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Fears of 'confusion' over PSHE status

Call for PSHE to become statutory to prevent 'unpicking' of subject

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Call for PSHE to become statutory to prevent 'unpicking' of subject

Plans to make sex education compulsory, but leave the rest of the PSHE curriculum non-statutory, could lead to confusion as schools start to “unpick” their current approaches, a new report says today.

The report published by a coalition of teaching organisations and children's charities calls for the entire subject of personal, social, health and economic education to be made statutory.

And the report Statutory PSHE Education: meaningful change supported by busy teachers & school leaders adds that doing so is more effective than committing to statutory relationships and sex education (RSE) alone.

“Schools are currently considering how best to approach implementation of statutory relationships and sex (RSE) education from 2019,” the report states. “Making PSHE statutory in its entirety – including but not limited to RSE – will be a far more effective and efficient route than committing to compulsory RSE alone.”

It adds that teaching RSE and PSHE separately would “create confusion for schools regarding planning and resourcing".

"Schools may think they have to ‘unpick’ what they do well now," the report says. "It is better to spread existing good practice to all schools by making PSHE education statutory.”

The government announced last year that Relationships and sex education (RSE) is to be made compulsory in all schools from September 2019. 

The same law which will make RSE compulsory, also gave the Education Secretary the power to make PSHE statutory, subject to careful consideration.

Now the report published by a coalition including the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), the National Education Union (NEU), the NSPCC children’s charity, Sex Education Forum, and PSHE Association is calling for PSHE to be made statutory, saying it would have a meaningful impact on children and young people’s lives, in return for only a modest impact on workload and timetabling.

Sarah Hannafin, senior policy advisor for NAHT, said: “The school curriculum is over-stretched but it is vital that we give space to preparing pupils for their lives in the real world, not just for exams. The government is due to announce a crucial decision on the future of PSHE soon, and we really hope that they will listen to educators and experts by making the subject mandatory in all schools.

“Almost everyone involved with the care, protection and education of children believes that PSHE is the best way to help prepare young people for the challenges they will encounter in their adult lives and the current challenges they face beyond the school gates.”

The report draws on previous research showing that:

The report adds that the Children’s Commissioner, the National Police Chiefs Council Lead for Child Sexual Abuse, the Bank of England’s Chief Economist, the Chief Medical Officer, Public Health England, teaching unions, four Commons Select Committees, two Royal societies and six Royal medical colleges all support mandatory PSHE.

Jonathan Baggaley chief executive of the PSHE Association, said: “Educators overwhelmingly support strengthening the status of PSHE education in all schools and agree with parents, experts, four select committees and young people themselves that this involves making the subject statutory. The way is clear for government to take this vital step.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "A call for evidence on the future of PSHE, has just closed. This asked for views on subject content from parents, teachers, young people and other interested organisations. We will set out our position and further details on PSHE in due course."

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