Vision and curriculum – how governing boards can help to ensure pupils receive a high quality PSHE education

Jun 11, 2021 5:00:00 AM

We recently worked with the National Governance Association (NGA) on guidance for governing boards on how they can support PSHE education. This is particularly important in light of the alarming prevalence of sexual harassment and abuse among young people, and the need for regular PSHE education lessons to help address the issue as part of a whole-school approach.

Steve Edmonds – Director of Advice and Guidance at the NGA – writes for us here about the role of governing boards in getting this vital area of the curriculum right, including but not limited to statutory RSHE elements

Working for the National Governance Association (NGA) I am in the privileged position of supporting volunteer governors and trustees throughout the country who are motivated to put something back into their communities and make a difference to the lives of children and young people.

NGA’s work encompasses information, advice and guidance, professional development and e-learning. It promotes the contribution that effective governance makes to the sustainability of schools and trusts and ensuring they deliver good academic outcomes.

However, we are just as – if not more – committed to supporting those who govern to take an interest in the ‘whole’ person and equipping them for life. We were delighted therefore to have the opportunity to work with the PSHE association and publish joint guidance, which further raises the status of PSHE education in schools and trusts.

The guidance is the result of a genuine collaboration. It was clear from our first conversation with the team at the PSHE Association, that we had shared commitment to ensuring that every pupil enjoys a good PSHE education and a vision for guidance that looked beyond what DfE and Ofsted expect.

Good governance starts from first principles – your values, your ethos, what are you trying to achieve for your pupils?: what should they leave your school knowing and being? Whilst it might not be easy in a system too easily defined by narrow metrics, boards should think strategically about what is important for their pupils and hold themselves to account for what matters most. Our guidance explains how PSHE education – when taught well – should resonate with the values that governing boards foster, which guide the thinking and behaviour in their schools and trusts.

Having placed PSHE in this context, it was important to provide a framework for meaningful, strategic conversations between those leading and governing schools. We have done this through reference to discussion themes, such as vision and strategy, policy development, stakeholder engagement and investment in CPD that supports safe and effective teaching.

Recent debates about the role of and responsibilities of schools in tackling sexual harassment and violence has highlighted one of the most important duties of a governing board: ensuring that their school or trust is creating safe environments for pupils. Our guidance explains how, by taking an active interest in PSHE education, boards are creating a safeguarding culture that addresses risk and keeps pupils safe in many situations.

Asking good questions is at the heart of good governance. Asking school leaders the right questions, at the right time and in the right way, goes a long way towards helping governing boards to understand the extent to which what is being taught is developing the knowledge skills and attributes pupils require to stay healthy, safe and prepare them for life and work. Our guidance includes examples of questions that boards may ask and adapt to fit their context.

There is no doubt that PSHE education is also vital for our economy – it boosts attainment and life chances, particularly for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. NGA therefore supports the statutory requirement to teach relationships and health aspects of PSHE education in place since September, and hopes the economic wellbeing and careers aspects will be statutory in future.

Steve Edmonds is the Director of Advice and Guidance at the National Governance Association, @NGASteveE