Life lessons: PSHE and SRE in schools

Mentor welcomes and responds to the publication of the Commons Education Select Committee report about the status of PSHE and SRE in schools.

17 February 2015 | Policy

We welcome the publication of the Commons Education Select Committee report about the status of PSHE and SRE in schools.

On 23 April 2014 the Education Select Committee launched an inquiry seeking written evidence on the status of PSHE and SRE in schools.

Mentor submitted written evidence and our CEO Michael O’Toole was then invited to provide oral evidence as part of the expert panel session held at the House of Commons on Tuesday 4 November 2014. Among various recommendations, Michael O’Toole stressed the need for ‘PSHE education to be made a statutory entitlement for all children and young people,’ stating that:

“The role of good PSHE within schools is to enable young people to be more self-aware, to be able to be resilient to peer pressure, to be able to make informed decisions and to be able to reflect on what they understand […]”

Three months later we are pleased to endorse the overall recommendations outlined in the Education Select Committee report, with particular focus on the following [1]:

‘We recommend that the DfE develop a workplan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and RSE as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools, setting out its strategy for improving the supply of teachers able to deliver this subject and a timetable for achieving this. The statutory requirement should have a minimal prescription in content, and should be constructed with the aim of ensuring that curriculum time is devoted to the subject. Alongside this, statutory guidance should be developed to enhance schools’ duty to work with parents in this area and secure and effective home-school partnership.

‘Ensuring that PSHE and SRE is delivered by confident and capable teachers is crucial to improving the quality of teaching. We recommend that the DfE restore funding for the National PSHE CPD programme, with the aim of ensuring that all primary and secondary schools have at least one teacher who has received specialist training in PSHE, and monitor progress towards this.

‘We recommend that the Government explore how pupil wellbeing could be measured in schools

‘We recommend that the Government take steps to incentivise schools to raise the quality of PSHE and SRE in schools.

‘We recommend that Ofsted set out clearly in the school inspection handbook the way in which a school’s PSHE provision relates to Ofsted’s judgements on safeguarding and pupils’ “spiritual, moral, social and cultural development”.’

As an alcohol and drug prevention charity, we are delighted that the Commons Education Committee acknowledges the strong relationship between good quality PSHE education provision and the overall health and well-being, and improved academic attainment, of children and young people. We are also pleased for the recognition of quality PSHE education as major contributor to the current work undertaken by the Department for Education, in building ‘character, grit and resilience’ in children and young people.

Mentor, alongside other expert organisations, firmly campaigned for the provision of quality PSHE education to promote learning of transferrable social and life skills that improve resilience, strengthen protective factors and teach how to manage risks that may be shaping pupils’ lives.

PSHE remains the best way to reach large numbers of young people, promoting a range of health outcomes including reducing the harms caused by alcohol and other drugs.

Michael O'Toole, Chief Executive, Mentor

In our written submission we emphasised that ‘international evidence suggests that early intervention programmes focused on developing pupils’ life skills, increasing school engagement and providing pupils with the right tools necessary to resist negative social influences, are effective preventative approaches with good social return on investment’. To support our statement we are currently running the first national UK trial of the Good Behaviour Game – a primary school intervention, based on a comprehensive social influence approach to manage class behaviour during lessons.

The Commons Education Committee report highlights that effective PSHE education is delivered by confident and capable teachers. Mentor recognises that teachers need access to resources and best practice guidance to help them improve the quality of PSHE teaching. To assist this approach, we are currently providing support to school teachers and practitioners through the Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service (ADEPIS).

ADEPIS was established as the result of a small-scale study carried out by the PSHE Association on behalf of Mentor, which looked at the status of alcohol and drug education in schools. Research findings outlined a similar picture to that reported in the Education Committee’s report – A ‘patchy’ delivery of alcohol and drug education and PSHE education across England, mainly due to three key constraints:

  • A lack of curriculum time and the varying level of importance placed on PSHE education
  • A lack of financial capacity
  • Non-specialist teaching

The service aims to fill existing gaps in the field of alcohol and drug education by producing free high quality information and advice for schools and practitioners, and by supporting the development of local capacity through the promotion of evidence-based programmes.

Although ADEPIS is increasingly providing a credible and accessible source of information to support alcohol and drug education, we fully endorse the Education Committee’s acknowledgement of the current need for further centralised guidance and support to sustain PSHE education (and alcohol and drug education and prevention within it) in schools.

We are also particularly pleased that the Committee recognise the need for specialist training in PSHE to ‘ensure that PSHE and SRE is delivered by confident and capable teachers’.

Mentor’s Chief Executive Michael O’Toole commented on the publication of the Education Select Committee report by saying:

“PSHE remains the best way to reach large numbers of young people, promoting a range of health outcomes including reducing the harms caused by alcohol and other drugs. Ofsted’s findings that PSHE education is still ‘not good enough’ in many schools means we are missing the best opportunity to safeguard young people. Now is the time to act on the Committee’s astute recommendations.”

[1] House of Commons Education Committee, Life lessons: PSHE and SRE in schools, Fifth report of session 2014-2015