The PSHE Association has today welcomed a new Cochrane Review suggesting that primary age children who are taught about preventing sexual abuse at school are more than three times more likely than others to report abuse.
Our recent work on behalf of the Department for Education on teaching pupils about consent and with the Home Office on the revision of This is Abuse guidance demonstrate the importance of PSHE education in helping pupils to understand that they may be involved in abusive or non-consensual situations (as perpetrators as well as victims) with the ultimate objective of preventing such abusive behaviours.
These are complex and challenging issues, but today’s report suggests a significant impact on child safety can be made. It is therefore essential that this potential is realised, with lessons on the subject taught in all schools and by trained teachers, rather than the ‘postcode lottery’ which currently exists. This is why we are calling for statutory status for PSHE education so that all pupils receive the learning they need and are taught by trained teachers.
Such learning must go beyond simply setting out what is abusive and non-consensual against healthy, consensual relationships. As the research paper notes, those who are sexually abused are more susceptible to depression, eating disorders, suicidal behaviour and drug and alcohol problems, all issues which are addressed in PSHE.
We also know that abusive situations are often linked to substance misuse, body image and self-esteem, online safety, the emotional health of those involved and a number of other issues addressed in the subject, meaning that if we want it to stop or be challenged, the abusive behaviour cannot be addressed in isolation.
PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman said:
“We were pleased to see this report, which reinforces our view of the potential of PSHE education to help keep pupils safe. We were glad to see that the report showed that there was little evidence to show that children experienced unnecessary worry as a result of sexual abuse prevention education, nor were there any other reported adverse effects of the lessons.”
“We believe to ensure that such harms are prevented and that all pupils get the learning they need to keep them safe, PSHE education must always be taught by trained teachers with adequate curriculum time. We remain concerned that neither of the major political parties have yet made a commitment to statutory status for the subject, in spite of support from the Commons Education and Home Affairs Committees and the Joint Committee on Human Rights all stressed that statutory PSHE lessons can help keep pupils safe.”
“Organisations including the End Violence against Women Coalition, the NSPCC, Women’s Aid and the Association of Police & Crime Commissioners back statutory status for PSHE for the reasons set out. The new Children’s Commissioner has made statutory status a key priority for her, and reports of child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire, Greater Manchester, Birmingham, Rochdale and Rotherham have all emphasised the importance of this learning in keeping pupils safe. The current postcode lottery on whether pupils receive such learning is not acceptable: we need statutory status for PSHE so that every child learns how to keep themselves and others safe.”
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