The government's hesitancy to firmly support campaigns to increase PSHE in schools is having alarming consequences. Reducing increasingly necessary conversations about the variety of challenges children might face later on in life to a frightfully bare minimum, the new curriculum focuses on scaremongering tactics to discourage students from fully addressing topics such as drugs, sex and alcohol. Over 100 organisations including mumsnet, Girlguiding UK, the National Union of Teachers and Stonewall have called upon the government to introduce mandatory PSHE lessons, arguing the effects could be permanent for the children who miss out on vital information in their early years. Without a comprehensive PSHE curriculum there to empower children, it makes you wonder how well we are equipping our children for life outside the classroom.
So why are the government so hesitant to put PSHE firmly into the curriculum? Aiming to save money, the government has cut funding across the board that would enable PSHE in schools to become more accessible and versatile. This has been done without paying proper attention to how these cuts might affect the ability of children to cope with challenges they might face throughout life. Funding cuts will make it even harder for children to learn about important and often life changing challenges such as drug misuse, sexual relationships and alcohol and the results are already telling in the statistics. Figures released by Public Health England (PHE) have shown a large increase in STIs among gay men, with a 46 per cent rise in syphilis and 32 per cent increase in gonorrhoea. Campaigners have responded to these figures by questioning why important discussions about topics such as LGBT+ sex education, consent, respect and equality are completely ignored by the curriculum in its current format.
Critics will argue that the responsibility for teaching children about consent, sex, drugs and lifestyle choices should remain firmly in the hands of parents or guardians. But if a child's parents and guardians have never had comprehensive sex education or addressed difficult topics how they can be depended upon to ensure their children are empowered for their own futures? Our children's understandings of the world are shaped not just by parental influences but increasingly by social media, television, news outlets and teachers. Children are the products of a variety of forms of influence and we cannot argue that only one should be depended upon to ensure our children are raised to know things such as: the importance of expecting and giving respect, the ability to say no when uncomfortable and how to go about reporting sexual harassment should they fall prey to it. Put simply by Natasha Devon MBE, "PSHE's aim isn't to take power or responsibility away from parents (or guardians); it is to support children & parents to face life's challenges".
Incorporating PSHE into the school curriculum is a small but invaluable step towards empowering our children and better protecting them against behaviours that are increasingly becoming the norm. The World Health Organisation reported that over half of 14 year olds believe that rape in some circumstances is acceptable. It would be a crime to suggest that this attitude has been shaped solely by parents. Cutting funding for support and educational services only means money will have to be found to deal with the damage the funding cuts will create in the next 20 to 30 years. In recent months the UK's largest domestic violence support charity for men has had its entire funding cut, making it more difficult for men and boys to get the support they need. Not only is this a problem for present generations but it will also become a problem 20 years down the line for the children who will be dependent upon services already pushed to breaking point.
Leaving the curriculum in its current format means that there will be an increasing demand for support services for a range of problems including alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence support services. Having shot themselves in the foot by cutting funding across the board for essential support and educational services, the clock is ticking before the damage will become permanent for the government and for the children who weren't empowered by invaluable information that could've empowered them.