Children and Social Work Bill [Lords]

Written evidence submitted by the PSHE Association and NAHT (CSWB 50)


1. The PSHE Association is the leading national body for personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education in England, providing advice and support to a network of over 16 ,000 teachers and other professionals working in schools nationwide. The PSHE Association works to ensure that all schools can deliver this ‘curriculum for life’ providing every pupil with the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to keep themselves healthy and safe and to foster the aspiration, character and resilience to succeed personally, professionally and academically.

2. NAHT represents more than 29,000 school leaders in early years, primary, secondary and special schools, making us the largest association for school leaders in the UK. We represent, advise and train school leaders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. We use our voice at the highest levels of government to influence policy for the benefit of leaders and learners everywhere. Our new section, NAHT Edge, supports, develops and represents middle leaders in schools.

3. PSHE education is a non-statutory curriculum subject which covers the knowledge, skills and attributes all pupils need to develop in order to keep themselves healthy and safe and to prepare them for life and work in modern Britain. Evidence shows that well-delivered PSHE programmes have an impact on both academic attainment and non-academic outcomes for pupils, particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Executive s ummary

1. Our evidence is in response to amendment NC11 which would place an obligation on local authorities to ensure that pupils educated in their area receive appropriate ‘personal, social and health education.’ We call on the committee to develop NC11 further, incorporating many of the issues raised in this briefing.

2. We strongly believe that all pupils, in all schools, should have an entitlement to PSHE education. There is significant evidence supporting PSHE education’s contribution to pupils’ health, safety and personal, professional and academic success. We set out some of the evidence for the positive impact of PSHE education below. We believe that education should aim to ensure equality of opportunity, so we stress in this submission how PSHE education can help boost the attainment and life chances of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils.

3. To ensure all pupils, particularly the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, have access to these benefits we agree with amendment NC11’s suggestion that schools should provide appropriate PSHE education. We recommend that the government ensures that the Children and Social Work Bill obliges all state schools, including free schools and academies, to teach PSHE education.

4. However, we are concerned that amendment NC11 fails to recognise the breadth of PSHE education, focusing instead on one element of it – sex and relationships education (SRE), along with some of the constituent topics of SRE such as sexual consent and relationship abuse.

5. By narrowly defining the topics which ‘personal, social and health education’ should cover, amendment NC11 risks placing an obligation on schools which would skew the delivery of PSHE education to the detriment of the wide range of benefits it provides.

6. SRE is a fundamental element of PSHE education. However, broad and balanced PSHE education covers a wide range of other areas including education on: personal safety, including online safety; alcohol and drugs; mental health and emotional well-being; how to critically evaluate information and resist extremism and radicalisation; nutrition and physical activity; physical health (including emergency life-saving skills); personal finance, careers, enterprise and employability.

7. PSHE education helps prepare young people for life in a complex and changing world. As such it needs to be broad based and develop essential skills and attributes – such as self-esteem, managing risk and resisting peer pressure – which pupils can apply to a range of areas, including those outlined above. Due to the complexity of the challenge of keeping children safe it is vital to focus not only on sex and relationships education but on a broader PSHE education which addresses related factors such as alcohol and drugs, media literacy, mental health, online safety, gender equality and emotional wellbeing. We therefore believe that SRE must form a mandatory element of a broader statutory PSHE education. This is a position shared by leading SRE body the Sex Education Forum.

8. There is significant evidence that a broad and balanced PSHE education:

i. Supports pupil safeguarding

ii. Has widespread support amongst pupils and parents

iii. Boosts academic success

iv. Improves the life chances of the most disadvantaged by raising aspirations and providing the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to succeed

v. Prepares pupils for the world of work (and is valued by employers)

9. While all curriculum subjects and broader school experiences are crucial to achieving these goals, we believe that PSHE education provides a unique curriculum opportunity for pupils to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to keep themselves healthy and safe and to succeed personally, professionally and academically. We set out below how PSHE education helps to achieve these objectives.

The case for statutory ‘Personal, Social, Health and Economic education’

Keeping children safe

10. Safeguarding is a fundamental duty of all professionals working with children and young people, and no other outcomes can be achieved through the education system if pupils are not safe. The definition of safeguarding in the education community is now, rightly in our view, accepted as going beyond keeping children safe while they are at school and should equip them to keep themselves and others safe outside the school gates.

11. The government has stated its aim to deliver positive outcomes on preventing radicalisation and protecting pupils from risks such as sexual exploitation and abuse, including online, through PSHE education, and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has said such learning is most appropriately delivered within a planned PSHE programme.

12. A joint letter to the Education Secretary from five Parliamentary Select Committee Chairs in November called for statutory PSHE education to address sexual harassment and violence in schools and related issues including physical and emotional harm.

13. An international Cochrane Study suggests that when pupils receive lessons on sex and relationships, disclosures about abuse and exploitation increase significantly.

14. The children’s commissioner Anne Longfield has called for all children to study digital citizenship to prepare them for life in the digital world.

15. The campaign for statutory status for PSHE education has the support of the national police lead for child sexual exploitation, the Children’s Commissioner, the Chief Medical Officer, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, three Parliamentary select committees, five leading teaching unions, six royal medical colleges and 100 leading organisations including the NSPCC.

Raising attainment, aspiration and boosting the life chances and academic success of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils

16. We believe that education should play a key role in narrowing gaps in life chances between disadvantaged and vulnerable children and young people and their more advantaged peers by helping to break cycles of abuse and ill-health, remove barriers to learning, improve academic attainment and prepare pupils for the world of work. Research suggests that vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils could particularly benefit from the kind of learning covered in PSHE education:

i. There is clear evidence that PSHE lessons can help to break cycles of abuse, teenage pregnancy, alcohol, tobacco and drug misuse, unhealthy, removing barriers to learning and improving vulnerable children’s life chances.

ii. The characteristics developed in PSHE education such as resilience and empathy are crucially important to employers but research from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission demonstrates that disadvantaged pupils have fewer opportunities to develop these attributes than their more advantaged peers. A recent report from the Commission concluded that "social and emotional skills play a fundamental role in shaping life chances of children and young people" and recommended urgent and purposive action in schools.

iii. Studies into social and emotional learning, which focus on skills such as self-management, decision-making and relationship-building skills, have shown that they improve academic attainment (Durlak et al.). An evaluation of the UK Resilience Programme, which was mainly delivered through PSHE, found that pupils eligible for free school meals and those performing below the national average in Maths and English saw the greatest improvements in their attainment and attendance rates. PSHE programmes are recommended by the Education Endowment Foundation as a means to boost the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

17. There is also promising evidence of the potential impact of curriculum-based approaches to boost pupils’ aspirations, such as Carol Dweck’s ‘growth mindset’, which has informed recent projects undertaken by the PSHE Association with the Government Equalities Office and with Siemens on boosting pupils’ career aspirations.

Promoting youth employment and meeting the needs of employers

18. PSHE education also has potential to develop financial capability, enterprise and employability skills. Financial decisions are inextricably linked with other areas covered through the PSHE education curriculum, from mental wellbeing to an understanding of risk. The skills and attributes pupils need to manage decisions related to money are often very similar to those they need to navigate other life choices and these skills and attributes are at the core of PSHE education. PSHE education is therefore a natural home for financial and enterprise education, as well as the development of employability, team-working and leadership skills.

19. It is crucial that the education system promotes youth employment by equipping pupils with the skills which the economy needs. Schools can help to raise pupils’ career aspirations (for example, ensuring young women do not feel put off from applying for jobs because they are perceived to be ‘for men’) and to develop so-called ‘soft skills’ for the world of work. Numerous employer-backed reports show that the development of such skills is crucial: The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), British Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and the Institute of Directors have all called for an education system that provides school-leavers with soft skills such as communication, team working and managing risk; and a CBI-backed study suggests these skills could have a £100bn impact on the UK economy. According to a 2014 survey, however, only one third of employers believe that schools are adequately equipping pupils with the skills they need for the world of work and 85% of business leaders support statutory status for PSHE education as a means to deliver these skills.

Meeting the needs of pupils and parents

20. Young people and parents want a school curriculum which both promotes academic attainment and equips pupils for life beyond the school gates. ‘A curriculum for life’ - including statutory PSHE - has been consistently voted as a priority campaign by the UK Youth Parliament in recent years and is again the chosen UKYP priority campaign for England in 2017 following a ballot of almost one million young people and a subsequent Commons debate. The 2016 Youth Select Committee report on racism and religious discrimination also included calls for statutory PSHE and a YouGov survey has shown that 92% of young people who receive PSHE education believe that it should be an entitlement for all pupils.

21. Recent surveys have also shown that PSHE education is supported by 92% of parents, and leading parent representative bodies such as the National Governors Association and PTA UK.

How well the current curriculum is preparing pupils for life

22. The experience of PSHE education, in which low standards are persistently accepted, suggests that the education system is not currently delivering a curriculum which prepares pupils for life. A 2013 Ofsted report into current PSHE provision, entitled Not Yet Good Enough , suggested that provision required improvement in at least 40% of schools, with lessons too often delivered by teachers with insufficient training and curriculum time.

23. Analysis of Department for Education data showing how secondary schools allocate their curriculum has revealed that the time spent teaching PSHE education fell by over 32% from 2011 to 2015 .

24. The Commons Education Committee states that the quality of provision may be ‘deteriorating’ further, an assessment which we share. We recommend strong steps are taken in relation to school accountability in order to address these trends.


25. We call on the committee to develop the provisions in NC11, and explore more fully the benefits of a broad and balanced PSHE curriculum for all pupils. This should include sex and relationship education, along with a range of other issues highlighted in this briefing.

26. There is a broad consensus among pupils, parents, teachers and leading bodies concerned with child safety and health that education should equip pupils with the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to keep themselves healthy and safe and to thrive personally, professionally and academically.

27. As outlined above, PSHE education is increasingly seen as the ideal method to deliver such learning to children and young people, yet quality remains patchy and curriculum time continues to decline without the safety net that parity of status with other subjects would create. We therefore support the Education Committee’s recommendation that PSHE education should be made a statutory part of the curriculum in order to protect the subject from being delivered through tutor time or in off-timetable ‘drop down days’ by untrained teachers, or left off the curriculum altogether. Statutory status would encourage schools to invest in training for teachers to ensure that standards are raised to the level that we would expect for other curriculum subjects.

28. The Government therefore must make PSHE education, including SRE, statutory on the curriculum and this entitlement should apply to all school pupils at key stages 1-4 in all state schools, whether they are academies or maintained schools.

29. This duty on all state schools would give PSHE education parity of status with existing statutory subjects and should apply to the whole of the subject, not any single component of it, in order to address the complexity of keeping children safe, healthy and prepared for life beyond school.

30. As evidenced above the inclusion of this duty on schools to provide broad and balanced PSHE education in the Children and Social Work Bill would have a significant impact on the safeguarding and welfare of all children and young people, particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. We urge the Government to take advantage of this opportunity to unlock the full potential of PSHE education.

January 2017


Prepared 9th January 2017