This week the Education Committee published its report on PSHE and SRE, recommending that these subjects are given statutory status and recognising the need to include e-safety topics.
The report published this week concludes that PSHE and SRE should be given statutory status in primary and secondary schools to ensure that appropriate curriculum time is devoted to the subject and that teachers get the training they need.
The report recognises how the rise of social media and access to the internet has changed the context for PSHE and SRE and impacted on young people’s behaviours and self-image. As the report states, “These changes provide additional motivation for a fresh examination of PSHE and SRE in schools.” It draws particular attention to the issues of cyberbullying and sexting, and suggests that PSHE and SRE are an effective way of addressing these issues.
Sex and relationships education for the digital age
In Childnet’s response to the inquiry, we called for the Government to update its statutory guidance on SRE which was published in 2000 (well before the rise of social media) and we are pleased to see that the report recommends that the Government formally endorses the 2014 supplementary guidance produced by the Sex Education Forum, Brook and the PSHE Association, which highlights e-safety topics such as pornography and sexting.
As our response states “For today’s young people, experiences around sex and relationships are hugely influenced by the internet and digital technology, which play such an important role in young people’s lives. It is essential that schools ensure that their sex and relationships education is fit for the 21st century, covering issues such as pornography, sexting and healthy digital relationships.”
We welcome the report’s recommendation that Sex and Relationships Education should be renamed “Relationships and Sex Education” to reflect the focus on relationships; something that is crucial when it comes to digital issues too.
Better PSHE for all
More broadly, PSHE allows an exploration of wider issues surrounding the safe and positive use of technology, from key online risks such as cyberbullying to a discussion of healthy digital behaviours, privacy and online reputation, and safe social networking. However, we know that currently the quality of PSHE provision varies and that digital issues are not always addressed.
We welcome the range of recommendations that aim to increase the effectiveness of PSHE – from statutory status and prioritising funding for CPD, to engaging parents more effectively. These recommendations have the potential to have a significant impact in ensuring children and young people are equipped to have a safe and positive time online.
A right, not just a privilege
As the report states, young people deserve – and indeed have a right to - good quality PSHE and SRE which will help keep them healthy, happy and safe.
- Article 17 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that “children and young people have a right to information that is important to their health and wellbeing”
- Article 29 also refers to encouraging children to “respect others”
- Article 34 requires governments to protect children “from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse”
As the report states, “Together these measures can produce the step change in the quality of PSHE which the subject desperately needs if young people are to be better equipped to tackle life in 21st century Britain.” We couldn’t agree more.