As expected, it has been quieter politically over the summer but there have been a number of PSHE related news stories of relevance in recent weeks. University of Hertfordshire research linked a low sense of belonging in school with self-harm, and highlighted PSHE education’s potential to help. The NSPCC called for relationships and sex education within a wider PSHE education curriculum to combat sexual misconduct in schools and the NAHT stressed the importance of PSHE to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils. Finally, the Children’s Society Good Childhood Report 2017 revealed the proportion of children facing various disadvantages in their lives.
Calls for statutory PSHE to reduce worrying levels of self-harm
Research by the University of Hertfordshire found that young people who experience a low sense of belonging in school are nearly seven times more likely to self-harm than those who feel attached to it. Moreover, girls are approximately 3.5 times more likely to admit to self-harm than boys. The research was reported by The Independent on 30th October and also highlights the University’s large-scale Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children England (HSBC) survey findings on the extent to which young people believe PSHE helps to address the issue.
Dr Ellen Klemera, a senior research fellow in adolescent, child and family health at Hertfordshire, said: “The data on sense of belonging to schools is particularly striking and strengthens the argument that greater support should be offered to schools to implement prevention and early intervention measures that can establish and protect good mental health, and embed a positive ethos and culture of community within our schools.”
She added that “Sense of belonging can be improved with focus groups, clubs and by creating a safe community for pupils in the classroom, along with the important health and wellbeing lessons learned through PSHE.”
PSHE Association chief executive Jonathan Baggaley said: “This research highlights the need for high quality, compulsory PSHE education in all schools to support pupils’ mental health and address issues such as self-harm, which affect an alarming number of young people.
“The indication that lacking a sense of belonging to schools or communities has such a negative impact on young people’s mental health is also alarming, and another area in which a joined up PSHE programme can help by fostering healthy, constructive relationships and self-esteem.
“That three quarters of pupils surveyed say PSHE helps them look after their own health further strengthens the argument for Government to ensure these lessons are taught regularly in all schools to all pupils."
NSPCC calls for RSE as part of a wider PSHE curriculum to combat sexual misconduct in schools
On Wednesday 9 August, TES reported that children as young as five have been excluded from school for sexual misconduct. Between July 2013 and April 2017 754 such incidents were reported, prompting calls for proper up-to-date relationships and sex education (RSE).
The NSPCC commented that RSE “must be dragged into the 21st century, it must be consistent, and it must be offered in every school as part of a broader personal, social, health and economic education curriculum."
NAHT stresses importance of statutory status for PSHE to improve emotional wellbeing
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has stated that schools should not be viewed as front line mental health providers. Instead, it is important that health and social care services are adequately funded so that schools can focus on promoting wellbeing among their pupils and on identifying pupils that they are concerned about it.
NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman also stressed the importance of PSHE education, saying that: “In the last session of Parliament the government committed to statutory status for PSHE. This must be followed through if we are to create space in the curriculum for young people to discuss a range of issues, including anxiety, stress and depression”
Children’s Society Good Childhood Report 2017 shows link between disadvantage and low well-being
The Children’s Society launched its Good Childhood Report 2017 at the end of August. The report found that 84% of children experienced at least one disadvantage in their lives and that 53% experienced three or more. Whilst some disadvantages were relatively common, others were rare. It was estimated that around 200,000 children between the ages of 10 and 17 experience emotional neglect and 2.2 million experience fear of crime.
A link exists between lower subjective-wellbeing and experiencing disadvantages. Disadvantages also have a cumulative effect – of children experiencing 7 or more disadvantages 29% perceived low well-being compared to 3% of children who had experienced no disadvantages.