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Why PSHE Is An Essential Part Of 21st-Century Education

PSHE is a statutory requirement, but not an examined subject, so it's in a unique position where schools are able to adapt and change it to fit their context

  • Why PSHE Is An Essential Part Of 21st-Century Education

At the start of this academic year I asked all of my PSHE classes from Year 7-Year 11 two questions: ‘Is PSHE important?’ and ‘Why?’.

I did this anonymously using post it notes and a dropbox so that the students didn’t feel that they had to say it was important just because I was there. The responses I read where overwhelmingly in favour of the importance of PSHE and the reasons, although varied, did have a central theme:

“PSHE is important because it teaches the skills necessary to navigate the wider world and stay safe.”

As a teacher and Specialist Leader of Education for PSHE I couldn’t agree more. The modern world is changing faster and faster and with this change comes greater risks and challenges for our young people.

PSHE is in a unique position in that it is a statutory requirement in schools but it is not an examined subject so does not have a rigid specification to follow or complete. This means that schools are able to adapt and change to fit their individual context.

That being said PSHE does still have guidelines and content to cover, it just means that schools can be more flexible in how they do this compared to many other subjects.
The PSHE curriculum has three strands to it:

  • Personal Wellbeing
  • Economic Wellbeing
  • Relationships (including Sex Education)

However, it is also often combined with Citizenship Education and other topics and strategies which do not fit elsewhere in the curriculum. For example:

  • Careers Guidance
  • Digital Citizenship and E-Safety
  • Study Skills and Revision Techniques
  • Anti-Radicalisation and PREVENT
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing

This is to name just a few. All of these topics and areas are important but it is not just about the content that we deliver, it is also about helping the students to develop skills and competencies which will help them navigate the modern world. Skills such as:

  • Critical thinking
  • Positive decision making
  • How and where to ask for help and support
  • How to engage with the world around them

PSHE’s non-examined status doesn’t diminish from the importance of PSHE in the modern curriculum, in fact that it is not examined but remains statutory to 16 shows how important the subject is.

It means that the lessons can focus more on student wellbeing than data and exam results, we can adapt and change our lessons in order to deal with issues that are affecting young people at that time and we are able to discuss events which affect them on both a personal and generational level.

Many of my Key Stage 4 students have commented in the past that they look forward to PSHE lessons as they are one of the few times in the week where they do not have the pressure of an exam and that they can enjoy the learning.

It is important that we give students this breaks in exam pressure as well as the skills necessary so that they are better able to manage their own wellbeing. PSHE not only teaches the students the strategies but also provides students with a safe place to practice them and find what works for them.

Despite the importance of PSHE, it does often face significant problems, possibly due to its non-examination status.

One of the biggest problems is timetabling. With the timetable being so tight and results having such a big impact in a school, PSHE can find itself relegated to tutor time and collapsed curriculum days meaning that delivery can become inconsistent.

Additionally, many of the staff who deliver PSHE, even in discrete timetabled lessons, are non-specialists who do not receive adequate training to effectively and confidently discuss some of the issues covered in the PSHE curriculum.

It is my hope that the 2019 legislation on PSHE and RSE will help to raise the profile of PSHE in schools across the UK and its importance to the lives of the young people we educate will be recognised more.

Kim Constable has been teaching for over 10 years and in multiple subject areas, but specialises in Social Sciences and PSHE. You can find her ideas and resource bank on her blog hecticteachersite.wordpress.com and you can follow her on Twitter at @HecticTeacher.

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