News Digest 10 – 20 December

The Times reported that the DfE were working on proposals to strengthen status of sex and relationships education. Justine Greening reiterated importance of addressing quality and accessibility of PSHE in parliamentary questions as DfE Ministers Lord Nash and Edward Timpson referred to PSHE and SRE in responses to written questions. PSHE was also discussed during the second reading of the Digital Economy Bill and in an answers to a parliamentary question on female genital mutilation (FGM) . Demos released a report in which it evaluates an extremism intervention pilot it ran in four schools.

Sunday Times reported that DfE is working on proposals for statutory status
The Sunday Times (dated Sunday 18 December) reported that the Department for Education is working on proposals to ensure schools teach sex and relationships education (SRE). This is the latest in a number of recent indications that the Government is considering significant measures to improve the status of PSHE education, the subject through which sex and relationships education (SRE) is delivered.

PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley said:

“It is encouraging that the DfE is seriously considering making historic change to the curriculum. The issues discussed in the Sunday Times report – such as teaching about consent, the dangers of pornography, sexual harassment – are key to sex and relationships education within a broader PSHE education.  PSHE is also central to schools fulfilling their safeguarding responsibilities.”

Read our full comment here.

Parliamentary questions on status of PSHE, mental health, FGM, SRE and preventing violence against women and girls

  • On Monday 19 December the Education Secretary Justine Greening was asked by Lucy Powell MP whether there was plans to make PSHE education compulsory, to which Ms Greening replied: “was very clear in my first Education Committee appearance that I felt this was an area that we needed actively to look at, which is what we are doing. It is not just a question of updating the guidance; it is about the schools where it is taught—and, I would say, the quality of the teaching that happens as well.
  • On 12 December Lord Nash answered a written question on resources and training available in schools for mental health education and training. Stressing that mental health is a priority for the Department of Education, Lord Nash directly called PSHE education the subject that “equips pupils with the knowledge and skills to make safe and informed decisions”. Lord Nash stressed that while PSHE is non-statutory, the Government believes that all schools should make provisions for it. He drew attention to a number of resources that deal with mental health directly, including the Government-commissioned guidance on mental health in PSHE that was produced by the PSHE Association.
  • Later in the week, Lord Nash restated that the Government is actively reviewing the case for further action on PSHE and SRE in response to a question about preventing violence against women.
  • In response to a question asked by Mrs Sharon Hodgson MP on SRE and by Luciana Berger on obesity and physical exercise, Edward Timpson restated the Government’s intention to look at the case for further action on PSHE and SRE education provision with particular consideration to improving quality an accessibility.  
  • There were also three questions answered by  Viscount Younger of Leckie on behalf of the Government on 20 December on SRE, FGM and PSHE itself, to which Viscount Leckie referred to to PSHE education and the Government’s desire to consider options to improve quality and accessibility.

Digital Economy Bill Debate mentions PSHE
During the second reading of the Digital Economy Bill, various peers spoke in favour of statutory PSHE and SRE. Lord Ashton of Hyde – speaking on behalf of the Government – said that the Government agrees that it needs to look at the case for further action on PSHE and SRE and that it is “carefully considering the request to update existing sex and relationship guidance”. The Bishop of Chester urged the Government to act, as there are “serious issues which cannot be ducked if we want to prepare children for the world as it actually is”.

RCPCH calls for PSHE education to help tackle obesity
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) response  to the 2015 Health Survey for England included a call for statutory PSHE education to help counteract soaring obesity numbers and other health issues, stating that: “There is no better foundation that a civilised society can give children than knowledge about sexual, physical, and mental health that will stand them in good stead throughout life”

Demos report Digital Citizens: Countering Extremism Online
Demos has published a report on Digital Citizens: Countering Extremism online based on a small scale intervention pilot. Following evaluation, Demos concluded that the intervention workshops were broadly successful, that the topic falls naturally under PSHE education and should ideally be tied into the broader curriculum and rolled out to more schools.

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