A new report from Public Health England on child sexual exploitation (CSE) suggests that the existing body of evidence ‘repeatedly highlights the critical role of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) and Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) in addressing these issues’.
The report summarises the emerging evidence on CSE, and provides practice examples to support local public health leaders’ frameworks for prevention and intervention. Regarding education, the report suggests a range of studies highlight the need for ‘universal education programmes’ to address young people’s lack of understanding on the issue, and suggests an ‘on-going process’ of education and awareness (rather than discrete interventions) as well as the need to explore links with related PSHE issues such as drugs and alcohol misuse.
Education on the issues should commence in an ‘age–appropriate manner’ with primary aged children the report says, given the increasingly young age at which children are being referred for concerns around CSE, and educative opportunities should be used to minimise likelihood of perpetration as well as victimisation.
PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley said:
“This is a wide-ranging report which explores a range of approaches to a complex and deeply concerning issue. Education is just one part of this, but a vital part.
Broad, statutory PSHE education – including but not limited to age-appropriate RSE – could provide the ‘educative opportunities’ recommended in the report to approach these issues in a coherent, developmental way. The report is also right in suggesting such opportunities should place emphasis on minimising likelihood of perpetration, and not just on reducing victimisation. We hope that the Department for Education takes this important research into account when assessing the case for statutory PSHE during its upcoming consultation.”