The UK Government has today decided not to put Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education on a statutory footing in English schools. The decision follows on from a report last February by the House of Commons Education Select Committee that recommended that the subject – including Sex and Relationships Education – be made compulsory in this way, in order to raise the often patchy quality of its teaching in schools. No teaching of PSHE is currently required, and only extremely basic SRE must be taught in maintained schools. In January the Chairs of four parliamentary select committees wrote to Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan to urge her to respond to the recommendation, and in her reply she has now announced that she will not be making this change. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has long campaigned for statutory PSHE incorporating Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) and has expressed disappointment about the decision.
In her letter, Ms Morgan writes that ‘while the Government agrees that making PSHE statutory would give it equal status with other subjects, the Government is concerned that this would do little to tackle the most pressing problems with the subject, which are to do with the variable quality of its provision, as evidenced by Ofsted’s finding that 40% of PSHE teaching is less than good. As such, while we will continue to keep the status of PSHE in the curriculum under review, our immediate focus will be on improving the quality of PSHE teaching in our schools.’
The PSHE Association has responded to the news by saying that ‘This is an appalling failure. In making this decision, the Government has ignored not just the Education Committee but also the Home Affairs Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Chairs of the Commons Health and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees, Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, the Children’s Commissioner, the Chief Medical Officer, the Association for Directors of Public Health, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, the Association of Independent Local Safeguarding Children Boards Chairs, the NSPCC, two royal societies, six medical royal colleges, over 100 expert bodies, 85% of business leaders, 88% of teachers, 90% of parents and 92% of young people.’
BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson commented, ‘This is indeed an appalling failure. The Government is right that putting PSHE and SRE on a full and comprehensive footing is not the be all and end all when it comes to improving the subject – introducing initial teacher training, for example, would be another important step. But the Government is wrong to think that it would not make a significant difference. A major reason for the variable quality of PSHE’s provision is that there is no curriculum in front of teachers for them to follow, and this coupled with the lack of specialist training is what leads to frequently inadequate teaching.
‘This is particularly disappointing given that in 2010 there was cross-party consensus for making such a change, but it failed to happen before the general election and since then the Government has twice considered at length making the change – now and in 2012 – only to twice reject it. We will continue to put pressure on the Government over this important matter, as well as working with it and other stakeholders to find other ways to improve PSHE and SRE.’
For further comment or information, please contact the BHA Campaigns Manager Richy Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 020 7324 3072.
Read the Education Committee’s report Life lessons: PSHE and SRE in schools: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmeduc/145/145.pdf
Read the BHA’s submission to the Education Committee Select Committee’s inquiry: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Commons-Education-Select-Committee-PSHE-and-SRE-inquiry-Written-submission-from-the-British-Humanist-Association.pdf
Read the BHA’s previous news items:
- ’Education Select Committee calls for statutory PSHE and SRE’: https://humanism.org.uk/2015/02/17/education-select-committee-calls-statutory-pshe-sre/
- ‘Education Select Committee describes Government’s response to its PSHE and SRE report as “feeble”’: https://humanism.org.uk/2015/07/16/education-select-committee-describes-governments-response-to-its-pshe-and-sre-report-as-feeble/
- ‘Chairs of four parliamentary select committees write to Education Secretary demanding statutory PSHE and SRE’: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/01/08/chairs-four-parliamentary-select-committees-write-education-secretary-demanding-statutory-pshe-sre/
Read more about the BHA’s word on PSHE and SRE: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/school-curriculum/pshe-and-sex-and-relationships-education/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.
The BHA is a member of both the Sex Education Forum and the PSHE Association.