From September 2020, all schools in England schools will be required to deliver relationships, sex and health education and some schools will be teaching this as part of a wider PSHE curriculum and approach. In this blog Brook Education and Wellbeing Specialist, Margaret Searle, explores what PSHE is, how it’s taught, the impact for children and young people and how, as a parent, you can support your child’s learning.
What is PSHE Education?
PSHE is an umbrella term for a whole range of different education topics that are grouped under the headings Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education. These topic should include themes such as: personal finances, drugs and alcohol awareness, mental health and wellbeing, careers, online safety, and relationships and sex education (RSE).
All these topics have in common that they provide children and young people with the skills and knowledge they need to live healthy lives in an ever changing and diverse society.
PSHE provides young people with safe opportunities to explore the complexities of the world and empowers them to make informed decisions, ensuring they have the skills to thrive and navigate the world outside of school.
How is PSHE Education taught in schools?
PSHE education needs consistent curriculum time like any other subject, and it should be tailored to meet the needs of the children and young people in each school.
Good PSHE education is delivered using a whole school approach, not just the classroom lessons. The culture and ethos of the school, the teacher training, partnerships with external organisations, links to policies and procedures and the involvement of young people, parents and carers are all elements within a school community that impact on PSHE outcomes.
The Department for Education (DfE) has an expectation that all schools should have a comprehensive PSHE education programme. PSHE education will support Ofsted inspections in schools, as under the new Ofsted inspection framework, there is a particular interest in how schools contribute to the personal development of children.
When it comes to the content of a school’s PSHE programme there is guidance available to school staff to ensure that it is relevant, age-appropriate, and meets the needs of students’ health and wellbeing. Schools are encouraged to develop a spiralled learning plan with a whole school approach so that key themes and topics are revisited and delivered in an age-appropriate manner across the different Key Stages. You could think of it like a golden thread of key messages running throughout the curriculum, but with the complexity of information increasing, or new ideas applied to situations as children’s understanding about key themes develops.
As well as this, each individual school should have a PSHE policy that you can access to find out the specific arrangements for PSHE delivery in your child’s school.
How does PSHE Education impact my child’s learning?
Alongside the national curriculum, PSHE supports young people to realise their academic potential and enjoy their time in education. Problems such as unhealthy relationships (including between peers), anxiety, or issues related to online or personal safety will cause disruption to a child’s learning. PSHE addresses these issues, and empowers children to understand when they might need to access support. PSHE should offer children and young people opportunities to challenge their way of thinking and develop new skills such as teamwork, communication and supporting their self-esteem.
Children and young people should also have the opportunity to learn more about finances, careers and the world of work, to better prepare them for life after school. They should gain transferable skills from PSHE valued by further education or future employers.
In the Department for Education’s review of the impact of PSHE, they said: “The evidence shows that personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education can improve the physical and psychosocial well-being of pupils. A virtuous cycle can be achieved, whereby pupils with better health and well-being can achieve better academically, which in turn leads to greater success.”
How can I support my child’s PSHE Education?
These subjects are not just learnt within the classroom, good PSHE Education is a partnership between the child’s home and school and there are lots of things you can do as a parent/carer to support your child’s journey.
Allowing your child to talk about PSHE topics at home can be a really good way for them to explore and contextualise some of the content. If you have time, research some of the areas you know are coming up in your child’s PSHE programme, and anticipate any awkward questions. Also, be honest if you can’t answer a question, we can’t be expected to know everything from first aid, to online safety but you can listen to your child and explore these areas further together.
There is help and support for you to feel equipped about answering questions that your child might ask you following a PSHE lesson, you can increase your knowledge through Brook’s free online learning platform, Brook Learn, and other free resources.