As the Prime Minister hosts a summit on child sexual exploitation, his Government has yet to respond to an Education Select Committee report which described the Department for Education’s approach to Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, the subject through which pupils learn to keep themselves safe, as weak.
Recent inquiries into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, Rochdale, Birmingham and Manchester have all highlighted the need for schools to teach pupils how to keep themselves and others safe. According to the Jay report on child sexual abuse in Rotherham, the victims were “scathing” about the lessons they received in school, making the Government’s inaction surprising and deeply disappointing.
The Government’s failure to respond to these reports or the recent Commons Education Committee recommendation for PSHE to be made a statutory part of the curriculum means that lessons on consent and healthy relationships will continue to be squeezed from school timetables and taught by untrained teachers, leaving pupils at risk.
The campaign for statutory status for PSHE education is supported by 6 Royal Medical Colleges, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the NSPCC, Barnardo’s and almost 90% of teachers and parents. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Home Affairs Committee, the Chair of the Health Committee and All Party Group chairs from across the political spectrum have all called for this change.
The PSHE Association now calls on Government to make a stronger commitment to improving the subject’s status before the election in May.
PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman said:
“In not acting on the Education Select Committee recommendations and in failing to learn the lessons from four child sexual abuse inquiries, the Government is missing a crucial opportunity to ensure that all children receive education to keep themselves safe and healthy.
It is particularly concerning that the Government has also failed to listen to the victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham who were, according to the Jay report, “scathing” about the education they received on this area.
Focusing on professionals failing to report is just one piece in the puzzle: if the Government is serious about preventing abuse in the first place we need to help all young people to understand what a healthy, and an unhealthy, relationship looks like. We therefore need Government to commit to statutory PSHE so that children are not let down again.”
1. PSHE education is a non-statutory school subject which teaches children the skills, knowledge and attributes to prepare for life and work. Topic areas include mental and physical wellbeing, healthy relationships, keeping safe, and skills for work.
2. The PSHE Association is an independent charity, and the national subject association for personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education in England, providing advice and support to a network of over 8,500 teachers and other professionals working in schools across England.
3. For press or media enquiries between 9am - 5pm call John Dillon on 020 7922 7950. For out-of-hours inquiries, please call 07740 110 186.
4. The Commons Education Committee inquiry reviewed the quality of PSHE education in schools, and ways to raise standards. The report was published on 17th February 2015 and concluded that PSHE education should be given statutory status in schools’ curriculums.
5. Reports into child sexual exploitation in all reinforce the need for children and young people to be taught how to keep themselves and others safe. Page 71 of the Rotherham report references that young people were “scathing” about the education they received
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