PSHE education supports academic success, says major evidence review

    • 'Very strong evidence’ that PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) learning has a positive impact on academic attainment, according to independent Pro Bono Economics review.
    • Disadvantaged pupils enjoy greatest benefits to academic performance
    • Through its proven impact on physical and mental health, levels of bullying and general behaviour, PSHE education removes barriers to learning and develops skills that help young people succeed
    • PSHE Association urges Government to follow through with proposals to make PSHE statutory, in line with other subjects, to ensure all pupils benefit.

A new evidence review by Pro Bono Economics highlights ‘very strong evidence’ that high quality PSHE learning ‘has a positive impact on academic attainment’. This latest evidence has prompted campaigners to reiterate their call for statutory status to raise quality in all schools, for all pupils.

Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is the school subject which develops the knowledge and skills that young people need to be safe and healthy, and to thrive in modern Britain. The benefits of PSHE education for young people’s mental health, relationships, safety and physical health are well established. Today’s review shows that PSHE education significantly benefits young people’s academic success, particularly if they come from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The independent review – produced by expert economists from a number of Government departments, volunteering through Pro Bono Economics – examined national and international evidence. Its aim was to determine the degree to which PSHE’s impact on students’ health – both physical and mental – and behaviour might lead to greater academic attainment and improved life chances in adulthood. The review covers over 1200 studies and reveals that PSHE programmes are effective in developing social and emotional skills, supporting emotional wellbeing, improving physical health, and tackling bullying. The evidence then links these positive outcomes to improved academic attainment: by helping young people to be healthier, happier and safer, PSHE enables them to do better in school.

The evidence suggests that PSHE education also directly supports young people in succeeding academically, particularly if they are socio-economically disadvantaged. It does this by developing skills and attributes such as confidence and positive risk-taking, which enable young people to excel.

PSHE education is currently a ‘non-statutory’ school curriculum subject and Ofsted estimates that 40% of schools are not yet teaching it well enough. To address this, a coalition of leading children’s organisations, parents, teaching unions and young people are calling on the Government to ensure that PSHE is granted statutory status in line with other subjects. In March, the Government announced plans to consult on making the subject statutory, making this Pro Bono Economics’ report especially timely.

Diane Coyle, Pro Bono Economics Trustee and professor of economics at the University of Manchester (and, from March 2018, inaugural Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge) said:

“This report summarises the positive impact on academic attainment, including through benefits to physical health, mental health and behaviour, all of which greatly affect students not just in the classroom, but continue to benefit them in their adult life. The value of this Pro Bono Economics report is to establish from the literature the evidence that PSHE is effective in these respects”

Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching said:

“This review is timely.  School leaders and teachers are increasingly interested in responding to evidence about approaches to pedagogy, curriculum design and assessment.  It is essential that we learn more about optimal ways of supporting the development of children and young people’s capacity to learn and thrive.”

Jonathan Baggaley, PSHE Association Chief Executive said:

“By supporting mental health, physical health, safeguarding and healthy relationships, PSHE education removes numerous barriers to learning, clearing the way for pupils to succeed in their academic studies while gaining invaluable knowledge and skills for life.  It must therefore be prioritised so that all children in all schools receive regular PSHE lessons, taught by trained teachers. Many thanks to Pro Bono Economics for their exhaustive work on this review”

Notes:

  1. This literature review was undertaken via Pro Bono Economics for the PSHE Association and examines the evidence base for the role of PSHE education in improving educational attainment and attendance. The review considered over 35 pieces of literature which covered over 1200 studies on different PSHE themes in the curriculum.
  2. Pro Bono Economics (PBE) is a charity that helps charities and social enterprises understand and improve their impact and value using the skills of professional economist volunteers. Economists from the Home Office, Department of Transport, Ministry of Justice and Cabinet office carried out this literature review.
  3. Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is a school subject that supports pupils to be healthy, safe and prepared for adult life. PSHE lessons cover the most pressing issues facing young people today relating to a number of key areas, including: relationships and sex, mental health, staying safe from online dangers, challenging extremism and radicalisation, financial literacy and the skills to thrive in their careers.
  4. The PSHE Association is the national body for PSHE education, a charity supporting over 20,000 teachers and schools with advice, training and support. The Association also leads the call for PSHE education to have equal (statutory) status with other curriculum subjects, so that all pupils in all schools can benefit from high quality, regular PSHE lessons taught by trained professionals. Find out more at www.pshe-association.org.uk.
  5. PSHE doesn’t have the same (statutory) status in schools as other curriculum subjects. Without this obligation to teach it, quality is patchy and some schools don’t cover it at all. In 2013 Ofsted found quality sub-standard in 40% of schools. Department for Education data shows time spent teaching PSHE fell by over 29% from 2011 to 2015.
  6. The Government signalled a commitment to reviewing the status and content of PSHE education (including relationships and sex education) in its amendments to the recent Children and Social Work Act, with the engagement process due to begin this autumn.
  7. For enquiries contact John Dillon, Head of Marketing and Communications at the PSHE Association (02079 227950/07740 110186 / john.dillon@pshe-association.org.uk) or Isobel Hunter at Pro Bono Economics (02036 322668 / isobel.hunter@probonoeconomics.com)

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