Jonathan Baggaley, chief executive, PSHE Association

Author: Jonathan Baggaley, chief executive, PSHE Association

10/06/2021 16:28:01

As the national body for PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) education, we understand the crucial role that governing boards and trustees can play in ensuring schools are safe places in which children and young people can thrive academically, emotionally and socially.

We were therefore delighted to work with the NGA on new guidance for Boards on supporting and influencing PSHE education. It was great to collaborate with others who share an appreciation of PSHE’s role as the school curriculum subject dedicated to children’s safety and wellbeing.

This guidance comes at a crucial time. The prevalence of harassment and abuse between students highlights the need for a curriculum that deals with these issues directly, as well as contributory factors – such as the impact of online pornography on young people – that may lead to a culture of disrespect. Young people’s mental health is another concern, exacerbated by the pandemic and social isolation. As the guidance outlines, PSHE education can help prevent and address such issues as part of a whole-school approach.

However, up until recently PSHE had suffered a more precarious position on the curriculum. Many schools prioritised it and taught it well, but its non-statutory status led to it being limited to occasional focus days, form time, or assemblies in too many cases – despite widespread support from teachers, parents and students.

The introduction of statutory requirements to teach Relationships Education at key stages 1 and 2, Relationships and Sex Education at key stages 3 and 4, and Health Education across all key stages, is a real chance to ensure consistent, high quality PSHE education across all schools. This statutory ‘RSHE’ content is best delivered within the context of a broader PSHE education curriculum that also addresses careers and economic wellbeing. And like any other subject, PSHE education requires regular curriculum time in order to be effective.

We all agree on the importance of children and young people’s academic attainment, and catching up academically after such a disrupted year. It is also vital that pupils are on track socially and emotionally. Rather than seeing these challenges as an either/or, it’s important to understand – as outlined in our briefing – PSHE education’s proven role in supporting academic attainment. Safe, healthy and content students are in a better place to learn after all. So when deciding on the curriculum priorities, we’d encourage schools to put that hour or so a week aside to ensure all children and young people get the planned, effective PSHE education they deserve.

As a charity and membership body, we produce teaching resources, guidance and training to support schools and their staff. We publish and maintain the PSHE Education Programme of Study (Key stages 1 – 5), and this clearly outlines where statutory RSHE content fits within and complements a broader PSHE education curriculum. So we’re here to help at www.pshe-association.org.uk should you or your school need us.

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