Last week, the Department for Education released a briefing on the impact and effectiveness of PSHE education. This document helpfully brings together a range of evidence on PSHE education, and reinforces the importance of an evidence-based approach to teaching PSHE. This review of evidence highlights two important aspects of the subject.
Firstly, it notes that PSHE education can improve pupil wellbeing with knock-on effects on readiness to learn and academic attainment. Our briefing on the link between PSHE education, academic attainment and employability further reinforces the ‘virtuous cycle’ identified within the review.
Secondly, it notes the positive impact PSHE education can have on young people by teaching them skills like perseverance, conflict resolution, self-management, and teamwork. A well delivered PSHE programme is far more than the sum of its individual topics; the key underpinning skills - for example managing risk, developing self-reflection - apply whether the focus is on sex and relationships or managing finances.
The review also provides a useful summary of evidence for other key aspects of PSHE. The studies show that curriculum-based programmes can reduce alcohol and drug use; encourage healthy sexual behaviour and delay first sex initiation; and increase exercise levels and healthy eating. They can also raise academic attainment; and build resilience. There was less evidence relating to safety evidence and careers. Importantly, positive results are evident where programmes follow best PSHE practice. In contrast, ‘fear-based’ approaches to drug and alcohol education, and sex education programmes which promote abstinence have not been found to be effective.
Best-practice as highlighted within the document - including taking a developmental approach, consulting with parents and adopting a whole-school approach - echoes the 10 principles of good PSHE education underpinning all of our resources and training.
The research that exists is certainly promising, though it’s important that the subject’s benefits continue to be recognised and the evidence base continues to grow. We currently make summaries of the latest evidence available on our website at www.pshe-association.org.uk/evidence.