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PSHE lessons can do more harm than good, new guidance says

Teachers should be careful to avoid delivering lessons on anorexia and self-harm that act as little more than a set of how-to ­instructions for vulnerable young people, new guidance warns schools. 

Children as young as 5 should also be taught the importance of not keeping adults’ secrets, and learn about the ways in which people’s bodies can be hurt.

The government-funded guidance for teachers offers advice on the best ways to teach and promote good mental health and emotional well-being in pupils, amid concerns of growing problems among young people. 

The guidelines recommend that teachers do not discuss ­eating disorders until key stage 3 and self-harm until key stage 4 – and it offers careful instructions on how to introduce the subjects.

Jenny Barksfield of the PSHE Association, which drew up the document, said: “With the very best ­intentions in the world, they have the idea that, if you shock pupils, you will put them off doing something,” she said. “That isn’t true.”

A report published earlier this year criticises the lack of ­action taken by the government to develop PSHE since ­Ofsted’s 2013 verdict that the subject required improvement in 40 per cent of schools. “The government’s strategy for ­improving PSHE is weak,” it states. 

Despite the new guidance, Ms Barksfield pointed out that the subject itself remained optional. “Whatever we produce, it’s still a non-statutory subject,” she said. 

To read the full story, get the 10 April edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.

Related stories:

Make sex education compulsory in primary schools, say MPs - 17 February 2015

Government pledges to improve support for student mental health - 20 November 2014

"Pupils must feel free to speak out, if they are struggling with mental-health issues" - 20 November 2014


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