Should PHSE be made compulsory?

Date Posted: 28/07/2015

After recent comments by the current education secretary, Nicky Morgan, the importance of how PHSE is taught has been under the spotlight.

There’s no getting away from the fact that sex and relationships is one of the most important issues in each and every single one of the members of your classrooms lives; but are we teaching kids enough about it?

And its not just sex that we need to talk to our kids about, there’s drugs, healthy eating, citizenship and bullying too – all difficult subjects to get stuck into with a room full of adolescents.

Each of these awkward topics comes under the umbrella acronym PHSE, covering personal, social, health and economic education; but it’s not a compulsory part of the Curriculum - yet. 

Nicky Morgan, the education secretary has not backed MPs' calls to make the subject compulsory in state schools in England, but she hasn’t ruled it out either.

She has been quoted as saying: "In the coming months I intend to look at all the options to ensure PSHE is taught well everywhere."

A lack of clarity

A report published before the general election by the House of Commons Education Select Committee, warned of a "lack of clarity on the status of the subject".

"This must change, and we accept the argument that statutory status is needed for PSHE, with sex and relationships education as a core part of it," it said.

The committee had said that the quality of lessons in the subject required improvement in 40 per cent of schools - and that young people too often reported that the "sex and relationships education they receive is inadequate".

Mrs Morgan said PSHE and sex and relationships education were "essential to keeping pupils safe and healthy, inside and outside the school gates".

"Good quality PSHE can provide them with the information they need to stay safe and build resilience against the risks of exploitation or radicalisation,” she said.

It seems however, that no one in power is prepared to back a compulsory status on the Curriculum for the subject; with nothing in the response to reassure the general public, or Parliament, that the situation would improve.

How can you teach PHSE outside of the classroom?

Although there are many online and reputable resources for teaching the subject- such as The Guardian, The Times Educational Supplement (TES), Teachit and Collins – there are relatively few outside the classroom workshop providers.

The PHSE Association is a good place to start your research and it also offers PHSE teacher training days and has a list of relevant events.

In addition, there are a number of companies that will provide an in-school PHSE workshop experience. One such supplier, HYP HOP hits the UK streets on a number of annual roadshows. The workshops it offers as part of these are far-ranging, with topics including Self Esteem and Personal Values; Contraception; STIs and HIV; Media and Peer Pressure; Drugs and Alcohol and Reality Parenting.

Infusionarts in Devon currently provides a series of tailor-made workshops which can be skill-based or led by performance. All of its workshops can be booked from an hour to a full day.

Essex-based project, Enable East’s Bounce! Ed programme can also be taught outside the school gates. It’s designed to help students develop skills in dealing with stress, increases their feeling of well-being and empowers them to be more resilient.

The Bounce! team works closely with you to tailor a workshop so it aligns with your school's well-being indicators; the students' current PHSE curriculum; well-being focused modules; school targets and pastoral care.

You may need to search a little, but there are people and providers out there that can help. For more information visit www.pshe-association.org.uk.

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