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Home > A curriculum for life: the case for statutory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education.

PHSE Association. (2017) A curriculum for life: the case for statutory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education. London: PHSE Association. 26 p.

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URL: https://www.pshe-association.org.uk/curriculum-and...


Today’s children and young people are growing up in a rapidly changing world, full of opportunities but with few guarantees. PSHE education is the school subject which prepares them for life and work in this changing world, helping to keep pupils safe, healthy and boosting their life chances. There is strong evidence that, when delivered by trained teachers in line with best practice, this ‘curriculum for life’ is popular with parents and helps children and young people to protect themselves and others both online and offline, improves their physical and emotional health, and develops character, resilience, academic attainment and employment prospects, with the greatest benefits experienced by the most disadvantaged pupils. 

Yet this potential to boost life chances is unfulfilled: Ofsted’s 2013 report on PSHE education, tellingly entitled Not Yet Good Enough, highlighted the need for major improvements in provision and suggested that lack of teacher confidence means that the subject is not taught rigorously, with topics such as mental health, online safety and abuse left off the curriculum altogether by many schools at a time when the public profile of these issues has never been higher. Ofsted’s report suggests that millions of pupils miss out each year on high-quality lessons and the Department for Education’s own data suggests that the picture has rapidly deteriorated since 2013. 

Non-statutory status is at the root of these problems. As a non-statutory, non-examined subject, PSHE education is not held to the same standards of rigour as other subjects and PSHE teachers are not given the curriculum time or training they need to deliver to the standards we should expect. Ofsted has highlighted that lack of clarity on the status of the subject is used by external organisations seeking to undermine schools’ provision on areas of PSHE such as relationships and sex education (RSE) and equality. Statutory status for PSHE education would protect against this and ensure that teachers are given the training and curriculum time they need to realise the subject’s potential. It would also bring expectations on maintained schools and academies into line with their independent sector counterparts.

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