Personal, Social, Health and Economic education and Sex and Relationships Education in schools

21 Jul

Voice’s written evidence  to The Education Committee’s Inquiry into Personal, Social, Health and Economic education and Sex and Relationships Education in schools has now been published by the Committee.
 
In its evidence, Voice commented:
 
“a key purpose of education is to prepare children and young people for adult life in partnership with parents/carers and other groups within local communities and society in general. 
 
“Personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) and sex and relationships education (SRE) can facilitate this, as part of the statutory duty of schools to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils, enabling children and young people to become personally effective in adult life within society.
 
“PSHE should be made statutory, but not as part of the National Curriculum, and without any detailed prescriptive content, so that schools can make it bespoke in relation to the needs of their pupils and local communities. 
 
“Parents and carers should retain a fundamental responsibility for SRE, in partnership with schools, and should keep the right to withdraw their children from this aspect of the curriculum if they so chose, given that SRE is not morally neutral. 
 
“Teaching staff should also be allowed to exempt themselves from teaching SRE if they believe it would compromise them morally. 
 
“The current state of PSHE in schools is variable and many different approaches are extant.  Whilst there are examples of good practice, there are many areas of weakness, including lack of expertise and access to training, poor assessment and tracking of pupil progress, and lack of transferability from the classroom to real life.
 
“In order to improve provision and quality of delivery, PSHE needs to be made available as a specialist route for initial teacher education, Ofsted need to prioritise it within the inspection framework, and schools need to give it parity with other subjects. 
 
“The statutory basis for SRE is currently very narrow and needs to be strengthened, but should continue to be set within a moral framework and delivered sensitively and appropriately according to the age and maturity of pupils. 
 
“Every school should be required to have an SRE policy that is clear, informative and accessible to parents.  Teaching resources should be monitored carefully for suitability and appropriateness, and staff should be adequately trained and supported to deliver SRE. 
 
“Statutory guidance needs to be revised and supplemented from time to time in line with changes in society.  Recent guidance has been useful in some areas, but also shows a worrying tendency to disenfranchise parents and lose its focus on the importance of moral values. 
 
“The effectiveness of SRE is inherently difficulty to measure, and to do so requires clarity about purpose and objectives and reference to behaviour outside of school.”
 
“Delivering sex and relationships education”
The November 2013 (pdf) issue of Your Voice included an article “Delivering sex and relationships education  (pdf) by Kristina Thordal, Director and Trainer, Tina Training Initiatives, which delivers sex and relationships education. This prompted Adrain Dulston to write a letter to the April 2014 issue. The letter then formed part of his own evidence to the inquiry.
 

Your views

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3 Responses to “Personal, Social, Health and Economic education and Sex and Relationships Education in schools”

  1. Frances Stanfield 21. Jul, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    As an ex PSHE coordinator, whose knowledge and understanding was greatly enhanced by taking the PSHE Certificate (Roehampton Institute) I find this written submission encouraging. Good PSHE was a key strand of the National Healthy Schools Standard and SREd and Drugs Ed both key componants. A lot of the LA staff who ran training in all areas of PSHEE have lost their posts due to funding cuts over recent years, and partners across the LA suffered a similar fate.
    I have run workshops for Primary PGCE students at Southampton University Education Department`s “Health Day” on SREd. It saddens me to still find young people who have had little quality Sex Education (even though it has been statutory for years) and who are keen to acquire the skills to do better for their pupils.
    I agree with Voice for the need for training and for working closely with parents. The earlier in a child`s life that parents and school staff can work together to agree on a common language and a programme appropriate for their children better relationships will be developed throughout schools. This is where we are together addressing issues of safety, self esteem, understanding risk, negotiation, making right choices and keeping healthy – something all parents want for the children and which invariably trumps their call for results of the academic kind. Well being is the foundation we need laid for good learning to take place. A sound PSHEE curriculum and delivery of an appropriate programme across all phases should be a priority.

  2. John Winter 18. Feb, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    For me as a teacher and parent the three key points of the submission are:

    “Parents and carers should retain a fundamental responsibility for SRE, in partnership with schools, and should keep the right to withdraw their children from this aspect of the curriculum if they so chose, given that SRE is not morally neutral.

    “Teaching staff should also be allowed to exempt themselves from teaching SRE if they believe it would compromise them morally.

    “The statutory basis for SRE is currently very narrow and needs to be strengthened, but should continue to be set within a moral framework and delivered sensitively and appropriately according to the age and maturity of pupils.”

    As ever in Society we reap what we sow and never is this more evident that in the area of of young people and sex. So on the one hand we agonise over the growing problem of young people and teenage pregnancy; STI’s, pornography, sexting, etc but then as a Society continue to allow out children to be over-sexualised by a variety of medias which give them widespread exposures to sexually explicit material and a range of confusing messages about relationships and morality. Society has created the problem so I guess Society must seek to address it but I remain unconvinced that schools alone can solve it without Governments doing more to discourage the other factors that help create the problem in the first place.

    Although it is undoubtedly necessary to teach children about the positive and negative issues around SRE care needs to be taken not to over-react and intervene too early which may rob younger children of their innocence and unintentionally produce an unhealthy interest prematurely. This is not easy to achieve and undoubtedly arbitrary judgments about age-appropriateness are inevitably suspect but decisions made by schools and parents at a local level, will in my view be more acceptable than those handed down to us by politicians.

    Furthermore the right of withdrawal is essential in any future legislation. As stated the teaching of sex education is not morally neutral and although I have seen some very good examples of teaching SRE over the years, I have frankly observed some appalling examples as well – i.e. functional and biological instruction, carrying with it the underlying assumption that as ‘everyone’ is now having sex all we need to do is teach you students about ‘safe sex’! As a teacher I was not prepared to deliver such a message and as a parent I would not want my children to hear that message.

    Whilst not wanting to sound naive and whilst understanding that many of our young people do have sex before 16 so some SRE provision should be made, it also needs to be acknowledged that many (perhaps the majority) are not engaging in sexual intercourse before they are 16 and therefore we should not assume that parents are incapable of instructing their children in SRE or children are not intelligent enough to make up their own mind on these matters. So Government should continue to allow for either the right of students to withdraw themselves if they feel embarrassed or uncomfortable in sex education lessons; or the right of parents to withdraw their children if they have moral objections as to how and what is taught. The latter point would in my opinion would not be a much used option of choice, providing abstinence was also promoted as a positive response and alternative to sexual intercourse for our young people.

  3. Richard Fraser 18. Feb, 2015 at 3:35 pm #

    Making sex and relationships education statutory (updated)
    http://blog.voicetheunion.org.uk/?p=11349

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