Statistics released by the Department for Education (DfE) have revealed a sharp decline over recent years in the amount of time being spent on teaching personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE), including sex and relationships education (SRE), in schools. In 2015, secondary schools in England were recorded as delivering a total of 65,200 hours of PSHE lessons, down 29% from the 2011 figure of 91,800 hours. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which is a member of both the PSHE Association and the Sex Education Forum (SEF), has expressed its concern at the findings and repeated its calls for the subject to be made compulsory in all schools.
In February of this year the Government decided not to place PSHE and SRE on a statutory footing, despite recommendations to the contrary from, among others, the House of Commons Education Committee, the Children’s Commissioner for England, the Chief Medical Officer, and a coalition of over 100 expert bodies and charities. The then Education Secretary Nicky Morgan stated that the Government was concerned that making PSHE statutory ‘would do little to tackle the most pressing problems with the subject, which are to do with variable quality of its provision’.
However, the BHA has stated that news of a decline in the number of hours being set aside for PSHE demonstrates that statutory status is now more necessary than ever, reinforcing the remarks it made in July in response to a call for evidence from the Women and Equalities Committee on the Government’s position.
BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman commented, ‘The Government has repeatedly recognised the importance of teaching PSHE in the statements that it has made in recent months, but they continue to maintain that making the subject compulsory is not the solution to the problems that exist. If it ever was, that position is now no longer tenable. Schools are not obliged to provide PSHE to their pupils and these figures reveal that a great many of them are not. This should be surprising to no one, and I hope the Government will now recognise that it is long past time they put PSHE on a statutory footing so that children can receive the education they need in order to be safe, healthy, and ready for life outside their school gates.’
For further comment of information please contact the BHA Education Campaigner Jay Harman on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 324 2078.
See the Department for Education’s figures: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/school-workforce-in-england-november-2015
Read the BHA’s previous news item ‘BHA response to Women and Equalities Committee consultation “Young people denied education for safe relationships in schools in England”’: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/07/11/bha-criticises-government-stance-on-pshe-and-sre-in-submission-to-women-and-equalities-committee/
Read the BHA’s news item ‘Government decides against statutory PSHE despite overwhelming support and expert evidence’: https://humanism.org.uk/2016/02/10/government-decides-against-statutory-pshe-despite-overwhelming-support-and-expert-evidence/
Read more about the BHA’s work 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.