School leaders: RSE should be taught as part of PSHE

Head-teachers want PSHE to be made statutory and for RSE to be delivered as part of broader PSHE programme

Published on 20th February 2018

School leaders welcome plans to teach Relationships and Sex Education in all schools however, PSHE should be statutory for all pupils too.

The National Association of Head-Teachers has responded to the Department for Education’s call for evidence on changes to teaching RSE and PSHE. While NAHT welcomes the passing of the Children and Social Work Act earlier this year, which introduces 'relationships education' in all primaries, and 'relationships and sex' education in all secondary schools from 2019, along with the potential to make PSHE education statutory in its entirety, pending consultation, it says more progress is vital. 

“NAHT is calling for PSHE Education to be made statutory, for all pupils, in all schools, to the same timescales as RSE. PSHE is the vehicle which will support the successful and effective delivery of RSE and make it work for schools and students as well as raise the status of the subject,” said the NAHT response.

NAHT believes that relationships education in primary schools is best delivered as an identifiable part of a broader programme of statutory PSHE. Almost 96% of respondents to a survey carried out by the NAHT in October 2017 agreed that RSE should be delivered as an identifiable part of their school’s PSHE programme. 

Separating RSE from PSHE is a false division which fails to recognise their inter-connecting themes, content and skills, it adds.

In the NAHT survey, 99% of respondents stated that RSE should focus on the development of key transferable skills and attributes, such as confidence, resilience and an understanding of risk, not just on specific, segmented topics.

The three key themes which NAHT would advocate for the primary curriculum are health and wellbeing, relationships and living in the wider world. “As each of those themes are revisited through the primary and secondary years, the content, issues, complexity and skills will develop and change to be appropriate to the age and stage of development of the pupils,” said the submission.

Within the context of a broader programme of PSHE, RSE in secondary schools can provide a safe space for pupils to identify and reflect on their own and others’ values. Clear themes run through high quality RSE, including consent, mutual respect, enjoyable relationships, rights to information, safety and health, equality and responsibility for oneself and others. A holistic approach to content and themes across RSE and PSHE is needed rather than a separation and prioritisation of subject areas, the submission adds.

RSE must also be flexible enough to respond to the changing world and current issues of consent, exploitation, sexting and the impact of pornography must be incorporated although these may change over time and so the subject needs to be responsive. Pupils also need to know how to be safe online.

The majority of respondents to the survey are currently teaching PSHE in their school. However, the delivery of PSHE is less prevalent in Years 10 and 11 than in any other year group, which is perhaps indicative of the significant pressures on available curriculum time in those critical GCSE focussed years. While 91% of respondents agreed that PSHE should be delivered in regular timetabled lessons, just 38% of secondary respondents said that PSHE had the same status as other subjects in their school. If that status is raised, the case for regular lessons to be on the timetable is much stronger and the subject will not be vulnerable to being squeezed out.

“It is imperative for young people that they experience regular, high quality PSHE throughout secondary school and that this learning is reinforced through the culture and life of the whole school. PSHE is a subject which equips young people for life; through gaining knowledge and understanding; developing skills such as resilience, confidence and teamwork which are highly valued in the workplace; helping them to make informed decisions and choices; knowing where to find help; and changing perceptions of themselves and others,” said the submission.

For RSE to be effective in achieving the government’s aims, it is vital that it is taught by people who are trained and confident in talking about the issues which are covered and who have access to high quality resources to support learning. In the NAHT survey, only 51% of respondents agreed that PSHE and RSE in their school are taught by teachers who have had training in the subject, the NAHT concluded.

The NAHT full submission is available here http://www.naht.org.uk/news/naht-responds-to-call-for-evidence-on-pshe-and-rse/


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