An old school taking a new look at its PSHE education
Founded in 700 AD, Beverley Grammar School
is the oldest state school in the country. It is no longer a grammar, but is now a non-selective boys’ school with around 850 students and operates a joint Sixth Form of approximately 150 students with the local girls’ school. Beverley Grammar has had specialist status in Engineering since 2004 and second specialisms in Cognition and Learning since 2008.
A new beginning. How Beverley Grammar School successfully ‘rebranded’ PSHE education and raised the subject’s profile in the school.
PSHE education coordinator, Rebecca Taylor, explains:
“In 2005/6 I was an NQT at the school and took on Head of PSHE in June 2006. At that point we did 30 minutes of PSHE per week just with Year 7, delivered by the form tutors. Year 10 and 11 had an hour a week of careers, or health education. No one really knew much about the subject and it did not have a high profile in the school. Something had to be done, so I decided to start a 'PR' campaign.
"Following on from an idea in one of my PGCE placements, I decided to rebrand the subject ‘SPACE’, standing for ‘Social, Personal And Citizenship Education’ (this was before the introduction of ‘Economic wellbeing and financial capability’). I thought a rocket/NASA theme would work well in a boys school, so giant colour posters went up around the school with logos such as 'SPACE: Get ready for the launch'; 'RU ready 2 get lost in SPACE?' and ‘Space: not just for astronauts!’ This really built up interest and excitement.
"Next I went on a fact-finding mission to other schools to find out what worked and what the main obstacles were. I realised the teachers need to want to teach it, as many feel uncomfortable discussing certain topics. Therefore the team of teachers were recruited based on their interest and commitment and then given training. They were asked what they needed in terms of CPD and I continually try to provide opportunities for this.
"All lessons were written and organised into accessible and colour co-ordinated files so that teachers felt well resourced and prepared: this had been another area that teachers of PSHE in other schools had commented on. I provided reward slips, certificates and stickers. Within each teacher’s file, they were given an evaluation sheet which was quick and simple to fill in. By doing this I hoped to build on and improve the programme for each year group. Every student in the school then had a launch lesson and momentum grew from then. I’ve also received fantastic input from the LEA PSHE Education Adviser, Denise Chisholm. She has been wonderfully helpful and supportive.”
As this extract from the school’s 2008 Ofsted inspection report shows, Rebecca’s determination and hard work paid off:
"Programmes, known throughout the school as SPACE, make a significant contribution to students’ well-being and support their personal, social, health and emotional development. Students say that lessons are ‘Interesting and exciting’ and comment that ‘Other subjects do not cover these things.’ Students value the opportunities the SPACE programme provides to promote their independence and confidence, understand their social responsibility, and learn about good citizenship. They are encouraged to think for themselves and explain their ideas to others. They say, ‘We are treated as individuals, whatever view you have is OK, our views are respected." (Ofsted 2008)
April 2010 – How it works in practice
The SPACE programme is taught for one hour a week in mixed ability groups. The coordinator, Rebecca, leads a team of ten teachers whom she describes as ‘totally committed’. They meet half-termly and have received training as a group in drugs and alcohol education, SRE and economic wellbeing and financial capability.
The timetabled programme is enhanced by a range of events and outside speakers. These are viewed as a useful addition to the programme and are always followed up in lessons to ensure they are not just an ‘add-on’.
The next steps
Introducing assessment and ensuring coverage of both programmes of study
PSHE education provision at Beverley Grammar clearly has many strengths, including the enthusiastic commitment of its coordinator, the support of the Head teacher (who has described PSHE education as ‘the most important subject on the timetable’), a one hour timetabled lesson for all students each week taught by a dedicated team of teachers and of course, the high value placed on the subject by both students and staff.
However the school is keen to improve the programme further and Rebecca has identified some areas for development.
- First, the current programme is topic-based and not planned around the key concepts and processes of the programmes of study. Rather than starting from scratch, Rebecca plans to map the existing lessons against the key concepts and processes and also to use the PSHE Association’s ‘Self-review tool’ in order to highlight any gaps in the existing programme and identify areas for improvement across all aspects of PSHE education provision.
- Second, whilst the PSHE education component of ‘SPACE’ is evaluated by students and staff at regular intervals, it is not currently assessed. Rebecca is planning to introduce teacher- and self-assessment, using the PSHE Association’s ‘Progression frameworks for planning and assessment’. She intends to use appropriate sections of the teacher versions of the frameworks as marking schemes for teacher-assessed activities such as projects, posters, role-plays and presentations. She also plans to use sections of the learner-friendly versions to create self-assessment sheets for each module, or topic.
Watch this space
The PSHE Association will be following how Rebecca gets on with these developments over the coming year.
What can we take from this case study?
We sometimes hear students (and sometimes, sadly, colleagues) saying that PSHE education is ‘boring’, or a ‘waste of time’. Beverley Grammar School’s story shows us that where the school’s leadership team values PSHE education, gives it time and resources and where not only the coordinator but everyone who teaches PSHE education believes that it is valuable, interesting and exciting, then students will feel the same. Raising the profile of PSHE education is harder in some schools than others but well worth the effort to bring young people the high quality PSHE education they need and deserve.