1 Introduction |
1. In 2013, Ofsted reported that the quality of personal,
social, health and economic education (PSHE) and sex and relationships
education (SRE) in schools in England was "not yet good enough".
In January 2014 the House of Lords debated amendments to the Children
and Families Bill which would have had the effect of making SRE
compulsory in all schools.
While the amendments were not made, the debate and Ofsted's report
reignited a discussion of the role of PSHE and SRE in schools
in England, its quality, whether schools should be required to
provide it, and the sufficiency of the Government's actions in
2. We launched our inquiry on 23 April 2014, seeking
written evidence on the following points:
PSHE education ought to be statutory, either as part of the National
Curriculum or through some other means of entitlement;
· Whether the
current accountability system is sufficient to ensure that schools
focus on PSHE education;
· The overall
provision of SRE in schools and the quality of its teaching, including
in primary schools and academies;
· Whether recent
Government steps to supplement the guidance on teaching about
sex and relationships, including consent, abuse between teenagers
and cyber-bullying, are adequate; and
· How the effectiveness
of SRE should be measured.
3. We received over 430 written submissions during
our inquiry, including a large number from individual parents.
We took oral evidence on four occasions, hearing from seven panels
of witnesses including the Minister of State for School Reform,
Nick Gibb MP, and we held a private seminar on 10 September 2014
to provide background information for our inquiry.
We visited Bristol on 27 November 2014 to meet teachers, young
people and local authority advisers.
We also participated in a Twitter chat on 9 October 2014, hosted
by UKEdChat, and asked
the NUS to include some questions on sex and relationships education
as part of a survey relating to the Joint Committee on Human Rights
inquiry into violence against women and girls.
4. During this inquiry we benefitted from the advice
of Professor Michael Reiss, who was appointed as a Special Adviser
to the Committee for his understanding of sex and relationships
education, and from the advice of Marion Davis CBE as one of our
standing Special Advisers on children's services.
What is PSHE?
5. The PSHE Association describes personal, social,
health and economic education (PSHE) as "a planned programme
of learning through which children and young people acquire the
knowledge, understanding and skills they need to manage their
lives". While there
is currently no centrally prescribed curriculum for the subject,
Ofsted explains that PSHE programmes typically cover "health
and safety education, including substance misuse, sex and relationships
education, careers education, economic education and financial
6. PSHE thus has the potential to be a very wide-ranging
subject. Many different topics were proposed in written evidence
for inclusion in PSHE, including:
· Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues
· Gender identity
· Preparing students
· Mental health
and emotional wellbeing
· Healthy behaviour
· Domestic abuse
· Child abuse
· Violence against
women and girls
· Gambling issues
· Safety and
7. While the list of topics may appear long and diverse,
Dr Graham Ritchie from the Office of the Children's Commissioner
cautioned against seeing PSHE merely as a "list of the things
that we are worried about".
Crispin Drummond from ExploreStudents Exploring Marriage
saw the "common point" as promoting "good, responsible
behaviour in later life",
and Michael O'Toole, the Chief Executive of the alcohol and drug
prevention charity Mentor, told us that "the role of good
PSHE within schools is to enable young people to be more self-aware,
to be able to be resilient to peer pressure, to be able to make
informed decisions and to be able to reflect on what they understand
8. Sex and relationships education (SRE) is a topic
within the broader subject of PSHE, and was a particular focus
for our inquiry. The Sex Education Forum defines SRE as "learning
about the emotional, social and physical aspects of growing up,
relationships, sex, human sexuality and sexual health" and
says that SRE "should equip children and young people with
the information, skills and positive values to have safe, fulfilling
relationships, to enjoy their sexuality and to take responsibility
for the sexual health and well-being".
9. While the biological elements of human reproduction
and sexually transmitted infections are part of the National Curriculum
for science at key stages 3 and 4,
Alison Hadley, Director of the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange
at the University of Bedfordshire, told us that PSHE and SRE were
"completely intertwined", and that the skills that young
people need to look after their sexual health are the same as
those needed to manage alcohol and drugs issues.
Simon Blake, Chief Executive of the sexual health charity Brook,
said that SRE within PSHE was "a bit like trigonometry in
mathsyou just have to have them as part of each other"
and that SRE was "one bit of content in a curriculum subject
that teachers can think about coherently".
10. Witnesses told us that social media and near-universal
internet access had changed the context for PSHE, and SRE in particular.
For instance, Graham Ritchie, Principal Policy Adviser at the
Office of the Children's Commissioner, told us that the increasing
ease of access to pornography through the internet was shaping
young people's behaviours and self-image:
We know that it affects them. It affects young
women and their body imageself-objectification. It affects
young men and the expectations that they have of sexual partners.
Therefore, it is incumbent on schools to address that issue and
talk with young people about it as part of PSHE.
These changes provide additional motivation for a
fresh examination of PSHE and SRE in schools.
1 Ofsted, Not yet good enough: personal, social, health and economic education in schools
(May 2013) Back
HL Deb, 28 January 2014, cols 1117-1153 Back
See annex A for details. Back
See annex B for details of the Committee's visit to Bristol. Back
UKEdChat's summary of the proceedings is available from http://ukedchat.com/2014/10/06/session-223-sex-relationships-education Back
Joint Committee on Human Rights, Sixth Report of Session 2014-15,
Violence Against Women and Girls, HL 106 / HC 594 Back
Professor Michael Reiss, Pro-Director: Research and Development
and Professor of Science Education, Institute of Education, declared
no interest relevant to the inquiry. Marion Davis CBE declared
interests as an independent Chair of Solihull LSCB; as an independent
adviser to the Safeguarding Board of Northern Ireland's Thematic
Review of Child Sexual Exploitation; as a Trustee of a charity,
Children and Families Across Borders; as an independent Chair
of a Serious Case Review Panel into the death of a child, on behalf
of the Sutton LSCB; and as a member of the Northamptonshire Improvement
Board and mentor to the DCS. Back
PSHE Association, 'What is PSHE education and why is it important?',
accessed 6 January 2015 Back
Ofsted, Not yet good enough: personal, social, health and economic education in schools
(May 2013), p 9 Back
Sex Education Forum (SRE 368) para 1 Back
Department for Education, Science programmes of study: key stage 3
(September 2013) Back