Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education is the school subject which teaches pupils to keep emotionally and physically healthy and safe both on and off line. As the Government decided whether to make PSHE education a statutory part of the school curriculum, Joe Hayman reflects on how crucial parents are to the subject.
In February this year, the Commons Education Committee recommended that Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, the subject which teaches pupils to keep healthy and safe and prepares them for life and work in modern Britain, be made a statutory part of the curriculum in order to ensure that every pupil gets high-quality lessons. As the Government considers its response to this report, I have been reflecting on the critical role of parents in this part of the curriculum.
Parents overwhelmingly support an education that goes beyond the academic curriculum and supports their child’s health, wellbeing and safety through PSHE education. In fact, three surveys undertaken over the last year have shown that 88% of parents support statutory status for PSHE education, which is hugely heartening – after all, when did such a high proportion of the British public agree on any potential Government policy?
But good quality PSHE education needs more than parental support, however, it needs parental involvement. As the Commons Education Committee said, parental involvement is key to maximising the benefits of this learning and we see it very much as partnership between parents and schools. We need parents across the country to say to schools that they want their children to have this learning, not to replace learning in academic subjects, but to complement it (research shows that PSHE supports academic achievement).
There is another reason why parents need to be involved too – because we know that some parents are anxious about PSHE education. The subject covers issues which some parents will have strong views on – sex and relationships education, drugs and alcohol, mental health and more. It is right to listen to the voices of those who are concerned and to have meaningful dialogue with and involvement from parents on PSHE content. Statutory guidance is clear on this in relation to sex and relationships education. In my view, this should extend to all of PSHE education because when there is dialogue, parents are reassured about the school’s PSHE plans and children are more likely to get consistent messages at home and in the classroom.
My Association is a membership body for PSHE teachers, and it is interesting that exactly the same proportion of teachers as parents (88%) want statutory status for the subject. We should not be surprised by this: parents and teachers all want the same things for children, for them to be healthy and happy, ready to learn and prepared for what the future will bring. Irrespective of what the Government does, that is a reality which parents and teachers can deliver through PSHE education, if we all work together.
As the national association for PSHE education we would be happy to support any PTA in making the case to schools to give greater priority to the subject, so do get in touch with us.
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