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Personal, Social and Health Education

Volume 460: debated on Thursday 24 May 2007

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is currently reviewing the secondary curriculum, including personal, social and health education, and we expect to receive its final advice on 5 June.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Given the Government’s reluctance to make personal, social and health education compulsory, will he indicate how his Department will actually evaluate attempts to drive up quality? Obviously, content is important but I am sure he agrees that the quality of delivery is variable. What time will he set for improving the quality of that most important subject?

The hon. Lady is right; quality is important. We are asking the QCA to report to us on that and we look forward to its recommendations. In the context of whether the subject is compulsory, it is important for the hon. Lady to understand that all five of the “Every Child Matters” outcomes are inspected by Ofsted. Part of that reporting includes how the school is doing on economic and personal well-being, so if schools are choosing not to teach PHSE, or not at a high enough quality, that will be identified by Ofsted. We want to make sure that PSHE is working well; we are investing in it and improving the amount of training in it. We are embedding SEAL—the social and emotional aspects of learning—in PSHE, which is proving successful in primary schools and will be rolling out to secondary schools, as well.

Given that a recent online survey of no fewer than 2,200 university students undertaken by the Terrence Higgins Trust, in conjunction with the National Union of Students, found that 10 per cent. of those university students did not know how to put on a condom correctly, 16 per cent. mistakenly supposed that putting on two was safer than putting on only one and that fully 25 per cent. wrongly imagined that other forms of contraception could equally well protect them from sexually transmitted diseases, does the Minister agree that we need to work harder and do more to bolster sex education, and that there is an increasingly compelling case in the national interest for making it compulsory?

The hon. Gentleman makes a good case, but sex education is already compulsory in schools as part of the national curriculum, and in most cases it is delivered through PSHE. An increasing number of schools are deciding to provide on-site health advice as part of the extended services they offer, which we were talking about earlier, and we are certainly keen to see that develop.