News Digest 14 May – 1 June

NAHT and NEU referred to the need for statutory PSHE in their responses to the government’s updated statutory safeguarding guidance, and speakers in an evidence session on social media and mental health also agreed that PSHE should be mandatory in schools. There was also support for PSHE in a commons debate from Huw Merriman MP and a range of parliamentary questions were answered by Nick Gibb and Lord Agnew of Oulton.

Updated government guidance on keeping children safe in education
On 17 May, the Government published updated statutory guidance for schools on safeguarding children. In their responses, both NEU and NAHT unions stressed the need for PSHE to support pupil safeguarding. Commentin on the new advice, Kevin Courtney – Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union – remarked that: “Real investment in training, high quality sex & relationship education and a commitment to statutory PSHE is needed.”

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “It is also really important that there is time in the curriculum for schools to help young people understand their rights and responsibilities. The best way to do this is through statutory PSHE which should also be available to all children in all schools, and we encourage the government to quickly get on with the job of implementation.”

MPs reiterate commitment to statutory PSHE
During a 15 May debate on public legal education, Huw Merriman MP drew attention to PSHE education and the importance of looking at the subject as a whole, rather than merely paying attention to relationships and sex education. He said that: I served on the Children and Social Work Bill Committee, and a big discussion was held on personal, social and health and economic education. It came up in a narrow fashion because the discussion was about sex and relationship education and whether that should be a compulsory curriculum subject. In my mind, there was a great opportunity to go broader than that to teach our young people something wider than the citizenship curriculum subject that we have at the moment,” before concluding that: “I would like to see PSHE established on a compulsory footing."

In response, Maria Miller MP mentioned that “the Secretary of State has put in place a law that can make PSHE compulsory. It just needs to be enacted”, referring to the power contained in the Children and Social Work Act. Mr Merriman noted that whilst this is true, no clarity has been given as of yet about what will happen with PSHE as a whole, and that he looks forwarding to hearing from the Minister about whether statutory PSHE education will be introduced.

Support for PSHE in oral evidence session on social media and mental health
Schools Week magazine reported agreement among witnesses at a Commons Science and Technology Committee session on social media and mental health that PSHE education should be mandatory in schools.

LGA report highlights impact of RSE on the drop in teenage conception
The Local Government Association has published a report on teenage pregnancy, 15 years after the Government launched its Teenage Pregnancy Strategy. The report presents the finding that the teenage conception rate has dropped by 60 per cent since and shows that high quality relationships and sex education – a core part of PSHE – helps young people to delay sex until ready and to use contraception in the right way.

Written and oral questions

  • Philip Davies asked the Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb whether he will ensure the dangers of problem gambling will be taught in PSHE lessons. Nick Gibb said that the Department for Education is currently considering the evidence it has gathered on the status of PSHE education. He added that some schools already choose to teach about the dangers of gambling in PSHE and that the Government has received evidence from some problem gambling charities, which it will consider.
  • Lord Storey asked when the updated guidance on relationships education and relationships and sex education will be published. Lord Agnew of Oulton answered on 11 May that the Department for Education is assessing the evidence it has gathered during the wide-ranging engagement process it conducted.
  • Ged Killen asked whether the Secretary of State for Education will publish a summary of evidence he received during its engagement process on the scope and content of relationships and sex education, from stakeholder groups representing LGBT. Nick Gibb answered the Department for Education is currently considering the responses and will publish the outcome of the call for evidence and the engagement process in due course.
  • Lord Storey asked when they Government intends to issue the results of their consultation on PSHE education in schools and when they plan to issue guidance. Lord Agnew of Oulton answered on 11 May that the Department for Education is assessing the evidence it has gathered during the wide-ranging engagement process it conducted.
  • Joan Ryan asked if the Secretary of State for Education will make an assessment of the potential merits of compulsory knife crime education and prevention in the PSHE or Citizenship curriculum? Nick Gibb answered on 14 May that schools can currently choose to include lessons on weapon awareness and gangs in their school curriculum. He added that the Department for Education is currently considering the status of PSHE education.
  • Lloyd Russell-Moyle asked what plans the Department for Education has to ensure that relationships and sex education is a) impartial and b) LGBT-inclusive. Nick Gibb answered on 21 May that all schools must ensure that the teaching of RSE is inclusive of the needs of all pupils, whatever their developing sexuality or identity. The Department for Education is assessing the evidence it has gathered during its wide-ranging engagement process on RSE and PSHE. The results of this will be published alongside a consultation on draft regulations and statutory guidance.

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