Today, three PSHE campaigners delivered a letter to Downing Street calling on Theresa May to make the subject a statutory part of the curriculum. Lorin LaFave, the founder of the Breck Foundation, Fiona Spargo-Mabbs, the Founder of the DSM Foundation, Sacha Langton-Gilks, the lead campaigner for the Headsmart campaign, came together to bring attention to the need for statutory status. All three have lost teenage sons in tragic circumstances in recent years, and are united in their determination to ensure all children and young people get the learning they need to keep themselves and others safe. Their full letter is set out below.
Dear Prime Minister,
Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education
We are writing as three mothers who lost teenage sons in tragic circumstances over recent years. We have each since devoted ourselves to improving personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education in schools in the hope that the loss of other young lives can be prevented. We are writing to ask you to address the worrying fall in provision of PSHE education in schools which we believe puts these efforts at risk.
We are passionate about PSHE education because evidence shows that it has the potential to build pupils’ knowledge on a range of areas, including in relation to their physical and emotional health, online safety and substance misuse. Department for Education research shows that the subject helps pupils to develop the skills and attributes they need to thrive personally, professionally and academically, with the greatest impact on disadvantaged pupils. Yet this potential is not being fulfilled. In 2013, Ofsted stated that provision was “not good enough”, with lessons too often taught by non-specialists in less curriculum time than other subjects. In 2015, the Commons Education Committee said that the situation was “deteriorating”, and this appears to be confirmed by Department for Education workforce data which suggests the curriculum time secondary schools give to PSHE lessons fell by over 32% between 2011 and 2015. The data indicates that the decline is accelerating and at this rate there could be virtually no PSHE provision in schools by 2020.
In response, there have been numerous calls to make the subject a statutory part of the curriculum in order to improve provision and guarantee lessons for all pupils. This is a basic step which we believe would have a huge impact, and we are not alone: statutory status for PSHE education has been recommended by the Commons Education, Home Affairs and Women and Equalities Committees, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the chairs of the Commons Health and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees, the Children’s Commissioner, the national police lead for preventing child sexual exploitation, the Chief Medical Officer, Public Health England, the NSPCC, the Children’s Society, the National Governors Association, PTA-UK (the national body for parent-teacher associations), two royal societies, five education unions, six medical royal colleges, 85% of business leaders, 88% of teachers, 92% of young people and 92% of our fellow parents.
Despite the huge public, parliamentary and professional support and the imperative to support and protect children, successive governments have failed to resolve this issue. The life chances of millions of pupils have been affected and countless opportunities to prevent the kind of tragedies we have experienced have been missed. This is an urgent situation and we really hope you will be the Prime Minister to finally resolve it.
We would be grateful if you could send your response to this letter to PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley (32-36 Loman Street, London, SE1 0EH) who can then share it with us.
Lorin La Fave, Founder, The Breck Foundation
Sacha Langton-Gilks, Lead Champion for the Brain Tumour Charity’s Head Smart Campaign
Fiona Spargo-Mabbs, Founder, The Daniel Spargo-Mabbs Foundation