Plea for social development test

24th April 1998 at 01:00
Nicolas Barnard visits an award-winning west London school

Schools should test pupils' social development in the same way they test their progress in the 3Rs, a leading sex education adviser is to tell ministers.

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, says parents' desire for information about a school's pastoral care could be met by tests which would reflect the personal, social and health education curriculum.

Ms Weyman's comments come as the FPA announced its annual sex education awards and as the Government prepares to launch a working group to look at the way PSHE is taught in schools.

The FPA says sex education remains patchy. It praises schools like Evelyns community school in west London - this year's overall winner - which have specialist-taught and detailed PSHE programmes, but says too many pupils are simply shown a video by embarrassed teachers and sent home with worksheets.

The association says all teachers should be trained in delivering PSHE and the subject should have a guaranteed place in the timetable. Broad national guidelines should lay down what it should cover.

Primary-school baseline assessments already evaluate five-year-olds' social skills and emotional development, along with their literacy and numeracy. But key stage tests at seven, 11 and 14 only measure academic progress.

"There is no attempt to test personal and social development. Yet it could be done, and we should be looking at developing that in future," Ms Weyman said.

"Does the school's programme do what we expect it to? There's a knowledge aspect you could test quite easily but there are also skills and values to look at and it would not be impossible to do that.

"When parents look at a school, they are not only interested in academic achievement. They want to know what sort of person the school will produce. Will their children be happy?" The Government's new advisory group will look at the PSHE curriculum and its place in the school timetable. It reflects Labour's enthusiasm for bringing government departments together and for the wider social agenda in education which some fear could be squeezed out by its emphasis on standards.

Labour does not want to be seen to let that happen. The social exclusion unit is due to report on school exclusions, a green paper has proposed earlier intervention for pupils with special needs, and citizenship looks certain to become a fixed part of the curriculum. PSHE is next.

Evelyns School receives pound;750 for its award. Pupils have one double PSHE lesson a week. The emphasis is placed on discussion. Sex education underlines the importance of respect, responsibility and decision-making.

Three other projects received awards - the ASK drop-in advice centre established by family doctors in the Shetlands; GAP2, set up by a group of teenage girls at their youth club in Letchworth, Herts; and Rutland House residential school in Nottingham for children with profound and multiple learning difficulties.

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