PSHE moves beyond sex and drugs to win respect for girls

27th November 2009 at 00:00
Secondary curriculum will take on violence against women and promote gender equality in relationships

Secondary pupils will be taught that violence against women is unacceptable, as part of changes to the personal, social and health education curriculum.

They will also learn that it is wrong to bully transsexuals, in a "tweak" to the curriculum designed to ensure that all potential areas of conflict are covered.

The changes are intended to ensure that teenagers understand the need for respect and gender equality in relationships. They will be introduced in 2011, when PSHE becomes compulsory.

Lucy Feather, of the PSHE Association, said: "In the past, these areas have been swept under the carpet, or PSHE has been about sex and drugs and nothing else.

"But there is so much else going on there.

"It's important that you can get in and give young people an insight. It's about preparing them for life."

Primary pupils already learn about different types of friendships during PSHE lessons, and are taught the importance of being kind to one another. Their curriculum will remain unchanged.

At secondary school, pupils currently examine the characteristics of positive and negative relationships. But domestic violence is not an explicit part of this curriculum.

Similarly, while homophobic bullying is covered during classroom discussions, teachers are not required to discuss the problems faced by transsexuals.

"The current programme of study will remain in 2011, with just a few minor tweaks," said Ms Feather. "We just want to make sure that teachers don't miss these things out, when talking about different types of relationships."

It is estimated that about a million women experience domestic violence every year. The Department of Health also believes that at least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence.

And recent research conducted by the NSPCC and Bristol University found that one in four teenage girls suffers physical abuse at the hands of a boyfriend.

The changes to the PSHE curriculum form part of a broader Home Office campaign to challenge verbal and physical abuse of teenage girls. From 2010, modules on violence against women will also be included in teacher-training courses.

The aim is for teachers to have the knowledge and confidence not only to discuss issues of this type in the classroom, but also to help any pupils who are victims of violence or abuse.

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