PSHE requires improvement in 40% of schools. The situation appears to have worsened over time, and young people consistently report that the sex and relationships education (SRE) they receive is inadequate. This situation would not be tolerated in other subjects, and yet the Government's strategy for improving PSHE is weak. There is a mismatch between the priority that the Government claims it gives to PSHE and the steps it has taken to improve the quality of teaching in the subject.
Young people need the opportunity to receive high-quality PSHE and SRE at school. They have a right to information that will help keep them healthy and safe. PSHE also has a role to play in developing character and resilience, and has a positive effect on academic outcomes. When provided in an age-appropriate way, SRE can contribute to a school's safeguarding efforts, and instil the principle of consent that will protect young people as they grow up. Delivering high-quality SRE is particularly important for the most vulnerable children, including looked after children, LGBT children and those with special educational needs.
Improving the quality of provision of PSHE, and SRE within it, relies on addressing the shortage of suitably trained teachers and school nurses, and on ensuring that suitable curriculum time is devoted to the subject. Funded CPD for teaching PSHE must be reintroduced to support the delivery of the subject, and Ofsted must clarify how a school's provision of SRE relates to its safeguarding judgement and pupils' 'spiritual, moral, social and cultural' development.
There is a lack of clarity on the status of the subject. This must change, and we accept the argument that statutory status is needed for PSHE, with sex and relationships education as a core part of it. We recommend that the DfE develop a workplan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and SRE as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools, setting out its strategy for improving the supply of teachers able to deliver this subject and a timetable for achieving this. The statutory requirement should have minimal prescription content to ensure that schools have flexibility to respond to local needs and priorities. SRE should be renamed relationships and sex education to emphasise a focus on relationships.
Parental engagement is key to maximising the benefits of SRE. The Government should require schools to consult parents about the provision of SRE, and ask Ofsted to inspect the way in which schools do this. The existing right of a parent to withdraw their child from elements of SRE must be retained.