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PSHE on curriculum to remain 'under review'

Education sector responds to DfE announcement that PSHE and sex education will not be made compulsory

Posted by Stephanie Broad | February 11, 2016 | Teaching

Following a major campaign by MPs and other organisations, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has said that the DfE will not be making personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) compulsory, as it would ‘do little to tackle the most pressing problems with the subject’. In a letter to Neil Carmichael MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee, Morgan said that while all state-funded schools are expected to make a provision for PSHE, their ‘immediate focus’ will be on improving the quality of teaching.

Educators, unions and other organisations have expressed their disappointment.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT, said: “Teaching children about their rights and responsibilities – especially when they are young – can take courage and this shouldn’t have to be the case; the government should back teachers by making PSHE a statutory part of the curriculum. 

“A broad entitlement, with guaranteed space in the timetable, rather than a prescriptive curriculum, would provide freedom for schools to make their own judgements about what is appropriate locally and protect them from external pressures to avoid or censor certain topics.

“As the PSHE Association has said, the government has a range of objectives it seeks to achieve, including teaching pupils to stay safe online, promoting children and young people’s mental health and preventing radicalisation, child sexual exploitation and violence against women and girls. 

"The government's unwillingness to raise the status of PSHE, when so much could be achieved this way and so many expert voices believe it is so necessary just doesn't make any sense." 

Lucy Emmerson, Coordinator of the Sex Education Forum, said: “While a focus on improving the quality of sex and relationships education (SRE) and a review of the guidance given to schools are welcome, we need to go further. SRE must begin in primary school and build year-on-year to enable young people to understand a wide spectrum of issues, including the difference between acceptable and abusive behaviour, consent and sexual health.

“By ignoring the groundswell of support for SRE, and the recommendations of parliamentarians, the government is depriving children of education that prepares them for adulthood, and helps them develop safe, healthy and happy relationships.” 

Statutory teaching of PSHE could also help prepare students more effectively for the world of work. Michael Mercieca, chief executive of financial and entrepreneurship charity Young Enterprise, said: “The British Chamber of Commerce has repeatedly cited that young people are not work-ready, but this will never improve unless all young people are offered the same opportunities to develop work-essential competences – such as teamwork, resilience and confidence – that statutory PSHE, with a strong economic strand, can provide.”    

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