PSHE - Survival guide

23rd January 2009 at 00:00
A good PSHE lesson can pack in life skills, personal development and a chance to talk, says Lucy Marcovitch

During the secondary curriculum review, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority asked a group of Year 8 and 9 pupils from Allerton High School in Leeds to define what personal, social and health education (PSHE) meant to them.

Their responses were mature and insightful. "It's about learning to develop as a person," according to one. Another said it covered "the guidelines and rules of how to survive in the real world", and yet another: "the only subject that teaches you about real life".

Every pupil recognises in some way how central PSHE is to their current and future lives. When we ask them to describe the importance of PSHE in their own words, much of what the pupils write is incorporated in the importance statement for the new personal wellbeing education programme. Using their own language makes it more relevant to their lives.

The PSHE team at Stoke Damerel Community College in Plymouth has used the new emphasis on active techniques, such as drama and discussion, to explore issues and dilemmas and to integrate such activities into every unit of work.

It helps pupils discuss their feelings, emotions and opinions. In PSHE lessons, teachers use resources such as videos or case studies to introduce the key concepts and issues. They follow this with drama techniques such as hot-seating and role-play to develop pupils' knowledge, skills and understanding.

Staff find that by establishing a safe environment in which to discuss difficult issues and situations, such as sex and relationships, pupils gain self-confidence and start to communicate more openly, within and beyond PSHE.

The college now provides a range of experiences to develop these skills and qualities further during lessons, through collaborations between subjects and through out-of-school activities. Recently, the PSHE, English and PE departments collaborated on a project to raise boys' sporting aspirations and social and emotional skills at the same time by combining poetry and football training with the local team.

Pupils are given the opportunity to take on leadership roles each year to raise their confidence and social skills. These skills and attitudes have spread beyond the subject and enabled all aspects of school life to contribute to personal growth.

Lucy Marcovitch is a curriculum adviser at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

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