Government’s half hearted commitment to PSHE places health and wellbeing of children at risk

March 21, 2013

Commenting on the Government’s statement today on the outcome of its review of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, Chair of the Accord Coalition, Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE lamented the fact it was missed opportunity to educate the next generation with essential life skills. He said:

‘The Government’s commitment to PSHE is half hearted and inadequate. High quality PSHE, which includes age appropriate Sex and Relationships Education, improves children and young people’s health and wellbeing. Surveys show that parents want children to receive PSHE, children want to receive more and better quality PSHE, and teachers want extra support and materials to help in teaching it.

‘We welcome that the Government intends on providing a small grant to the PSHE Association to work with schools to advise them in developing their own PSHE curricula and improve the quality of teaching. However, PSHE teacher training and resources for teaching staff remain insufficient, and children and families continue to face a lottery about whether or how seriously their school takes PSHE.

‘At a time when children are bombarded by media messages about sex and subject to peer pressure, the Government has decided to stick its head in the sand. Its commitment to PSHE is half hearted, inadequate and has placed the future health and wellbeing of children and young people at risk.’

The Government statement was made this morning in the House of Commons by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education, Elizabeth Truss MP. The Accord Coalition responded to the Government’s PSHE consultation back in November 2011.



The outcomes of the Department for Education PSHE review are available to view here.

The NSPCC report Child cruelty in the UK 2011: An NSPCC study into childhood abuse and neglect over the past 30 years found that in 2009, one in four 18-24 year olds (25.3%) had been physically attacked by an adult during childhood, sexually assaulted, or severely neglected at home, and that one in twenty children (4.8%) had been sexually assaulted – either by an adult or another child.

Addressing the Home Affairs Select Committee on June 12th, 2012, Sue Berelowitz, the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, gave a shocking testimony on the prevalence of sexual exploitation of children in England, which she claimed took place in every ‘town, village and hamlet in England.

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) forms an integral part of PSHE and SRE provision in the UK currently lags behind that of many developed countries. A 2007 survey by the UK Youth parliament of over 20,000 young people found that shockingly 61 per cent of boys and 70 per cent of girls aged over 17 reported not receiving any information at school about personal relationships.

An Ofsted report on PSHE published in 2010 found that some aspects of SRE were less well taught than others, particularly relationships. Amongst the report’s key findings, it was concerned over a lack of discrete curriculum time in a quarter of schools visited, particularly at secondary schools, which meant that programmes of study were not covered in full. The areas that suffered most included Sex and Relationships Education and mental health issues.

The report Sex and Relationship Education: Views from teachers, parents and governors, commissioned by the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, the National Association of Head Teachers, the National Governors Association and Durex, found that 90% of parents and 93% of Governors thought schools should be involved in providing SRE, but that 80% of teachers do not feel sufficiently well  trained and confident to talk about SRE. Only 9% of school leaders rated the teaching materials available to them as ‘very useful’. More than one in four school leaders and a fifth of governors believe that current SRE in schools is failing children by preparing them for the future ‘not well’ or ‘not at all well’.

Support for making SRE statutory has extended to the Catholic Education Service of England and Wales and the Church of England. Both groups supported SRE becoming part of the National Curriculum at primary and secondary levels when proposed by the un-amended Children, Schools and Families Bill 2009-2010.

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