Nicky Morgan believes that making personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) compulsory would do little to tackle “the most pressing problems” with the subject.
In a letter to Neil Carmichael, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, the education secretary said the government’s “immediate focus will be on improving the quality of PSHE teaching in our schools.”
Last month, four select committee chairs – including Mr Carmichael – sent a joint letter to Ms Morgan, which urged her to make tackling the issue around PSHE her "new year’s resolution", after delaying a response to the growing campaign.
The government missed a deadline to respond to the education committee’s report, published a year ago, which recommended that PSHE should be introduced as a statutory subject in primary and secondary schools.
In her response, Ms Morgan agreed that making PSHE statutory "would give it equal status with other subjects". But she stressed that the government was already focusing on the "variable quality of its provision".
The Department for Education will produce an action plan and recommendations for improving PSHE in schools in the next few months – including a PSHE toolkit for schools.
“This will help schools plan and develop their own PSHE curriculum, help them assess learning and impact and set out how schools can deliver PSHE as part of a broad offer to pupils and parents,” the letter said.
In her letter, Ms Morgan states: "The vast majority of schools already make provision for PSHE and while the government agrees that making PSHE statutory would give it equal status with other subjects [but] the government is concerned that this would do little to tackle the most pressing problems with the subject, which are to do with the variable quality of its provision, as evidenced by Ofsted’s finding that 40 per cent of PSHE teaching is less than good.
"As such, while we will continue to keep the status of PSHE in the curriculum under review, our immediate focus will be on improving the quality of PSHE teaching in our schools."