If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad

If the government won’t describe what should be in the PSHE curriculum then who better to take a crack at it than the subject association.

They say:

In the absence of a new programme of study from the DfE, the PSHE Association, in consultation with a wide variety of agencies and PSHE practitioners, has produced this revised programme of study based on the needs of today’s pupils and schools. Our programme of study identifies the key concepts and skills that underpin PSHE education and help schools to fulfill their statutory responsibility to support pupils’ spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development and prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life.

To get the resource all you have to do is sign-up to their newsletter or if you want the wider benefits to join the PSHE Association.

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Ofsted: Not yet good enough: PSHE education in schools

Ofsted have produced their latest report in PSHE education, Not yet good enough: personal, social, health and economic education in schools.

The report is based on inspections of 48 schools (half primary and half secondary) with 290 lessons, 31 assemblies and 20 other PSHE education-related activities observed.  In addition the inspectors talked to 200 teachers and 700 pupils.

As readers will guess from the title Ofsted have given their report they’re not convinced of the quality of provision, finding that in 40% of schools teaching was inadequate. Continue reading

Drugs, alcohol and relationships – another reason why PSHE is a public health issue

Cool TedI’ve been thinking recently that we ought to be much clearer that relationships should be a much more central part of drug education – perhaps a re-brand to Drugs Alcohol and Relationships Education (DARE), or perhaps not.

In any case we know that peer relationships are a critical factor in young people’s lives and in whether they are likely to use substances.  It’s one of the reasons many of us argue for personal, social and health education (PSHE) should be thought about as a whole rather than its constituent parts.

This piece of research from the US looks at a group of 184 young people who were ‘followed’ between the ages of 13 to 23, along with parents, peers, and romantic partners.

What they seem to have found is that those teenagers who struggled to create some level of autonomy and independence within their peer group – such as being able to resist shoplifting or vandalism – were at higher risk for substance misuse as young adults.  Conversely those who were able to think for themselves seemed to be able to resist negative peer pressure better and had fewer substance misuse problems later.

The researchers argue:

“Teaching teens how to stand up for themselves in ways that preserve and deepen relationships — to become their own persons while still connecting to others — is a core task of social development that parents, teachers, and others can all work to promote.”

There’s an interesting write-up with more detail over at Science Daily.

The Statutory basis for Drug Education in England

When the Department for Education published the draft primary curriculum last year, one of the noticeable changes to the science curriculum was that the proposal is to no longer require primary schools to address drugs, tobacco, alcohol or medicines.

As those of us with a history in this area will know drug education relies on the science curriculum to provide a statutory foothold for its delivery in schools and so this change sent a bit of a shock-wave through our office and beyond.

The dilemma we faced is that for many years we’ve argued that teaching drug education as part of the science curriculum has the potential to reduce the scope of what is taught, missing out the vital practical skills and development of values that are at the heart of evidence based life-skills curricula.

So in some ways removing drugs from the science curriculum could be a positive thing were Personal Social Health and Economic (PSHE) education to be made statutory.

And while the framework document on the national curriculum review, published yesterday, does say:

All schools should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), drawing on good practice.

It doesn’t seem likely that it will be made statutory, at least for the time being.

So yesterday, when the proposed statutory curriculum was published, we rushed to the science curriculum to see what it had to say.

Key Stage 1 & 2

It seems that the government have had a bit of a rethink when it comes to the primary curriculum.  The year six programme of study now requires schools to teach pupils to:

recognise the impact of diet, exercise, drugs and lifestyle on the way their bodies function.

And the non-statutory guidance suggests that:

Pupils should learn how to keep their bodies healthy and how their bodies might be damaged – including how some drugs and other substances can be harmful to the human body… [They might explore] the work of scientists and scientific research (including historical sources, e.g. the work of John Boyd Orr) about the relationship between diet, exercise, drugs, lifestyle and health. They might collect data by interviewing health professionals and create guidance for younger children about how bodies work and how to keep them healthy.

Interestingly I note that there isn’t a specific reference to addressing alcohol, tobacco, volatile substances or medicines.  Something that may well form the basis of some of our response to the consultation.

Key Stage 3

The new biology curriculum in Key Stage 3 includes health education with a specific focus on drugs where schools are expected to address:

the effects of drugs (including as medicines as well as substance misuse) on behaviour, health and life processes such as conception, growth and development.

They are also expected to address the impact that smoking has on the breathing system at this point.

Again no specific mention of alcohol.

So if this is what ends up making up the national curriculum once the consultation finishes drug education will retain some statutory footing whatever the outcomes of the much delayed PSHE review.

If drug education is central to the government’s prevention strategy why don’t they know more about it?

The government’s annual report to the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Abuse (EMCDDA) has been published and as always it has a chapter on Prevention.

The government say:

School-based drug education forms a central part of the United Kingdom’s approach to universal drug prevention.

And argues that drug education is part of the national curriculum and that most schools have a drug education policy. The report also points out that the DfE carried out a review of PSHE education (including drug education) in 2011.

Unfortunately it doesn’t record that Ministers have yet to make recommendations as to how government will support better drug education some 14 months after the consultation on the review closed.  The report also points out that the revised non-statutory guidance for schools issued in 2012 “does not cover drug education.”

Continue reading

The Morning After: A cross Party Inquiry into Unplanned Pregnancy

unplanned pregA Cross Party Inquiry into Unplanned Pregnancy led by Amber Rudd MP has called for alcohol and drug education to be included in sex and relationships education.

They say:

The government should take decisive action and make Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) statutory. This will allow for a more consistent and comprehensive programme to be implemented across the country which has clear guidelines for schools to follow. Adopting a holistic approach, SRE should include relationship counselling and education on alcohol and substance misuse. Whilst standardisation is crucial to ensure equality of access, schools should be given flexibility in how they deliver their Personal Social Health and Economic Education (PSHE) curriculum. For example, Relationship Education could be incorporated as part of Citizenship within PSHE, which is already compulsory.

We’re clear about the links between drug prevention and better sexual health and which is why we’ve consistently called for schools to deliver drug education as part of PSHE where these issues can be dealt with in a holistic manner.

I’m not sure that subsuming drug and alcohol education into SRE would however be a step forward.  What would be useful is to look at the work that Dr Dan Hale did while he was at the LSE where he developed an evidence based curriculum that could be delivered in an hour a week.

The LSE and How to Thrive have recently been awarded £687,000 to test the curriculum in an Randomised Control Trial across 30 schools and will looking at whether there is an impact on secondary school pupils’ academic achievement.

The programme is as follows:

  • Year 7 – Penn Resilience Programme (18); Academic Possible Selves (5); Life Skills Training (12)
  • Year 8 – Parents Under Construction (14); Media Smart (Body image) (8); Media Ready (Substances) (7) Academic Possible Selves (5);
  • Year 9 – Friends for Life (9); Academic Possible Selves (5); Science of Mental Illness (5); Safer Choices (10); School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (SHAHRP) (6)
  • Year 10 – MoodGym (4); Relationship Smarts (13); Safer Choices (10); SHAHRP (6)

Rumours about the curriculum review

The TES report that the Department for Education stopped working on the secondary national curriculum last July.  They say:

Ministers do not want to abolish the secondary national curriculum as has been widely reported, TES can reveal. But they do intend to replace the existing curriculum with “very, very short” programmes of study that will give teachers “extreme” and “almost total” freedom over what is taught.

This contrasts with the draft primary curriculum which was criticised for being overly prescriptive.

As far as I can tell what this might mean for PSHE education and within that drug education is that there will be very little central guidance on what should be taught, or how.

We should recall that the government’s drug strategy promised two things for schools:  revised (and simplified) guidance on how schools can help prevent drug and alcohol use, and a place where the DfE will share teaching materials and lesson plans from successful schools and organisations online and promote effective practice.

As far as I can tell the government believe that they have delivered the former (though I would dispute this) and I haven’t seen any action on the latter.

A different view

We often think that schools are a natural place to do drug prevention, indeed we call for programmes to be introduced and rail against the lack of curriculum time for health education.

But our views aren’t universally held and I think it’s useful to be aware of other views. I had my attention drawn to a piece by Tom Bennett a teacher who is arguing about calls for the PSHE curriculum to cover the use of sunscreen and body image.

The more we attempt to DIRECTLY teach children to vote, to not riot, to love the skin they’re in, the less time we have to teach them about how the world was made, how science works, what our common history is, how the planets roll, the beauty and efficacy of numbers; the shimmering, transformational power of language and communication. This taxonomy of subjects is core and key. It is the sign of an over indulged society indeed that we choose to crowd out these precious jewels so carelessly, in favour of other things.

I think these feelings are reasonably widely held by those in and around the teaching profession, and are certainly held my some Ministers in the current government.