News digest 30 October – 3 November

This week the NAHT released findings of its survey on PSHE and RSE, showing overwhelming support for statutory PSHE. The topics of sexual harassment and violence in schools were debated in the House of Commons. The NHS published the result of its annual smoking, drinking and drug-use survey and Minister Nick Gibb answered PSHE related written questions.

NAHT survey shows overwhelming support for statutory PSHE from 2019
90% of over 900 professionals surveyed by school leader’s union NAHT said that PSHE education, including relationships and sex education (RSE), should have the same status as other school subjects, and 91% of respondents want the subject to be taught in regular, timetabled lessons. The survey was conducted with a view to establishing how Government proposals could work best for schools and for students.

When presenting its findings the NAHT has reiterated its call for statutory PSHE education to be introduced from 2019, and not just elements of the subject concerning relationships and sex education, stating that ‘PSHE is the vehicle which will support successful delivery of RSE and make it work for schools and students’.

PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley welcomed the NAHT survey findings, saying that: “Introducing statutory RSE on its own won’t work for pupils if it doesn’t work for schools, and schools are clear on the need for RSE to form part of a commitment to PSHE education in its entirety. This would support schools to tackle issues such as sexual harassment through regular lessons, but also places RSE within a broader PSHE framework designed to support health (mental and physical), safety, and ability to thrive in life and work”.

Sexual harassment and violence in school’s debated in the House of Commons
On November 2 a debate was held in the House of Commons on sexual harassment and violence in schools. Maria Miller, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, opened the debate with statistics outlining the extent of the problem. Ms Miller and others asked what measures the Government are taking, including regarding relationships and sex education (RSE).

In response, Minister for Women Anne Milton said that: “Making RSE compulsory is absolutely not the end. I was public health Minister when the FPA was campaigning to make it compulsory, and I used to say that just ticking a box and getting the geography or RE teacher—somebody with nothing to do on a Thursday afternoon—to do it is not sufficient. This education has to cover the sort of issues that have been spoken about in this debate, and the situation is complex. We all come to the topic of RSE with our own experiences, and we need to be able to park those experiences in order to provide high-quality training, which must include an understanding of power in relationships and among peers, and how it can be used in a sexual nature to force young people to submit.”

Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for education said she had been campaigning for a solution “that would include not just sex and relationship education, but all aspects of PSHE as well as citizenship and financial education.”

NHS Digital publishes results of its regular survey on smoking, drinking and drug-use among young people
NHS Digital has published the results of its smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England 2016 survey. Information was obtained from 12,051 pupils in 177 schools throughout England mainly in the autumn term of 2016. The survey provides a useful insight into current trends and about where pupils receive information and preventative education, and highlights the importance of PSHE education. Pupils rate teachers as the most likely source of helpful information and support outside of what they learn at home.

The Government’s 2017 Drug Strategy also highlights the importance of preventative education, including the need to build ‘confidence, resilience and risk management skills’ through PSHE education in order to ‘prevent the range of risks young people face’ such as drug misuse, crime, exploitation and unhealthy relationships.

Written questions

  • Liz Twist asked what the timetable is for the introduction of mandatory PSHE education. Nick Gibb answered that the Government wants to help all schools to deliver high-quality RSE and PSHE so that all young people are equipped to have healthy and respectful relationships, and leave school with the knowledge to prepare them for adult life. The Children and Social Work Act places a duty on the Secretary of State to make RSE mandatory in secondary schools and relationships education in primary schools, and gives her the power to make PSHE mandatory as well, pending consultation. The DfE intends consult with a wide-range of stakeholders and will set out more details about the engagement process and timetable shortly.
  • Stella Creasy asked what the timetable and planned commencement date is for the consultation on the provision of relationships education. Nick Gibb answered that the Department is fully committed to conducting thorough and wide-ranging engagement with stakeholders, which will help to reach evidence-based decisions on the content of the regulations of statutory guidance, as well as on the status of PSHE. More details about the engagement process and timetable will be set out shortly.

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