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House of Commons
Session 2009 - 10
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Children, Schools and Families



The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairmen: Mr. David Amess, †Janet Anderson
Brooke, Annette (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD)
Coaker, Mr. Vernon (Minister for Schools and Learners)
Cryer, Mrs. Ann (Keighley) (Lab)
Flint, Caroline (Don Valley) (Lab)
Gibb, Mr. Nick (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con)
Johnson, Ms Diana R. (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families)
Laws, Mr. David (Yeovil) (LD)
Linton, Martin (Battersea) (Lab)
Loughton, Tim (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
McCarthy, Kerry (Bristol, East) (Lab)
Prentice, Bridget (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice)
Purchase, Mr. Ken (Wolverhampton, North-East) (Lab/Co-op)
Stuart, Mr. Graham (Beverley and Holderness) (Con)
Timpson, Mr. Edward (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)
Waltho, Lynda (Stourbridge) (Lab)
Wiggin, Bill (Leominster) (Con)
Sarah Davies, Sara Howe, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee

Witnesses

Oona Stannard, Chief Executive, Catholic Education Service
Rev. Jan Ainsworth, Chief Education Officer, Archbishops’ Council’s Education Division, General Secretary, National Society
Jan Campbell, Chair of Board of Trustees, PSHE Association
Shahanur A. Khan, Campaign Against Premature and Inappropriate Sex and Relationship Education in Schools
Gill Frances, Chair, Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group
Sir Mark Potter, President, Family Division of the High Court
Bob Satchwell, Executive Director, Society of Editors
Barbara Esam, Lawyer, Strategy And Development Division, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
District Judge Nick Crichton, Family Drug and Alcohol Court
Dr. Julia Brophy, Senior Research Fellow, Oxford Centre for Family Law and Policy

Public Bill Committee

Thursday 21 January 2010

(Afternoon)

[Janet Anderson in the Chair]

Children, Schools and Families Bill

Written evidence to be reported to the House

CS 17 Children’s Commissioner for England (Dr. Julia Brophy)
CS 18 Dr. Ben Anderson
CS 19 Association of Lawyers for Children
CS 20 Tania Berlow
CS 21 Michael Crawshaw
CS 22 Tania Berlow, Jacquie Cox and Dr. Ben Anderson
1 pm
The Committee deliberated in private.
1.9 pm
On resuming—
The Chairman: I welcome everyone to this Committee session on the Children, Schools and Families Bill. May I remind hon. Members and witnesses that we are bound by the deadline agreed to on Tuesday? That means that this part of the evidence session must end at 2.30 pm. I hope that I do not have to interrupt hon. Members and witnesses in the middle of their sentences, but I warn you that I will do so if need be, as it is important that we stick to the time and ensure that everyone who wants to has an opportunity to contribute.
We will now hear evidence from the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, the Personal, Sexual, Health Education Association, the Church of England, the Catholic Education Service and the Campaign Against Premature and Inappropriate Sex and Relationship Education in Schools.
Welcome to our meeting this afternoon. Would you please introduce yourselves to the Committee?
Oona Stannard: I am Oona Stannard, chief executive of the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales and a former HMI.
Rev. Jan Ainsworth: I am Jan Ainsworth, chief education officer for the Archbishops’ Council’s education division and general secretary of the National Society.
Jan Campbell: I am Jan Campbell, and I chair the board of trustees of the PSHE Association. I am a former teacher and adviser.
M. Shahanur A. Khan: My name is Shahanur Khan, chairperson of the Campaign Against Premature and Inappropriate Sex and Relationship Education in Schools. I am a parent, school governor and tutor.
Gill Frances: I am Gill Frances, chair of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group.
The Chairman: I believe that Tim Loughton would like to put the first question.
Q174Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): I think that everyone will agree that the standard of sex education in this country, in whatever environment, leaves a lot to be desired. We had a headmaster this morning who said that he thinks that everything in PSHE, including sex education, could be better taught as a cross-cutting subject in the various other subjects that are already on the curriculum, rather than making it a statutory curriculum subject. Do you think that that is right? Why are schools not already teaching the elements of PSHE? Why would they not want to have good, standard elements of PSHE, regardless of whether it becomes a curriculum subject? Surely it is in the interests of all their pupils to be well versed in the whole healthy living agenda, or whatever you want to call it?
Jan Campbell: To take your last statement on why should everyone not do it, I would say that everyone should. Why, then, are they not? There is a variety of reasons. It may be that its non-statutory status can be a get-out clause when there are so many other pressures and priorities on head teachers. However, where they grasp the importance of a subject, it is hugely appreciated. I heard one head teacher of a successful secondary school comment recently that PSHE education enables young people to develop the knowledge and skills that help them to tackle issues that might otherwise get in the way of their learning, and I think that that was quite powerful.
Q175Tim Loughton: Why should it be done in isolation, rather than how it is being done now, but better?
Jan Campbell: Your argument is whether it should be taught across the curriculum or as a discrete subject—
Q176Tim Loughton: You mentioned the point that that is not the case perhaps because of all the pressure on the curriculum. We are adding yet another pressure on the curriculum, and something will have to give, will it not?
Jan Campbell: I do not think we are, because most schools are already delivering some discrete PSHE education. What we are doing is hopefully encouraging better quality by giving it the status and ensuring that the teachers who deliver it are well trained and supported.
To return to your first point about whether it should be taught across the curriculum or as a discrete subject, I do not think it is either/or, but both. There is evidence that where it is only taught across the curriculum, it can disappear. It is difficult and complex for teachers always to teach to two sets of learning objectives and ensure that neither suffers. If you are trying to teach an aspect of relationships in, for example, an English lesson, through exploring relationships in some literature, you will be exploring the literature, the approach through writing and the way that the writer is portraying those relationships. Moving from that to the point where young people reflect on their own relationship skills and how they can apply what they have learnt and develop the skills that they can put into place in friendships, families, communities and workplaces is a more complex thing, and often gets missed out.
Gill Frances: There is also another issue. If you had something like maths being taught across curricula, you would have people who are not experts in maths. What is incredibly important with PSHE is that we need to build a body of specialist teachers who are able to deliver on it. We want all teachers to be able to do the basics, but being able to deliver a good PSHE lesson is like any other subject—you need to be trained to do it.
Q177Tim Loughton: Could that happen in extended school time rather than in curriculum time?
Gill Frances: Not everybody is part of extended school. We are saying that this is core. We are talking about children and young people having the right to have life skills. We are talking about parents, professionals, children and young people—we have this huge consensus that children should have life skills for life as they are living it now, in preparation for the lives that they lead as young adults and adults. That is crucial. It would be so easy to lose it in extended school time, in extra cross-curricular things. If it is important enough, let’s have it as a core subject, ensuring that every child in the classroom has the opportunity to learn those essential life skills.
Rev. Jan Ainsworth: May I make two other points? One is that different schools will adopt different curriculum solutions. If it is compulsory, it will mean that they have to put it into the mix at the start. The new secondary curriculum enables secondary schools, at any rate, to look again at how they are delivering their statutory obligations. That may still reflect the traditional subject-based curriculum; however, in a number of cases, particularly in relation to aspects of the humanities curriculum, it may take a more integrated approach. There is ample scope for some of the aspects that fall under the PSHE education umbrella to be delivered in that way.
That brings me to the point that PSHE education is a bit of a portmanteau. You have a number of separate areas of work that you are expecting children and young people to engage with, and they do not always sit particularly naturally together with each other.
The final point, which relates much more to our closer concern, is that this particular area—well-being, and sex and relationships education—is treading on areas that are still controversial. Teaching controversial value issues in schools, whenever they arise, is a complex and demanding task. That is why we are entirely supportive of better training, better resources, better equipping of teachers.
One of our core concerns, obviously, is religious education. There is an automatic cross-over in a number of areas in PSHE. For instance, the guidance on sex and relationships says that you need to be conscious and respectful of the faith and belief background of your parental communities and make sure that that is reflected. But that is very difficult, because you may find yourself as a teacher saying, “But there is a conflict here. I know what the community wants me to teach, but I know what I think and what guidance says good PSHE is.” There is a huge area where staff and governors need support.
Oona Stannard: I agree with everything that has been said so far. It can be built on a notion of entitlement—that is entitlement to staff for their professional development and an entitlement for pupils—but we must bear in mind the caveats about the governors’ responsibility for policy and for the particular character of the school.
There is another factor if it is to be built formally into the curriculum. That is the added benefits for parents—the rigour, the statements made about it, and the rights of parents far more overtly to engage in consultation about what is happening, seeing resources and being advised of what is happening. It enhances the role of parents, when it’s done well, if it has that formal place.
M. Shahanur A. Khan: Education is important. It can play an important role in society at large. We are not against education. There are many areas where the Government can help our children to achieve their very best in science, English and maths. If PSHE becomes compulsory it could put a lot of work on to our teachers. That could have an effect on our children’s education in other subjects in the main curriculum, which will develop their quality of life, their employment and so on. It should be the parents’ responsibility to give the right education at the right time to their children.
Under British law children are allowed to be taught according to their parents’ wishes. Under article 2 of the first protocol of the European convention on human rights, education must be given in accordance with parents’ “religious and philosophical convictions”. Ordinary parents are very naive. They do not have a clue. They do not have authority. As far as we who live in Tower Hamlets are concerned, people do not have a way to find out the right way.
We believe that the Government should empower parents, governors and our religious scholars to help our innocent young children from the age of five. Young children from the age of five should not receive the kind of education that will mislead them, encourage them to explore sexual activities and even make them immoral. That could be a problem for society in the future as sexual crime could be enhanced. Community cohesion could be hampered. We respect religious values and, clearly major religions say that, outside marriage, relationships are strongly prohibited. If we have good, nice family circumstances and make our family life stable, lively, nice and are helped by the Government, I hope that most of the problems will be reduced.
Q178Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab): During my time as Public Health Minister, I had the opportunity to meet lots of parents from different communities and different religious backgrounds and, most of the time, whoever I was speaking to and whatever their religious background, their concern as parents about drugs, alcohol and sexual relations was common. What Oona Stannard said about opportunities to engage parents was positive.
Currently, the Bill does not provide for the Secretary of State to set attainment targets or assess PSHE. Given what we all must agree is a rather patchy delivery on all aspects of the area, do you think that, in making this a statutory part of the curriculum, there is enough to improve delivery and outputs? Do you think that it is right that there should not be attainment targets or assessments?
Oona Stannard: I freely admit that I am answering on the basis of my previous experience as an HMI when I saw very good PSHE education taking place. When that was the case, it was not hampered by the lack of attainment targets. It was well evidenced in portfolios of work and other processes that took place to assess young people’s level of knowledge and understanding, their engagement and reflection. There is still plenty of scope in the flexibility of not having attainment targets, and that can be evidenced by thematic inspections and all sorts of methods that can look into such matters. I do not see it as a negative.
Jan Campbell: There is a difference between assessment and testing. Most of us are in favour of more rigorous and more effective methods of assessing the progress of pupils, and tracking progress. It is very important that teachers can track the progress of children so that both teachers and the children themselves know that they are learning and getting better at this important part of the curriculum. Lots of work needs to be done on doing that in the most appropriate way for the subject and in the most helpful way to children, young people, teachers and their parents. Lots of work is being done at the moment. Some development work is being carried out by the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency on the assessing pupil progress project. Although there are no attainment targets—there is not an eight-level scale—there are some end-of-key-stage statements, which help to give a national standard against which teachers can make judgments. Most of all, however, we are encouraging teachers and young people to be able to articulate what they have learnt, so that they can describe progress and achievements and find good ways of doing that.
Gill Frances: There is a stage just before that in which it is really important to involve children, young people and their families in what is going to be taught and how it is going to be taught. So, you then start right from the beginning, as a partnership, and you have processes, in which the children and young people are telling you, through a whole range of activities, about what they think that they are learning, what they think they ought to be learning and why, and what they have learnt. So, it does start before that, and it is really important that children, young people and parents should be involved in working that out in the first place: what is going to be taught and how it is going to be taught—the how being extremely important, especially when talking about various aspects of sex education when you would want to be delivering it in a moral framework.
M. Shahanur A. Khan: I would like to say that, again, it is mainly dependent on the parents. Children are under a lot of pressure with subject attainment and progress assessment, but they go through a lot of stages. Young children must have some clear understanding of society, but their psychological and emotional development has to be taken into account. If the Government put a lot of pressure on children when their learning—especially at the age of five, six or seven—is most likely to be play-based, that could be reflected in their educational achievement in the wrong way. They might have to bear or feel too much, too soon. That could happen. So, the Government should be careful about that, and consider how they can handle matters in a light way to get good achievement while clearly addressing the parents’ concerns, views, understanding and religious beliefs. Otherwise educational performance, in some way and in some part, could be hampered. Thank you.
Rev. Jan Ainsworth: You have to be really careful how you frame things. I have been listening to this. We do not have a specific position, but you do not engage in anything in education, schools or lessons without having some sense of where you are going with it and what you want to come out of it for pupils. Sharing that and devising that with pupils is good practice. You are then ensuring that they are committed to what they are doing and engaged with it. Clearly, much of the content that is expected to be delivered through PSHE engages young people in particular very acutely, because it directly relates to how they live their lives and the kinds of choices that they are going to make. That is clearly one of its aims—to enable them to make better choices.
The downside is that if that becomes too formalised—the attainment targets and so on—will we be moving into prescribing? We have a view about what we mean by “well-being”, so will we test all children on how strong their well-being is? That takes you into quite difficult territory. It is almost the same with drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Are we expecting them all to come to the right view in the end? They will know what the right answer is, regardless of what they do in their own lives. There are some very tricky issues to weigh up in looking at that, but the notion of explaining what it is you are aiming for and what it is you want pupils to achieve and experience is wholly good.
 
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