Life lessons: PSHE and SRE in schools - Education Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Why teach PSHE and SRE in schools?

1.  There are a number of ways of evaluating whether PSHE and SRE should be taught in schools; focusing primarily on its impact on teenage conceptions and STIs means insufficient emphasis is placed on safeguarding and young people's rights. It would also detract from the focus on the 'whole child' implicit in recent DfE work on "character, grit and resilience". (Paragraph 46)

2.  Measuring specific positive outcomes from the provision of PSHE is challenging but the context is the wide range of pressures and risks to health to which young people are exposed. They have a right to information that will keep them healthy and safe. Delivering this is particularly important for the most vulnerable children, including looked after children, LGBT children and those with special educational needs. Schools need to provide this information, and to develop the resilience and character of young people. (Paragraph 47)

3.  While a minority of parents strongly object on principle, it is clear that a large majority of parents and young people feel that schools should provide SRE. (Paragraph 48)

4.  Trends in teenage conceptions and STIs are driven by factors far outwith the provision of SRE in schools and provide little insight into the usefulness of such education. Instead the quality of PSHE and SRE should be measured through Ofsted inspections and through levels of student and parent satisfaction. This should be the focus for the Government. (Paragraph 49)

5.  We recommend that the Government explore how pupil wellbeing could be measured in schools. (Paragraph 50)

The provision and quality of PSHE and SRE in schools

6.  Ofsted's 2013 report showed that there was a problem with the effectiveness of PSHE and SRE in schools, and suggested that this was worsening over time. This matches the view of young people themselves. (Paragraph 70)

7.  We recommend that the Government take steps to incentivise schools to raise the quality of PSHE and SRE in schools. (Paragraph 71)

Recent Government actions and the supplementary advice

8.  The Government's current strategy for improving PSHE and SRE in schools is weak, and the recent actions taken by the Government are insufficient to make much difference. Destination measures, parental choice and schools publishing their curricula online will not in themselves lead to the required improvement in PSHE. 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 PSHE teaching. (Paragraph 89)

9.  We recommend that the Government formally endorse and issue the 2014 advice produced by the voluntary sector, and promote this advice more actively to schools and governors. (Paragraph 90)

10.  We recommend that the Government monitor schools' compliance with the requirement to publish information about their PSHE and SRE curriculum on their websites. (Paragraph 91)

11.  Ensuring that PSHE and SRE is delivered by confident and capable teachers is crucial to improving the quality of teaching. We recommend that the DfE restore funding for the National PSHE CPD programme, with the aim of ensuring that all primary and secondary schools have at least one teacher who has received specialist training in PSHE, and monitor progress towards this. (Paragraph 117)

12.  We recommend that the Government ensure that there are sufficient school nurses training places, and that the ratio of school nurses to children is maintained. (Paragraph 118)

13.  We recommend that Sex and Relationships Education be renamed "Relationships and Sex Education" to reflect the (existing) focus on relationships and to emphasise the importance of this part of children and young people's education. (Paragraph 119)

14.  There is clear agreement about the need for parents and schools to work together in the area of PSHE, and this is key to improving SRE in particular. (Paragraph 120)

15.  We recommend that all schools be required to run a regular consultation with parents on the school's SRE provision, in a way that allows all parents to participate. (Paragraph 121)

16.  We recommend that Ofsted inspect schools' engagement with parents on Sex and Relationships Education. (Paragraph 122)

17.  We recommend that Ofsted set out clearly in the school inspection handbook the way in which a school's PSHE provision relates to Ofsted's judgements on safeguarding and pupils' "spiritual, moral, social and cultural development". (Paragraph 123)

18.  We recommend that the Government commission Ofsted to produce regular subject survey reports on the quality of PSHE and SRE. (Paragraph 124)

19.  We recommend that the DfE clarify that children in primary schools should be taught the proper names for genitalia as part of the National Curriculum. (Paragraph 125)

The status of PSHE and SRE

20.  The DfE must clarify the current status of SRE, including in different kinds of schools, and communicate this message clearly to schools. (Paragraph 145)

21.  We note that parents would be concerned if their existing right to withdraw their children from SRE was removed, and that this may serve to discourage schools from engaging with parents on this subject. The matter can be separated from the question of whether PSHE and SRE should be statutory in schools. We conclude that the parental right to withdraw their children from elements of SRE should be retained. (Paragraph 146)

22.  We accept the argument that statutory status is needed for PSHE, with relationships and sex education as a core part of it. In particular this will contribute to ensuring that appropriate curriculum time is devoted to the subject, to stimulating the demand for trained teachers, and to meeting safeguarding requirements. (Paragraph 147)

23.  We recommend that the DfE develop a workplan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and RSE 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 a minimal prescription in content, and should be constructed with the aim of ensuring that curriculum time is devoted to the subject. Alongside this, statutory guidance should be developed to enhance schools' duty to work with parents in this area and secure and effective home-school partnership. (Paragraph 148)

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Prepared 17 February 2015