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New body in rude health

A new association for teachers of personal, social and health education was launched this week to help them share best practice.

Sarah Smart, manager of the PSHE subject association, said there had been a "significant demand" for the association, which now has 1,000 members.

Speaking at the launch, Ella, a Year 6 pupil from Singlegate primary, south London, said the subject had improved school life.

"Our school is very different now we learn PSHE," she said. "We know it's OK to feel angry, sad and annoyed, and we learn to communicate and develop confidence, meaning we'll have these skills in later life."

Emily Pope, from the Young National Children's Bureau, agreed but said sex, drugs and alcohol education should be provided at a younger age. She said:

"It should not be left until 14 and 15, when it is already too late for some children, but be provided right at the beginning of secondary school."

She added that patchy provision between and within schools was putting some pupils at a disadvantage. "There should be a minimum of one hour a week," she said.

Lord Adonis, the schools minister, said he wanted to see the subject "professionalised", with more trained teachers and greater sharing of expertise. However, he said he could not confirm whether PSHE would be made statutory in future, as many wish.

The PSHE curriculum begins by exploring the average choices facing a five-year-old, such as what to watch on television and how to look after pets. By 14, students are expected to consider ethical dilemmas, such as young parenthood and genetic engineering.

From 2008, the subject will be called PSHEE, because it is being expanded to include "economic well-being" and money matters.

* www.pshe-association.org.uk

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