This week was dominated by the historic announcement by Education Secretary Justine Greening about statutory relationships and sex education from 2019 and opening the door to make PSHE education statutory in its entirety pending an upcoming consultation.
PSHE Association welcomes historic Government announcement on RSE and PSHE
On March 1, Education Secretary Justine Greening made an announcement in a written ministerial statement about her intentions to make relationships and sex education (RSE) statutory in an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, while also paving the way for further action on PSHE education in its entirety.
In amendment NC15 the Education Secretary proposes regulations that would ensure:
- All primary schools in England including academies, free schools and independent schools – must teach age-appropriate ‘relationships education’
- All secondary schools in England – including academies, free schools and independent schools- must teach age-appropriate ‘relationships and sex education’
- Updated guidance for schools on what to cover in RSE will be created
In amendment NC16 Justine Greening outlined steps towards making personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education in its entirety statutory. The Government intends to consult on this as well as the relationship between RSE and PSHE, providing further opportunity for the Association and partners to continue to make the case for broad, statutory PSHE education that not only covers RSE but issues such as alcohol and drugs, media literacy, mental health, physical health, online safety, tackling extremism and developing employability skills.
Soon after the news broke, PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley gave the following statement: “This is a historic step and a clear statement of intent from Government. Following years of campaigning we are delighted that Justine Greening has taken this vital step to respond to the clear call from parents, teachers and young people that education must prepare all children, in all schools, for the opportunities and challenges of modern life.
Relationships and sex education is a fundamental component of PSHE education so the immediate commitment to statutory RSE is welcome and we look forward to seeing further detail in the forthcoming policy statement.
The consultation on broader PSHE education is an opportunity to continue to make the case for this vital school subject and to ensure it meets the needs of children and young people in this fast moving world. Pupils deserve high quality PSHE education and any change must guarantee appropriate training, support and resources for teachers and schools.
We look forward to working with our partner organisations to ensure a broad PSHE education curriculum in all schools that develops the knowledge, skills and attributes young people need to be healthy, safe and thrive in life and work.”
Other responses to the announcement
Following the announcement, many organisations, experts and MPs responded positively:
- Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, said: "We welcome the announcements made today. We have long advocated age-appropriate sex education and PSHE, for all pupils in all schools, to help prepare young people for the challenges they will encounter in their adult lives and the current challenges they face beyond the school gates. It is so important for young people to be taught about appropriate relationships, and the duties set out today bring that one step closer. NAHT has long argued that SRE is best fulfilled as part of statutory PSHE, and we welcome the announcement of a review into the shape of this. We look forward to playing our part in ensuring SRE/ PSHE delivers for young people."
- Anne Rose Barker, Chair of the British Youth Council (BYC), welcomed the proposal but stressed that the BYC ultimately wants to see statutory PSHE, and not merely RSE.
- Dr Max Davie, Mental Health Lead at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “We are also hugely encouraged by the Secretary of State’s intention to make PSHE statutory in the future. Prevention really does pay when it comes to mental health, and we know that increasing numbers of children are being diagnosed with mental health problems earlier in life. The more we can encourage open discussion about sex, relationships, social and emotional health at an early age, the more likely we are to build a generation of resilient adults.”
- Michael Mercieca, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise, said: "We welcome the Government's commitment to looking more closely at providing statutory status for PSHE, which has the potential to support hundreds of thousands of young people in their transition to adulthood. By providing statutory status for PSHE and ensuring that the 'E' strand – for economic – lies at the heart of the subject, the Government can play an important role in helping all young people develop the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to manage money well and succeed in the world of work.”
- Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, the largest teachers' union in the UK, said: "PSHE and SRE can have a positive role to play in a broad and balanced curriculum for children and young people. Today's proposals make this mandatory in academies and free schools. This is a significant change in the Government's position and the NASUWT believes this should go beyond PHSE and SRE to incorporate all elements of the curriculum as entitlements for all children.”
- Malcolm Trobe, Interim General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "We support the introduction of statutory relationships and sex education in secondary schools and age-appropriate relationships education in primary schools. ASCL Council, our policy-making body, recently discussed this matter and also resolved that Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education should be statutory."
The Secretary of State’s proposals were well covered in the media. The PSHE Association’s response was quoted in a wide range of newspapers, including the Telegraph and the BBC, and numerous local publications due to being picked up in a syndicated Press Association article on the announcement.