In what has been called an "unprecedented move" by director of the PSHE (personal, social, health, education) association Joe Hayman, four select committee chairs have made a joint call for statutory PSHE education to be introduced to schools across the UK. The letter highlights how in the last 18 months, numerous cross-party parliamentary committees and prominent Government advisers have concluded that the subject is essential and should be categorically taught in schools. The letter comes as the PSHE education bill, proposed by Caroline Lucas prepares for its second reading on the 22nd January.
So what is PSHE education? The PSHE association defines it as a "planned programme of learning" which enables children and young people to "acquire the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to manage their lives". But PSHE is more than that. It is without a shadow of a doubt an essential ingredient in child development, preparing children with the skills and information they need to make significant decisions that will affect their wellbeing and their happiness. PSHE can instil confidence in, empower and provide autonomy to some of the UK's most vulnerable children and young adults. Helping them face challenges relating to their health, well-being and their futures.
Calls for statutory PSHE education from within the government are long overdue. The PSHE association reports that 85% of business leaders, 88% of teachers, 90% of parents and 92% of young people now in favour of statutory status. Just last month the Chief Medical Officer recommended that PSHE and Sex and relationships Education become "a routine and if necessary, statutory part of all children's education".
But for PSHE to have its full impact realised it must not just be statutory in all schools but its content must be comprehensive, covering all aspects of each subject matter and allowing the students to get to the heart of the issue at hand. Sex education for example, should not just cover how to avoid STDs and unwanted pregnancies but also important definitions of consent, sexual assault and rape. Students must be taught that it's okay to say no, to be uncertain and afraid and that healthy relationships are built on the foundations of respect.
With just two weeks to go until the second reading of the bill on PSHE education, there has never been a better time to call for the government to introduce statutory PSHE. Make sure you take part in the campaign and call for your MP to address statutory PSHE education. For more information about the campaign and a draft letter to send to your MP, please visit the PSHE association website