It is a historic day for PSHE education. The Commons Education Committee’s landmark report recommending statutory status is a huge step on our journey to ensuring that all children and young people have access to the high-quality learning they need and deserve.
But what happens now?
The Committee’s key recommendation for the Department for Education (DfE) is to “develop a workplan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and SRE as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools, setting out its strategy for improving the supply of teachers able to deliver this subject and a timetable for achieving this.”
This gives us a sense of what could happen next: we might foresee a process through which expert bodies and those who still have concerns work through the implications of statutory status with DfE Ministers and officials, with a particular focus on how we can ensure that both initial teacher education and CPD for PSHE teachers is improved and that busy schools can find adequate space for the subject on their timetables.
This planning can only happen, however, if the DfE decides to take the Committee’s recommendation forward. Normally the Government undertakes to produce a written response to the recommendations of a report such as this within two months of publication and this response is sent to the Committee for consideration. But with the election so close, this process could drag on until after May the 7th. The expectation to respond will remain, however, so if the recommendations are not addressed by the current Government then the new Government will have to respond in May or June.
It is therefore guaranteed that either current Ministers or those in post after the 7th of May will have to respond to the recommendations, but they will not obliged to follow them. It is therefore incumbent on all of us who care passionately about this cause to make our voices heard in the months ahead.
There will be plenty of opportunities to make ourselves heard, including when the upcoming Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) report on violence against women and girls is published, and in the run up to the debate on Caroline Lucas’ statutory PSHE Bill, which is due to be debated on 27 February. We will be responding to the JCHR report and pressing MPs from across the political spectrum to support the Caroline Lucas Bill; we hope that others will do so as well.
The great strength of our campaign is the size and breadth of the organisations involved. In the build up to the election and afterwards, we have to make sure that our voices continue to be heard. At the same time, while the consensus amongst young people, parents, teachers and experts feels overwhelming, we must still be willing to engage with those who remain concerned about the subject.
This report is a landmark, and paves the way for statutory status early in the new Parliament. But we still have to convince Ministers to show the leadership we need. So we should all enjoy today’s report: it is the most significant political development in relation to PSHE for years and the product of a huge amount of work from a huge number of people. But having celebrated this success, we need to prepare to make ourselves heard by Ministers: convincing them is the next step on our journey.