News Digest 20 –24 March

This week the Lords Communication Committee called for statutory PSHE to support online safety and digital literacy. The Home Affairs Committee briefly mentioned PSHE in its oral evidence session on hate crime and violence and the State of the Nation report by the Social Mobility Committee was discussed in the House of Commons and the Association highlighted our briefing on how to discuss a terror incident with pupils. 

Lords Communications Committee calls for statutory PSHE to support online safety and digital literacy
The Lords Communications Committee launched a reportGrowing up with the Internet’ which includes mandatory PSHE education as a key recommendation.

The extensive report highlights risks to children posed by the internet, from easy access to inappropriate content, loss of privacy, commercial exploitation and cyberbullying to susceptibility to fake news and extremist views.

The Committee recommends that the Government makes PSHE education ‘a statutory subject, inspected by Ofsted’ to develop a holistic digital literacy that helps children and young people ‘critically understand the internet’ and ensure that online responsibilities, social norms and risks are covered on the curriculum in all schools.

While noting recently announced Government plans to make relationships and sex education mandatory from 2019 – and to consult on making PSHE as a whole statutory – the report highlighted that ‘the benefits of PSHE go beyond sex and relationship education’ and called for resources and training, including during initial teacher training, to ensure teachers and schools are prepared to deliver PSHE education to a high standard.

Our Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley said: “The Lords Communication Committee is spot on in recommending that the Government makes PSHE education statutory so that children and young people have the knowledge and skills to manage the challenges of life online.

Digital literacy is critical to this and PSHE education provides the framework through which it can be most effectively taught. Relationships and sex education is an important part of PSHE  but making PSHE statutory in its entirety would go much further towards keeping children safe and aware online, as the report suggests. 

Statutory status would help ensure PSHE education has the space on the timetable it needs and the confident, appropriately trained teachers to deliver it. All children and young people must receive the 21st century education they deserve.’

Hate crime and its violenct consequences explored in Home Affairs Committee oral evidence
On the 21st of March the Home Affairs Committee held an oral evidence session on Hate crime and its sometimes violent consequences. When asked whether the Government is doing anything to increase confidence in communities, Home Office Minister Sarah Newton answered:

Very importantly, the decision that we have made to have compulsory PSHE and SRE in schools is really going to help, so that every child, in an age appropriate way, understands our shared values, understands what is right and wrong and is told what help is available to them. If somebody is suffering and they do not know who to turn to in their community, they will know from that education they have had at school that help is available, what the law is and where to turn. So I think we are approaching it holistically, from young people through to supporting community groups.”

Social Mobility Commission: State of the Nation Report discussed in the House of Commons
On March 23rd the annual State of the Nation Report from the Social Mobility Commission was discussed in the House of Commons. The report welcomed measures by successive governments to improve social mobility, but called on the Government for further action.

David Burrowes MP commended the Government’s intention of making relationships education statutory, saying that: “Many children, sadly, come from a background of conflict, trauma and survival. There is now the opportunity to provide them with the building blocks that others receive outside school to build resilience, self-esteem and respect for others, and help to build that character which is so vital for their future in the long term.”

PSHE Association highlights school guidance for discussing terrorist attacks with pupils
In the wake of this week’s tragic events in Westminster, the Association highlighted our discussion guide for schools on how to explore terrorist attacks with pupils who may be experiencing a wide range of emotions and want to discuss what happened. Whilst PSHE education should not be a series of knee-jerk responses to events in school or in the wider world, in instances like this it is likely to be in PSHE or Citizenship lessons where there is the space and opportunity for discussions to take place that provide support for pupils at a difficult and sensitive time. You can access this guide and other materials here. 

Written and oral questions on PSHE and SRE

  • Caroline Johnson asked what steps the department is taking to encourage the development of resilience in children through curricular and extracurricular activities to promote mental wellbeing. Edward Timpson answered that the Department of Education has funded guidance and lesson plans to support schools in teaching about emotional wellbeing and that recent Government steps are  in line with the  intention to prioritise good mental health and wellbeing.
  • Ian Austin asked if the Government will make an assessment of the financial effect of making PSHE compulsory in all schools. Edward Timpson’s answered that
  • “The Secretary of State for Education confirmed the Government’s ambition to support all young people to stay safe and prepare for life in modern Britain by making Relationships Education (Primary), Relationships and Sex Education (RSE - Secondary) and, subject to the outcome of a thorough consideration of the subject, Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE - both) statutory in all schools” and said the DfE intends to conduct thorough research which will include looking at potential costs.
  • Lord Northbourne asked whether the Government has considered requiring all-male schools to recognise and promote the role of fathers in society and about what steps are taken to promote responsible fatherhood. Lord Nash answered the responsibilities of parents and the value of family relationships are covered in the PSHE Association’s programme of Study and that the intended plan to make relationships education, relationship & sex education and PSHE statutory in schools will likely add to that.


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