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As for a curriculum which combines PSHE, citizenship, SRE and other elements, I am delighted that schools in Nottingham wish to develop their own curriculum, which is specifically tailored to the needs of local pupils. The bespoke programme on offer will support schools in designing the whole curriculum to meet the needs of their pupils, and in developing particular subjects or groups of subjects within the overall curriculum framework. A more flexible secondary curriculum, new learning routes and broader activities in schools are therefore helping young people to relate their academic studies to
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the real world. The new PSHE education programme of study will give young people the opportunity to study life skills and issues in their own right, and to tackle some of the issues they face as they enter adulthood—finances, health, and sex and relationships.

PSHE is an extremely important subject, and it should not be treated as secondary to the rest of a young person’s education. That is why we recently took the decision to put PSHE on a statutory footing, and we have asked Sir Alasdair MacDonald, head teacher at Morpeth secondary school in Tower Hamlets, to conduct an independent review into the best way to do that. My hon. Friend has asked whether PSHE or SRE could be called “life skills”. Although Sir Alasdair has not specifically been asked to look at that question in the review, I am sure that he will make recommendations on the way in which we describe that important area of education if there are good reasons for doing so.

As we develop the statutory core entitlement, we will take as our starting point the existing non-statutory programmes of study for personal and economic well-being in key stages 3 and 4. For key stages 1 and 2, the review will take account of Jim Rose’s work on PSHE as part of the primary curriculum review. Jim Rose’s interim report, published yesterday, recommends the strengthening of the personal development element of the curriculum by building a framework for the personal skills and attitudes that all children should develop throughout their schooling. That would come under the area of learning called “Understanding physical health and well-being”. By making PSHE statutory, we will ensure greater consistency across the national picture, so that all young people benefit from those vital skills.

All PSHE programmes must be flexible enough to allow individual schools to tailor their curriculum and teaching to their own pupils and parents, and to the ethos of the school. As my hon. Friend rightly pointed out, training and support for teachers is crucial. We have made £2 million of funding available each year to train teachers and professionals delivering PSHE in schools. We will also encourage schools to use in-service training to improve staff awareness of the duty to promote well-being, particularly the importance of high-quality PSHE.

We are working with the Training and Development Agency for Schools to develop a specialist route through initial teacher training, and we will update the existing SRE and drugs and alcohol education guidance for schools. Wider Government programmes such as the duty to promote well-being, and the healthy schools agenda will be used to drive improvements in PSHE. My hon. Friend asked how we help head teachers to make time for social and emotional education while they are working to meet the standards agenda. In my mind, the two go hand in hand. Wider learning, development and well-being are a vital part of raising standards in schools to provide a first-class education for our young people.

The school report card will provide stronger accountability to parents and local communities on how their schools are progressing across the board. The consultation on report cards that we launched yesterday will look specifically at how schools promote wider well-being alongside attainment. As we consider school
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reform, we must remember the vital role of parents, who are an enormous influence when it comes to raising the aspirations of their children and instilling the values and behaviour that will stand them in good stead later in life. Given that children spend only 15 per cent. of their time in school, parents are our most important ally in their children’s development. Through technology, personal contacts in school, and forums for parents to express their views, we are encouraging parents to become more involved in their child’s education and development.

Mr. Allen: I have been following the Minister’s remarks closely, and I am very encouraged. Heads in challenged schools often feel that they are regulated, supervised and overseen. If we make 11-to-16 life skills a central part of the curriculum, it will help to redress that balance, in which case heads should feel that both sides of the curriculum are equally important.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I could not agree more. That was certainly evident in the challenged schools in London that I have visited. In schools that have managed to make dramatic improvements in attainment, heads have said to me that tackling wider life skills, PSHE and behavioural attitudes has enabled children to raise attainment.

Engaging parents is a particular challenge in my hon. Friend’s constituency and other, similar constituencies. Many children and young people do not get much support at home. For those children, school is a safe environment in which they can learn about these issues. Health, safety and personal awareness cannot be left to chance. It is absolutely vital that young people get the information that they need to make the right choices.

I was very moved by the DVD that my hon. Friend sent me outlining the intervention work in his constituency, which features teenage mums. I was struck by the point that all those teenage mums said that, despite loving their babies very much, had they known more about the consequences of certain behaviours, they would have done things very differently. They said that by being a young teenage mum, they had, in effect, missed out on part of their youth, which could have been avoided with the right information and support. It is vital that we provide that information in schools, but we also need to continue to reach out to parents as a vital resource in nurturing children’s development in the round.

Education is not all about exam results and getting qualifications, important though that is. It is about developing an understanding of the world and one’s place in it, and helping young people to make the right choices for success both now and in the future, and it is about ensuring a smooth transition from adolescence to adulthood. Tomorrow’s society will be formed of today’s young people. Investing in them is to invest in our nation’s future, which is the soundest investment we can make. That is the power of education. Through the curriculum, teaching and wider activities, we can build 21st-century schools that will equip our young people for the challenges of 21st-century life and work, and we can make this country the best place in the world to live, to learn and to grow up in.

Question put and agreed to.

10.28 pm

House adjourned.

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