NC13: Memorandum Submitted By Terrence Higgins Trust



As the UK's largest HIV and Sexual Health charity, Terrence Higgins Trust believes that:


There should be a National Curriculum, to ensure that all children are given the knowledge and skills they will need to live happy, healthy and productive lives.


Because Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) is not currently part of the National Curriculum, teaching of the subject is patchy, with some young people missing out altogether.


In order for the National Curriculum to be 'fit for purpose' it must address the realities of young people's lives and prepare them for the challenges they will face as they enter adulthood. Unless PSHE is made part of the National Curriculum it will continue to fail to do so.



What is Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE)?


PSHE is the planned provision in schools for promoting the emotional, social and health development of children and young people. It includes:


The acquisition of information on a range of health issues that are relevant to their age, maturity and understanding including emotional health and well-being, sex and relationships, diet and exercise, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, careers and safety;

The development of emotional and social skills including skills for learning, achieving, managing change and looking after health; and

The exploration and clarification of values and beliefs including respect, morality and an understanding of cultural diversity[1].


Currently, some elements of PSHE including contraception, HIV infection, and drugs have a statutory basis and teaching is required as part of the National Curriculum Science Orders, but these are only a fraction of the issues that children, young people and research tell us is important. The Science Curriculum tends to focus on information provision, rather than on the development of skills and an understanding of emotions, relationships and consent issues, and how to deal with them.


Why is PSHE important?


1. Children, young people and their families want it

Research shows they want opportunities to discuss issues that are relevant to their lives including emotions, relationships, health issues such as mental health, sexual health, diet and exercise and transport[2].



2. It helps academic learning and develops skills for employment

The National Healthy Schools Standards programme, jointly funded by the Department for Education and Skills and the Department of Health, is based on the premise that children who are healthy do better educationally and those with higher educational attainment have better health in adult life[3]. PSHE is one of four key themes in the national standards set out in the National Healthy Schools Programme.


The Department for Education and Skills is currently running a pilot programme in secondary schools promoting Social, Emotional and Behavioural Skills. This programme is based on evidence that 'shows that these skills are central to personal and professional success in life.[4] The Tomlinson Report[5], the Steer Report[6] and Ofsted Report[7] emphasised the importance of children and young people developing life skills to help them learn, achieve and gain employment.


3. It promotes health, well-being and safety

Choosing Health, the government's public health strategy, recognises the crucial role that PSHE plays in promoting the physical and emotional health and well-being of children.


Recent evidence from the Teenage Pregnancy 'Deep Dive Investigations' showed that in areas experiencing a reduction in teenage pregnancy rates PSHE was a crucial ingredient[8] in achieving this reduction. Emerging evidence from Blueprint[9] shows that PSHE helps to raise awareness and develop skills to resist drug misuse.


PSHE also fits in with the Every Child Matters agenda and fulfils the five outcomes framework, by helping children to understand what it means to be healthy, stay safe, enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution, and achieve economic well-being.


Evidence from organisations concerned with the safety of children shows us that PSHE is crucial in safeguarding children. It helps them to learn about personal safety and improve their understanding of pro-social and respectful relationships, including parenting and family relationships, as well as abusive behaviours. It also helps them develop the skills to ask for help. This can contribute to a reduction in childhood abuse and neglect[10]. Similarly evidence shows that PSHE is an important intervention for preventing bullying[11].


4. It promotes inclusion and community cohesion

PSHE plays a key role in promoting inclusion and reducing inequalities[12]. It provides opportunities to explore difference and diversity and learn skills for living in a multi-cultural and diverse society.


The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) has recognised the important role that PSHE plays in promoting respect for diversity and difference[13].


Why does PSHE need to be a foundation subject like citizenship, physical education and information and communication technology?


I. To improve access for all to PSHE

The non-statutory aspects of PSHE mean that some schools are not prioritising the subject and are not able to devote curriculum time to it. A recent report by the Independent Advisory Groups on Teenage Pregnancy and on Sexual Health and HIV[14] recommended that:

Access to PSHE will remain inequitable unless it is made a statutory foundation subject at all levels within the National Curriculum;

A stronger and more visible leadership is needed at all levels to ensure that PSHE is taken seriously in schools and afforded the necessary time and resources to be taught successfully and comprehensively.


II. To improve the quality of PSHE

Evidence suggests that making citizenship a statutory subject contributed to improving quality of provision because:

Schools have afforded the subject sufficient time on the timetable (albeit currently at the expense of PSHE) and allocated sufficient funds for professional development and resources;

There are now specialist teachers being trained in citizenship and a 'subject community' is being established. We have begun to see from Ofsted that many children and young people are experiencing improved provision of Citizenship as a result. This is particularly positive given the relative infancy of the subject.


III. Statutory PSHE will fit in with the 14 to 19 flexibilities

One of the key drivers for increasing flexibility of the curriculum is to improve access to the curriculum for all students. Whilst we recognise and understand the desirability of this, unless students have the core emotional, personal and social skills and abilities which are largely developed through PSHE, whatever large or small changes are made to the overall curriculum, the impact of these will be marginalised unless the quality of PSHE is improved.



March 2008


[1] For further information see Blake, S (2006) A whole school approach to PSHE and Citizenship. London: National Children's Bureau.

[2] National Children's Bureau (2002) Young at Heart - consulting with children and young people on health and well being

[3] National Healthy School Standard (1999) Guidance London: DfES and DH

[4] DfES (2005) What works in promoting social, emotional and behavioural skills through a whole school approach; handbook for professional development London: DfES

[5] Tomlinson, M (2005) 14-19 Curriculum and Qualifications Reform. London: Department for Education and Skills.

[6] Department for Education and Skills (2005) The report of the practitioner group on school behaviour and discipline.

[7] Personal, social and health education in secondary schools, January 2005.

[8] Letter to Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group from Gill Frances, Chair.

[9] Blueprint is the Home Office funded drug education research programme. The results will be published in 2007.

[10] Harries, J (forthcoming) Promoting Personal Safety through PSHE. London: Paul Chapman Publishing

[11] Office of the Children's Commissioner (2005) Journeys: children and young people talk about bullying. London: Office of the Children's Commissioner.

[12] Blake, S and Plant, S (2005) Addressing inequalities and inclusion through PSHE and Citizenship. London: National Children's Bureau


[14] Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy and Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV, 'Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) in schools: Time for Action' (February 2006)