News Digest 9 – 13 October

This week the Government published the Internet Safety Strategy green paper, which highlighted the role of PSHE education. The Sutton Trust also highlighted the importance of PSHE in its newly published Life Skills report. In Parliament, ministers were quizzed regarding levels of sexual assault of children by other children. Finally, a survey conducted by Dove suggested that only 39% of girls in the UK have high body esteem.

Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper highlights role of PSHE
The Government launched its Internet Safety Strategy green paper and accompanying consultation this week, covering various approaches to keeping people safe online, including technological solutions, support for parents and carers and developing children’s digital literacy.

Schools can play a vital role in keeping children safe online according to the paper, which highlights the opportunities presented by compulsory relationships and sex education from 2019, and potentially PSHE education in its entirety. The paper suggests collaboration between DCMS and DfE in designing online safety aspects of this new curriculum, working with a wide range of stakeholders to determine subject content, school practice and quality of delivery.

PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley said: “The PSHE Association welcomes this green paper and the emphasis on PSHE education’s potential to support safety and digital resilience. PSHE is the ideal context for such education, dealing as it does with the fundamental skills, attributes and knowledge young people need to stay safe, healthy and prepared for life online and offline. As the paper outlines, to help schools to meet these responsibilities, we have integrated digital literacy into our curriculum framework for PSHE and we will continue to prioritise this area of the subject, including through the development of training.”

Sutton Trust recommends PSHE in its Life Skills report
On October 12th, the Sutton Trust published its Life Skills report. The report finds that skills and attributes such as confidence, social skills, self-control and resilience are increasingly recognised as important because they underpin success in school and work and are highly valued by employers.The report explored variance in access to extracurricular activities that help to develop such skills but also the importance of the PSHE education curriculum, stating that: “Personal, Social, Health and Economic education also has a substantial role to play. While currently not statutory, its curriculum has a welcome focus on developing the ‘essential skills’ of confidence, resilience, self-esteem, communications and ability to work with others.”

Reports of sexual assaults by children on other children are rising
This week’s BBC Panorama brought to light that reports of sexual assaults by children on other children have risen by 71%, from 4,603 incidents in 2013-14 to 7,866 cases in 2016-17. National police chief lead for child protection Simon Bailey said: "We are dealing unequivocally with the tip of the iceberg ... we are seeing an increasing number of reports, we are seeing significant examples of harmful sexual behaviour and the lives of young people blighted and traumatically affected by sexual abuse."

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee Maria Miller said: “Our Committee told the Government this was a serious and widespread problem more than a year ago. Twelve months on and the Panorama programme has shown that sexual violence in schools, mostly perpetrated by boys against girls, remains a serious issue in both secondary and primary schools”.

Survey suggests that poor body image makes girls less assertive and risks their health
A survey conducted for the 2017 Dove Global Girls Beauty and Confidence report found only 39% of girls in the UK have high body esteem – of the 14 countries only Japan and China scored lower. Of UK girls with low body esteem, 90% told researchers it stops them from eating or puts their health at risk in other ways. 80% avoid seeing friends and family, or choose to not try out for a team or club.

Oral and written questions on PSHE and RSE

  • Maria Miller asked the Secretary of State for Education what more the Government will do to make sure that their policies are working to keep children safe in schools from sexual harassment and violence. Justine Greening answered that measures include making sure guidance up to date, such as the relationship and sex education guidance, adding that  “we are clear that if schools see this happening, they should report it to children’s social services or the police—it is vital that they take action”
  • Stephen Timms asked what recent assessment has been made of the adequacy of teaching in secondary schools on how to stay safe online. Nick Gibb answered that ‘Keeping children safe in education’ is the statutory guidance that schools must have regard to when carrying out their safeguarding duties. It sets out that children must be taught about a range of things, including staying safe online through appropriate teaching, for example through PSHE or relationships and sex education. Mr Gibb also highlighted The Children and Social Work Act 2017 measures to strengthen the status of relationships and sex education on the curriculum from 2019.

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