PSHE and SRE should both be compulsory for all school children, NEU survey finds

Teaching children and young people personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) and relationships and sex education (RSE) is vital, according to a survey of members of the National Education Union (NEU)

The poll of 560 education staff working in primary and secondary schools in England, found that 91% feel that PSHE should have a regular slot in school timetables and be an integral part of the school curriculum.

At present, state-funded schools are not required to teach PSHE, although some chose to do so. From September 2019, schools will be required to teach RSE, but not PSHE. However, education staff believe that PSHE lessons should also be made compulsory, for all school children, and that PSHE lessons are the best place to teach RSE. Ninety-three per cent of education staff said RSE should form part of statutory PSHE.

Ninety-six per cent said high-quality relationships and sex education can play a role in keeping children safe from harm.

Worryingly, only just over a quarter of respondents (29%) feel confident that their school will be ready to deliver the new relationships and sex education in September 2019.

Almost 70% (68.6%) said that staff in their school have not had sufficient training to deliver PSHE or RSE at a high-quality. Fifty-six per cent believe that having inadequate resources with which to teach PSHE or RSE is the main barrier to delivering high-quality PSHE and RSE in all schools.

Ninety-one per cent of respondents said that the Government must provide additional funding for staff training and resources to teach RSE and PSHE.

Almost 100% (98%) of primary school respondents would support the inclusion of ‘what to do if you feel unsafe’ in the primary relationships curriculum, 96% would welcome the inclusion of how to deal with appropriate and inappropriate touching, and 96% would like online safety and privacy covered. And 92% would support the inclusion of puberty, menstruation and the correct terminology for body parts in the primary curriculum.

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Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The National Education Union welcomes the Government’s commitment to introduce statutory Relationships and Sex Education in every school. We have a duty to get this right for every child so that they are prepared for happy and healthy relationships and equipped with the information to stay safe. There is a consensus in the education profession about the importance of RSE and a commitment to teach it well – we hope the government recognises this and introduces ambitious statutory guidance fit for the demands of growing up in the 21st century.

“Schools will need support from the government to deliver this subject well – so the Department for Education must provide sufficient additional funding for training and high-quality resources. We believe that PSHE lessons are the best way to teach RSE, so urge the Government to take the opportunity to make this subject statutory too.”

The National Education Union has submitted evidence to the DfE’s consultation on the future of RSE and PSHE in England – Changes to teaching of sex and relationship education, and PSHE – which closes on February 12. The NEU’s submission (NEU-consulation-response-RSE-PSHE-in-England-February-2018) also highlights that:

  • Education professionals must feel confident and equipped to deliver the curriculum. Statutory guidance must be accompanied by a comprehensive and well-funded package of support for schools. This includes ensuring staff have access to the relevant professional development as well as a range of high quality resources.
  • PSHE must be given space and status in the curriculum. The Government must work closely with the profession to seriously address the consequences of high stakes accountability if the PSHE and RSE reform is to be a success.

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