Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-150)


10 FEBRUARY 2005

  Q140 John Austin: There is a lot of difference in the figures as to what age sex education begins, but certainly I think there is general agreement that relationships education starts at the very earliest stage. It is relationships education which is the most important and when children get to a certain age, then the sexual side of that comes in, does it not?

  Ms Bramman: I think that is very right and the evidence that we had back from the QCA monitoring reports on the subject tells us quite clearly that primary schools rank PHSE as their fifth most important subject behind English, maths, science and ICT, so I think that that gives some indication of how important primary schools generally understand about developing the whole child and, within that, including understanding relationships. We are currently, through QCA, consulting on Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 end-of-stage assessments in PSHE so that we can guide teachers about what a child of that age typically should understand and know about relationships as well as the other aspects of the subject.

  Q141 Mr Bradley: Is it, therefore, the intention to make such teaching a compulsory part of the curriculum?

  Ms Bramman: We are not intending to make PSHE statutory. We do not think that that is necessary or possibly even desirable in terms of continuing to allow schools flexibility on how to deliver PSHE and, within that, SRE in consultation with parents and the communities that they serve, but there is a clear expectation that PSHE should be delivered, so I do not think there is an intention to change the statutory basis of it, but clearly we expect it to be delivered.

  Q142 Mr Bradley: Yes, but expectation and having it as part of the curriculum, there could be huge gaps, therefore, in the provision, could there not?

  Ms Bramman: That is what Ofsted inspections will tell us. What we are coming up with is a non-statutory framework for PSHE covering guidance and best practice, as I have said, around the Key Stage end-of-stage assessments throughout all of the Key Stages to give further guidance on how teachers should be delivering and monitoring and assessing the progress of their pupils.

  Q143 Dr Taylor: Ofsted have said that it is untenable not to have PSHE and you tended to agree with me when I brought that up, but then you said that you are not going to make it obligatory. It has got to be obligatory, has it not?

  Ms Bramman: At the moment PSHE is not part of the statutory national curriculum, and sex and relationship education is statutory, but what is not statutory is the content.

  Q144 Dr Taylor: So SRE is?

  Ms Bramman: Yes, it is statutory. It has a statutory basis with—

  Q145 Dr Taylor: So is SRE not the most important bit of PSHE?

  Ms Bramman: I think that might depend on which committee you are sitting in front of!

  Q146 Dr Taylor: Should they not both cover the same thing?

  Ms Bramman: PSHE is wider than sex and relationship education. It will also cover things like drugs education, for instance, and wider health issues and wider social issues that relate to an individual.

  Dr Taylor: It seems to be absolutely obvious that SRE and drugs education ought to be obligatory, the whole lot, ought it not? That is certainly my view.

  Q147 Chairman: Your title as head of various things included collaboration.

  Ms Bramman: That is right.

  Q148 Chairman: I am not sure whether Richard touched on this because I was talking to a colleague when he asked his first question, but one of the things that really impressed us in the sexual health inquiry was the TicTac project which no doubt you are familiar with in Paignton and there are other similar models in different parts of the country.

  Ms Bramman: Yes.

  Q149 Chairman: I wonder whether you felt able to encourage that sort of approach through your responsibilities at a local level because it struck me that in my own area that would really be so beneficial. I think all of us who went there really felt it was a model that ought to be looked at and it was doing a really first-class job, not just in terms of sexual health, but wider support and advice to youngsters going through adolescence.

  Ms Bramman: We are encouraging that kind of project to be co-located with schools where schools wish to do it. Clearly it is a matter for individual schools rather than the Department whether or not to go down that track, but it is something that we encourage. We have, through the Teenage Pregnancy Unit, produced guidance and materials about this which include case studies, like the TicTac project and the benefits of it, and our understanding is that that kind of co-location is continuing to blossom really.

  Q150 Chairman: Can you see that as a logical kind of extension of the collaboration that you described at a local level?

  Ms Bramman: Absolutely and a logical extension of the Extended Schools policy where we are looking for schools to become the heart of their local community and co-locating health and social services as well as other activities for the pupils and parents to do.

  Chairman: Can I thank you, Ms Bramman, for this brief session; we are most grateful to you. You are very welcome to stay for the rest of the session if you want. Thank you very much.

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