Earlier this year the education secretary Nicky Morgan announced that PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) would not become compulsory, leaving the choice to teach children about sex and sexual health, among other things, up to the whims of heads.
Last week the government announced (hugely unpopular) plans to force every school in England to become academies, giving the individuals – and companies – running them a great deal more control over what they teach their students.
As PSHE is not compulsory academies with a reason to do so – whether they are religious or, simply, focussed on ‘academic’ achievement rather than personal development – will have even less reason to teach PSHE.
This leaves young people vulnerable and unknowledgeable at a time when, if the right wing media is to be believed, they are at a greater danger of being sexualised than ever. However, this isn’t all.
Even when PSHE is taught, it is often lacking, as Constance Watson argues in issue 1
It’s not just the facts that reflect the curriculum’s failure in sex and relationships education: only last summer, Neil Carmichael, Chair of the House of Commons Education Committee, responded to the Government’s document Life Lessons: PSHE and SRE in Schools by saying ‘the inquiry found the Government’s strategy for improving PSHE and sex and relationships education in schools to be weak. Yet there is nothing in this response to reassure Parliament – or young people – that the situation will now improve.’
What’s worrying, then, is that where PSHE is taught, it’s not taught well. It’s better than nothing, but that’s hardly a comfort. In her article, Constance argues that a continental model would go along way to fixing the problems. You can read her conclusions in issue 1.
Before any improvements can be made, we’ll have to make sure schools actually teach PSHE in the first place. As is ever the case under this government, there’s a long way to go.
– Jago Rackham.
Read Constance’s article in issue 1: subscribe and support our Kickstarter here.