The PSHE Association is pleased to have had its forthcoming guidance on consent and future plans to raise standards in PSHE education highlighted by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan in the Sunday Times today. We are however deeply disappointed that the Secretary of State did not use this opportunity to respond to the recent recommendation from the Education Select Committee that PSHE be made a statutory part of the curriculum.
Without this change, topics like consent will continue to be squeezed from school timetables and taught by untrained teachers. Given that five recent child sexual exploitation inquiries have all highlighted the need for schools to teach pupils how to keep themselves and others safe, the inadequacy of Government action on this area is surprising and deeply disappointing.
Statutory status for PSHE education is supported by over 100 leading organisations including 6 Royal Medical Colleges, the NSPCC and Barnardo’s, as well as the Children's Commissioner 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. Further inaction would leave children at risk.
PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman said:
“While Government support for our work is welcome, this alone is inadequate. In not acting on the Education Select Committee recommendations, 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.
We need the Government to commit to making PSHE statutory now to ensure that children are not let down in this way again.”
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Notes on consent guidance
- The guidance will be launched shortly and is focused on Key Stage 3 and 4 pupils (aged 11-16), with lessons designed to be appropriate for the age and maturity of the pupils. The guidance is clear that some of the lessons, for example about pornography, are not suitable for younger pupils.
- As part of learning about consent, pupils must learn that the law is clear that sexual activity is illegal for young people under the age of 16, though learning about consent – in an age-appropriate way - should begin before young people are sexually active, to help them keep healthy and safe from abuse and exploitation.
- Recognising that some young people will be sexually active before the age of 16 does not equate to encouraging underage sexual activity. The key learning set out in this guidance is respecting the rights of others, communication, negotiation and considering the freedom and capacity of others to make choices – crucial knowledge applicable to a range of situations young people will encounter in their lives.
- The guidance reinforces three points of key learning for all pupils, which reflect the law as well as basic human rights:
- It is the person seeking consent who is responsible ethically and legally for ensuring that consent is given by another person, and for ensuring that that person has the freedom and capacity to give their consent.
- If consent is not clear, informed, willing and active, it must be assumed that consent has not been given. If consent is not clearly given, or is given and then subsequently retracted, this decision must always be respected. Since people can change their minds, or consent to one thing but not to something else, the seeker of consent must keep assessing whether consent is clear, informed, willing and active. Consent must be seen as an ongoing process, not a ‘one-off’.
· In healthy relationships, both parties respectfully seek each other’s consent and know that their decision to give or not give consent will be respected. A person is never to blame if their decision not to give consent or to withdraw consent is not respected.
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