This week a landmark RCPCH report on child physical and mental health recommended statutory PSHE. PSHE and sex and relationships education (SRE) were debated in the House of Commons and various members of parliament and peers asked questions about PSHE. The British Humanist Association published a report suggesting a lack of focus on PSHE and SRE during school Ofsted inspections.
Landmark report on child physical and mental health recommends statutory PSHE education
On January 26th the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) launched a report on the state of children and young people’s physical health, including recommendations to make PSHE education statutory in all schools.
The State of Child Health report includes data on 25 measures relating to the health and wellbeing of UK children, from obesity and drug/alcohol use to sexual health and suicide rates. While highlighting improvements in many respects over the last 30 years, the report suggests reasons for significant concern, including the relative poor health of those from deprived backgrounds and lack of access to support.
Welcoming the report, PSHE Association CEO Jonathan Baggaley said:
“We welcome the report’s recommendation that the Department for Education makes PSHE education – including sex and relationships education – statutory in all schools, as a key element in promoting and supporting all pupils’ physical and mental health.
The report highlights mental health and tackling drug/alcohol use as two important areas in which statutory PSHE can help, but the skills and attributes developed through PSHE education can be applied to many areas of pupil health and wellbeing. All pupils in all schools should therefore have the same access to high quality PSHE education and statutory status is a crucial first step towards achieving this.”
DfE reiterates intention to ‘move forward’ on PSHE and SRE as part of Children and Social Work Bill
An adjournment debate called by Women and Equalities Committee Chair Maria Miller MP On the 23rd of January focused on how statutory sex and relationships education could help address issues such as sexual harassment and sexual violence in schools.
Caroline Dinenage MP, responding on behalf of the DfE said that “the Secretary of State has made it absolutely clear that we need to prioritise progress on the quality and availability of SRE and PSHE” while reiterating that the Department “will set out plans to move forward” on the issue as part of the Children and Social Work Bill, though it is unclear at this stage what measures they plan to take.
The PSHE Association and NAHT issued a joint statement supporting this growing momentum, with Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley commenting that:
"We welcome such strong, cross-party support for strengthening the status of PSHE including comprehensive SRE on the curriculum and look forward to DfE measures to improve quality and accessibility.
PSHE education can no longer be an optional add-on for schools given the seriousness of the issues involved, so statutory status for PSHE must be central to these plans and this must be an entitlement for all school pupils at key stages 1-4 in all state schools, whether they are academies or maintained schools.
And as we stated jointly with the NAHT recently, PSHE as a whole must be given statutory status, with SRE as a mandatory element. PSHE develops the skills, attributes and knowledge to apply to a range of vital and related issues regarding child safety, wellbeing and success – from mental health to skills necessary for employment and a healthy economy. It must therefore statutory in its entirety to enable young people to face the challenges of the modern world.”
Written questions and oral evidence
- Judith Cummins MP asked whether the adequacy of school-based mental health services for young people between 10 and 17 has been assessed. Edward Timpson answered that mental health of children and young people is a priority for the Government and also referred to DfE funded PSHE Association guidance on teaching about mental health within the PSHE curriculum.
- Jim Shannon MP asked which steps are taken to prevent children from self-harming due to social media. Edward Timpson referred again to guidance and lessons plans about mental health in PSHE.
- Tracy Brabin MP asked the Secretary of State for Education during an oral evidence session in the House of Commons she could give a firm date for when the Government might announce its plans for ensuring that sex and relationship is taught appropriately. Justine Greening answered: “Edward Timpson, who is the Minister of State concerned, has been very clear that, over the course of the Children and Social Work Bill, we will make sure that we set out our next steps. We are actively working on that.”
- The Marquess of Lothian asked what steps are undertaken to implement the recommendations that the Children’s Commissioner made on January 4th about including digital citizenship in the national curriculum. Lord Nash acknowledged the importance of the issue and said: “All schools are required to teach a balanced and broadly based curriculum that promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils, and prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.” He then referred to non-statutory ‘ SRE in the 21st Century’ guidance produced by the PSHE Association, the Sex Education Forum and Brook.
BHA report on PSHE and SRE inspections in schools
On January 25th, The British Humanist Association published a report that investigates into how PSHE and SRE are in inspected in English schools. It concludes that SRE is mentioned in less than 1% of inspection reports and PSHE in 14% of reports. Subjects such as art and music, however, are mentioned 31% of the time.
While Ofsted doesn’t appear to sufficiently inspect PSHE and SRE, BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson said: “To lay the blame at the feet of Ofsted and its inspectors would be wrong, however. The fact is that the attention given to PSHE by inspectors is entirely commensurate with the importance ascribed to it by government.”