools will rightly continue to prioritise this vital aspect. Health, relationships, economic wellbeing and having the knowledge and skills for successful careers are all linked. PSHE is the glue that binds them together into a coherent curriculum subject and schools shouldn’t feel any need to unpick what they’re already doing well.
PSHE education has never been more relevant and its importance more in line with the public mood. As I said at our recent conference, PSHE has been at the forefront of issues that have become mainstream, whether we are talking about challenging sexual harassment, gender equality in the workplace or young people’s mental health. As a result, parents, teachers and young people have joined us in calling for PSHE to have higher prominence on the curriculum. We are delighted that the government has taken a major step towards meeting these calls and look forward to making sure PSHE remains relevant to whatever challenges and opportunities emerge for young people during the years ahead.
There is of course a lot of work to do to ensure these proposals meet their full potential. Firstly, a consultation is now open until November on the accompanying draft regulations and guidance, and while there is much to welcome there are also things we’d like to see changed. We’ll be publishing our thoughts and submitting our response in due course, and would encourage you to do likewise.
Then the bigger task is ensuring that the PSHE education workforce is ready for 2020. Again, we’re not starting from scratch but building on some great work by our membership of teachers and schools across the country. While we’re not sure yet what resources the DfE may commit to training, we won’t waste any time in planning ways to support teachers and schools in making the most of this unprecedented opportunity.
In the meantime, I’d like to thank our members, partners and colleagues for their ongoing support for PSHE education for all. This support played a big part in getting us to where we are today and will continue to help us to get to where we want to be – high quality PSHE education for every child, in every school.
PSHE Association Chief Executive