Steady improvement in personal, social and health education but still some way to go to meet all young people’s needs
Pupils feel some parents and teachers are not very good at discussing sensitive issues such as sex education
The quality of personal, social and health education (PSHE) has improved steadily in the last five years but there is still some way to go to ensure that it meets the needs of all pupils, according to Time for Change? Personal, social and health education published today by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted).
Pupils' knowledge and understanding of PSHE has increased and the quality of teaching and learning has improved. Primary schools have been particularly successful in defining achievement in PSHE more broadly to include pupils' attitudes and behaviour.
Secondary schools have further to go. There is still some poor lesson planning and assessment as well as a lack of space in the timetable for PSHE. Three quarters of secondary schools have developed specialist teams of teachers to teach PSHE successfully. However, PSHE is taught by non-specialists in some schools and too much of this teaching is unsatisfactory.
Miriam Rosen, Director of Education, said:
"Personal, social and health education has made great strides over the last five years with improvements in teaching and learning. However, schools need to do more to ensure that they clearly understand pupils' needs and organise the curriculum accordingly."
Young people reported that many parents and some teachers are not very good at talking about the more sensitive issues in PSHE, such as sex and relationships. Young people also want to talk about feelings and relationships as well as just biological facts. Inspectors found that teachers, governors and parents have not received sufficient guidance and support to help them talk to young people about sensitive issues. Schools need to help parents to talk to their children about sensitive issues and can help by providing information about lesson content.
While most parents make every effort to ensure their children's personal safety, the report finds that they need to consider whether they provide the advice and support their children need if they are to understand potential dangers, have the skills to cope with new experiences and know their parents' expectations. In discussion with pupils it became clear that some parents are not rising to this challenge.
Miriam Rosen added:
"No matter how difficult it may be, parents and teachers have to discuss sensitive issues with their children and pupils to help them make the right choices as they grow up."
It would be helpful if there was guidance provided for schools to be used with teachers, parents and governors on dealing with sensitive issues within the PSHE curriculum.
Some effective schools have established local drop-in centres that provide advice for teenagers. These are often focused around the school nurse and provide a base for external support agencies. School communities and teenagers are served effectively by these centres and such provision is being enhanced by extended schools.
Some schools make good attempts to discuss drugs but again a lack of understanding of pupils' needs causes problems in drugs education. Many adults are concerned about young people's involvement with illegal drugs but the overwhelming majority of young people identify correctly that tobacco and alcohol are the greatest drug related dangers. This needs to be reflected in the curriculum.
The revised standards for the National Healthy Schools Programme (NHSP) have raised senior leadership teams' awareness of the importance of strong PSHE provision.
Notes for Editors
1. Time for change? Personal, social and health education can be found on the Ofsted website.
2. This report draws on evidence from surveys of PSHE by Her Majesty's Inspectors (HMI) and whole-school inspection reports from the period 2001-06. It also refers to earlier reports which remain relevant. In preparing this report Ofsted commissioned the Schools Health Education Unit, Exeter, to provide research evidence from its behavioural surveys.
3. On 1 April 2007 a new single inspectorate for children and learners was created. It has responsibility for the inspection of adult learning and training - work formerly undertaken by the Adult Learning Inspectorate; the regulation and inspection of children's social care - work formerly undertaken by the Commission for Social Care Inspection; the inspection of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service - work formerly undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration; and the former regulatory and inspection activities of Ofsted.