Question for Short Debate
My Lords, having finally secured this debate, it is a great pleasure to have so many colleagues speaking in it, and I thank them all, and the Minister, for taking part. I come to this debate with one agenda. All of us are concerned about children and young people, and that they get the best possible chance both in school and in life. I very much look forward to what others have to say and how the Minister will respond.
I want to say at the start that I consider PSHE more of a concept than an actual subject in the curriculum, and I shall expand on that. I realise that things have moved on since we last attempted to hold this debate. There are proposals for the science curriculum, there is to be a curriculum review, and a Statement on PSHE. I know that the Minister understands the importance of PSHE because we have talked about it, and I want to ask him if after this debate he will meet interested colleagues to discuss how we might move forward positively. I know that the PSHE Association is seeking to form a coalition of interested organisations to support PSHE in schools. Would he also be prepared to meet such a coalition? I think that there is some confusion about what PSHE actually is, and I shall be interested to see if colleagues agree and whether they support my perceptions of it.
I shall begin with three brief anecdotes about the importance of PSHE. First, recently I was speaking at a reception held by a large and successful multinational company. I looked at its website to find out what the company looks for in its employees, and I was impressed to see a huge emphasis on communication skills, team work and the fostering of good relationships. That echoes what the CBI has said, which is that young people should be “rounded and grounded” by the time they leave school. The second anecdote is about a primary school in east London. The head teacher, who co-ordinates PSHE in the school, and six of its pupils came to talk to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, which I chair, about their experiences. A few years ago, the school was in trouble as the result of disruptive behaviour, poor achievement and low morale. The new head teacher instituted a programme of PSHE in the school. It now has policies on behaviour, it has been made explicit that respectful behaviour towards others is a cornerstone of school life, and specific lessons are held on, for example, friendship, bullying and helping others. The school is now high-flying and successful. It is not surprising that a report commissioned by the Department for Education in 2012 found that,
“children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing, on average, have higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in school”.
The third anecdote concerns meeting a school doctor who said to me, “You know, if you instil good health habits in children, they stick. Also, I know many examples where children have influenced parental health behaviour, like in smoking and diet”. I want to explore what the problem is about the Government making PSHE statutory. I know that it is a clunky and bureaucratic word, and we may want to explore that as well.
There are some myths about PSHE. One is that it is a single school subject such as maths or history, that teachers are not trained to do it, and that until they are trained it cannot be delivered. Another myth, as we all know, is that it is all about inappropriate sex education. Every child should be able to do as well as possible in school. A school that creates an ethos of respect and learning will support such achievement. All teachers in such a school are teaching PSHE, either in the classroom or outside it, which is about kindness, working in teams, listening to others and thinking about how one’s behaviour affects others. Teachers are helping children to gain confidence in their own abilities.
Most subjects, in fact, contribute to PSHE in one form or another—for example, PE, music, English and biology. This is why I have some concerns about the potential diminishing of, for example, art and sport in schools. It is not one thing or the other. It is not just a matter of either being academic or learning personal and social skills. Both should live together and, of course, in many schools they do.
Schools may have specific lessons on, for example, drugs, alcohol, sexual relationships, first aid, healthy eating and internet safety. The lessons may begin with a simple concept in primary school. We know that young children will not appreciate the chemical make-up of certain foods. They can appreciate that fruit is good for you and some things are not. Young children cannot appreciate the niceties of contraception, or the danger of sexually transmitted infections or early pregnancy. They can appreciate that respecting other people and being a good friend makes for good relationships. They can appreciate that some behaviours are risky; after all, we teach them how to cross roads and not to run in corridors.
I recognise that teachers cannot know about many issues related to health education. When I taught it many years ago, we had a programme of visitors, and many schools still have one—St John Ambulance for first aid, the police for road safety, a nurse for sexual relationships and diet, an MP or local councillor to talk about government and citizenship, or guides and scouts on teamwork and volunteering. All this is important stuff.
Every child matters. Every child needs PSHE—some more than others and some desperately. Some schools do a great job. Others, perhaps a minority, are, frankly, not interested. This is why, to protect children and to enhance their education, we need a strong statement from the Government about the importance of PSHE. Schools have for many years delivered PSHE in many different ways. I am asking for all schools to be required to deliver it and ensure that they are doing so, however it is delivered.
We know that PSHE teaches children to think. Is that not what education is about? I know that UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools initiative has overwhelming evidence that school ethos can be improved by emphasis on relationships and behaviour. We know that children grow and change. Inputs should be made every year as they gain knowledge and experience, such as in English and maths. Pupils need to discuss these issues. They live in a complex world—life is very complex nowadays for children. The internet is wonderful but has its drawbacks, as we all know. Children need the skills to make informed decisions.
What I mean by statutory PSHE is two-fold. First, every school should have a policy and ethos that parents and pupils understand about what kind of relationships and behaviours will be promoted in that school. Secondly, every school should ensure that there is a programme, year on year, for every child in which they can learn, according to age, about drugs and alcohol, first aid, the importance of healthy food and exercise, sex and relationships, risky behaviour and so on. Parents, governors and inspectors would understand this.
Do the Government understand that for some children feeling safe in school and developing self-respect and confidence are precursors to being able to learn and achieve? Do the Government realise that certain health behaviours, such as obesity, are so risky that they will cost the country millions of pounds to deal with in the future? Such health behaviours can be prevented or mitigated, partly, in school.
I will briefly restate my case. First, statutory provision for PSHE does not mean a prescribed programme. Statutory means that every school is expected to deliver a clear statement on behaviour and ethos. Secondly, every school is expected to ensure that, year on year, pupils will be entitled to learn about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. It is not really that complicated. There are examples of excellent practice. I am asking simply that all pupils in all schools should have the right to this programme of PSHE. Again, I thank noble Lords and look forward to the debate.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, for whom I have enormous respect and regard, for securing this debate and for the excellent speech with which she has opened it. This is an important debate. It raises the question of just what the school curriculum should provide for young people and how that should be delivered.
In my hearty endorsement of the importance of personal, social and health education, I would like to broaden the debate to more than simply what PSHE in the curriculum can offer to young people. I hasten to say that I in no way question the place for PSHE in the curriculum, but I question whether this range of topics does not belong just as much to what parents, family and wider society should be providing, and to all that can and should be provided by good teachers of traditional subjects in a broad and balanced curriculum.
Much of the sense of self, and the confidence that we seek to develop in children, come not from what a teacher says but the way in which the school conducts its business, its overall ethos. In its briefing for this debate, the PSHE Association claims that PSHE education instils “knowledge, skills and confidence”. But these come from achievement across the whole curriculum. Confidence belongs to a well educated, happy young person, who has experienced a school life where aspiration and hard work are rewarded, teachers command respect and pupils have the confidence that comes from high achievement.
Experience shows that giving young people real responsibility, treating them with respect and applying rules that honour fairness and honesty are the most effective tools for developing both self-respect and respect for others. Offering trust to young people inspires trustworthiness, which can reduce bullying and violence as well as everyday disruptive behaviour. PSHE should not be seen as a substitute for the more powerful ways of conveying values and instilling respect for others.
I know that many noble Lords will emphasise the importance of both drugs education and sex education—the noble Baroness has already said that is not the whole story. I endorse the need for this, although I would expect biology and PE teachers to have a role here as well. The more young people understand the whole story of dangers in taking drugs, including excess alcohol consumption, the more likely they will be able to make informed choices. However, again I caution against the assumption that information will in itself determine behaviour. The same applies to sex education. Young people are subject to all too many external factors as or more powerful than anything a teacher says in whatever lesson. The school can balance those external factors only by the way in which its whole ethos conveys a sense of integrity and self-confidence in young people, enabling them to stand against some of the pressures that lead to difficult and destructive behaviour.
The 2011 Demos report notes the importance of,
“the ability to communicate effectively, apply oneself to a task, commit to long-term goals, and work effectively in a team”.
These skills and attitudes are the job of every subject teacher—science, maths, history, English, PE, music and all the rest—and to claim them as the province of PSHE can be damaging. Indeed, the way in which the whole school’s ethos is imbued with the values that create confident, achieving—and, yes, happy—young people must be the focus of all those concerned, from the governors, head and teachers to the caretakers and kitchen staff. PSHE has an important role to play in this, but it is only a part and it should take care not to claim territory that belongs to the curriculum as a whole and to the totality of the school’s message. This is too important for us to get it wrong.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for instigating this very important debate. Whether it is healthy lifestyles; whether it is sex and relationship education; whether it is education about drugs, alcohol or tobacco; whether it is dealing with bullying or abuse issues; whether it is bereavement or mental health problems; whether it is developing positive relationships or parenting skills; whether it is about employability or enterprise proficiency, should we not, as a society, ensure that our young people have the opportunity at school to understand and cope with these issues? Do we not owe it to young people, and to society as a whole, to educate them to understand these matters? It is simply not good enough for the “voices off-stage” to say, “Leave it to the parents”, or, indeed, for individual schools to decide whether or not they want to teach these subjects. We need to be strong and say, “Yes, these issues do matter”. They matter in particular to the well-being of our young people.
PSHE education should not be an add-on for schools to “take off the shelf” as and when they please. It should be an integral part of each pupil’s learning and of the learning ethos of each and every school. How do we know that it is important to teach these activities? There is a huge bank of research to draw on. Take, for example, the use and effectiveness of anti-bullying strategies in schools: research shows that PSHE education was unanimously rated as having a positive effect in preventing bullying. Take drugs and alcohol: a national poll of more than 7,000 young people shows that 95% said that PSHE education had helped them think about the risks of drugs, and another 80% said that it had helped them avoid them altogether.
Obesity has become the biggest public health crisis facing the UK and, indeed, the National Health Service. It is no good saying that we should educate children about healthy food if we do not include schools in addressing the issue. The recent high-profile child abuse cases again show how important it is to keep children and young people safe by developing their knowledge, skills and confidence. PSHE education provides the opportunity to explore these issues in detail and offers the first line of defence against violence and abuse. Interestingly, the youth democracy group, Bite the Ballot, carried out a survey of 5,000 young people. Those who took part in the survey said that there was a lack of attention paid to these issues in school. The organisation has put its money where its mouth is and recommends in its published youth manifesto,
“raising awareness, encouraging responsibility and promoting the wellbeing of young people in society”
through the enhancement of PSHE in schools.
The good news is that in the most recent Ofsted inspection, which covered an albeit small sample of schools, PSHE education was judged to be “good” or “outstanding” in three-quarters of the schools visited, and at least “satisfactory” in all but one of the schools surveyed. Among the issues raised was that parents were rarely consulted about their children’s PSHE education. I think that they should be consulted about it. However, good practice included schools using peer-mentoring schemes whereby pupils were trained to use their skills to support their classmates. The most effective model seen was one in which discrete, regular PSHE lessons were supplemented with cross-curricular activities. PSHE must be part of every pupil’s schooling. It should be part of initial training programmes and of the Ofsted inspection framework. In this way we can ensure that our young people are best equipped to face the problems and challenges that no doubt will confront them in their future years.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, for securing this vital debate. Our National Health Service is going through a very difficult period with the financial constraints put upon it. We have more cases of sexually transmitted diseases than any other European country. Some of these conditions are becoming resistant to drug treatment. Health education is vital if people are to take responsibility for their health and well-being. Prevention of infectious diseases is crucial. We need to do far better. Health education has been neglected for far too long. It should be part of all school curriculums so that children grow up realising how important good health is. They are our future.
We need to equip children with skills to prevent infections and help others by knowing what to do when bleeding, heart attacks, unconsciousness and serious injury occur. For instance, they should know the importance of not sitting someone up when they have a suspected spinal fracture. Children at school should learn first aid. They can learn fast. Emergency life support—ELS—skills are particularly important in cases of cardiac arrest, when the heart stops pumping blood. It takes only a few minutes for irreversible brain damage to occur. One has only to remember when the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, collapsed in the Chamber of your Lordships’ House and his life was saved by the quick action of the noble Lord, Lord Darzi. Properly trained children can be as effective as adults. They are often present when emergencies occur. If first aid was a mandatory part of education in schools and colleges, many people would benefit, including teachers.
Children need to learn about healthy eating and the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. The House of Lords Select Committee on HIV and AIDS in the UK found that current provision of teaching on HIV in schools is inadequate. Many children will experience accidents in the home, on the playing fields or taking part in sport. They will witness their parents or grandparents, or members of the public, suffer strokes and heart attacks, or school friends and siblings having diabetic, asthmatic or epileptic attacks, or choking on a sweet. Surely, preventing illness and learning to save lives will make young people and their teachers more capable and responsible, and useful members of society.
My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, both for asking this Question and for the impressive way in which she set the context for our discussion this afternoon. PSHE is a crucial element of our education system and one which could be the key to much of our learning, because it is an area in which values can be inculcated and discussed. I am reminded of that WB Yeats quotation:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”.
PSHE is one of the places in which that fire should be lit. It is crucial that teachers are trained in the development of those values that should underpin our culture and society.
It is only too easy to take up a default position which concentrates on particular symptoms of cultural failing, whether that is teenage pregnancy, obesity or whatever it may be. There were times in my own children’s education when, so far as I could see, the one unforgivable sin in our society was smoking. There is much to be said for discouraging smoking but far more for encouraging reflection on what values should inform our society, whether they are respect for others, listening to minority voices, generosity to those in need, truth-telling or whatever. The chapter on values in the Children’s Society report The Good Childhood is an excellent starting place to develop a concept not only of a “values school” but of a “values society”, where young people can be inspired and encouraged.
All that can be summed up in the need to develop our emotional intelligence. The life skills by which we make choices are even more crucial than the individual targets on pregnancy or alcoholism, valuable though those are. I would be grateful if the Minister would comment on how emotional intelligence is itself best targeted. In this context, I particularly value the phrase “training the habits of the heart” to describe this search.
Secondly, I would value comment on the relationship between PSHE and religious studies. Religious studies can so easily become a factual description of the rituals and beliefs of particular religious traditions. While that has its value, it is much more crucial that young people are taught to explore their own and others’ spirituality, whether that is in a religious or a non-religious context. The relationship between spirituality and emotional intelligence seems to be two very closely related concepts that are not quite the same thing. It is something that our education system ought to be exploring, and it ought to be important in the way we encourage children.
It is crucial that this debate leads to a real endorsement and enhancement of the quality of PSHE. I look forward to the Minister’s comments on how that can best happen.
My Lords, I shall address just one topic; the need for first aid and life-saving skills to be a mandatory part of the curriculum, ideally as an element of PSHE. I hope to do so without repeating too many of the excellent points made by my noble friend Lady Masham of Ilton. In doing so, I declare my interest as a trustee of St John Cymru Wales, the leading first aid, youth and volunteering charity in Wales.
Every year in the UK, some 60,000 people suffer cardiac arrests outside hospital; two-thirds at home, and the other third in a public setting. With every minute that passes their chances of survival decrease by about 10%. Therefore, whether there is someone on the scene trained in the necessary skills, such as providing CPR or to use a defibrillator if available, can be a matter of life and death. By the way, nearly half of the cardiac arrests that occur in public are witnessed by bystanders who are not infrequently children.
There is clear evidence that first aid training works. It is already compulsory in many countries including Norway, Denmark, France and 36 US states, and 80% of residents in Scandinavia and Germany have first aid skills. The survival rate in Norway from shockable cardiac arrests is 52%; in the UK it varies from between 2% and 12% depending on where you are unlucky or lucky enough to be. In Seattle, where 50% of the population are trained in emergency life saving, the survival rate is two and a half times ours.
These are not difficult skills to acquire and the basic training can take as little as two hours. Several organisations offer well designed teaching packages to deliver it, including the British Heart Foundation and the Red Cross, as well as St John itself. I have been on two training courses here at Westminster; one run by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on First Aid, on which I serve along with my noble friend, and the other by the Parliament Safety, Health and Wellbeing service. Luckily, nobody has yet had to depend on my skills, and I hope that they will not have to.
St John Cymru Wales’s young life saver scheme offers training covering 11 different aspects of first aid, from initial assessment to getting the patient into the recovery position, and dealing with issues such as choking, asthma, bleeding, fractures, burns, poisoning and heart attacks, as well as giving CPR. The whole course takes seven to eight hours and is offered at both primary and secondary school levels from age seven upwards.
Since 2005 about 20,000 children have been taught basic first aid by St John in Wales, and there are a growing number of stories of young people successfully applying their skills to save lives, often of a parent, sibling or school friend. In getting myself briefed for this debate, I have been inundated with examples. For instance, a 10 year-old schoolboy at Abercarn primary school, Elliot Dunn, saved his mother from choking on a hazelnut using the technique he had learnt at school.
The British Heart Foundation estimates the cost of offering such training as no more than about £2,200 per school. Not only are these valuable skills to possess, but they are fun to learn, highly practical and can enhance children’s sense of self-worth. A BHF survey in 2011 found that 86% of teachers felt that emergency life saving should be in the curriculum, as did 70% of parents, and 78% of children wanted to be taught it. I am sympathetic to the Government’s desire to give schools as much freedom as possible to determine the details of their own curriculum. However, in relation to first aid skills, and despite what teachers, parents and students want, this approach just is not working. Only 13% of young people leave school with any life saving training, which is less than one in seven.
First aid and emergency life saving skills should be an essential part of
“pupils’ skills and knowledge relevant to growing up in the United Kingdom”,
as stated in today’s Motion. Despite good intentions all round, not nearly enough schools are teaching these skills. We should aim to be up with the field, not lagging behind in giving our students the skills to prevent their fellow citizens losing their lives when they could be saved by prompt and effective first aid.
My Lords, effective personal, social and health education can be achieved only through an active partnership between teachers, parents and government. It is primarily for that reason, given that PSHE embraces all people who might have any interest in or concern with education, that it cannot be defined in statutory terms. It is part of the life of a school, and any headmaster or headmistress worth their salt is going to ensure that PSHE is part of the education of those children. They cannot operate the school effectively without it. It has to be there.
None the less, a substantial framework has been set out by the Department for Education, which elaborates in enormous detail the sort of teaching that could be provided under this heading for children aged between five and seven. It is very comprehensive but we have to be careful about how much we try to push into a child at an early age. We must guard against force-feeding children with adult knowledge and information. They can acquire it best in their own time and in their own development. Of course it needs stimulus and encouragement but it should not be thrust down their throats.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said, it is in the earliest years that the habit of learning can best be acquired. It is then, when the mind is at its freshest and its capacity to absorb knowledge is at its greatest, that attitudes for future conduct can best be shaped. This was well underlined in a report sent out by the Children’s Society. Its leaflet states:
“Childhood is the time of our most rapid learning, of absorbing extraordinary amounts of new information and acquiring new skills and interests. The pleasure, sense of self and personal growth that children find in learning and discovery is something that is essential for each and every child’s emotional well-being”.
However, we need to be alert to the fact that children are these days subject to the most enormous pressures and hideous influences. Noble Lords may well have seen an interesting article in the New Statesman recently—an essay by Rafael Behr, headed “Generation X-rated”, and with the sub-heading:
“Never has it been so easy for young children to watch violent pornography”.
Claire Perry, the honourable Member for Devizes, who advises the Prime Minister on childhood and internet safety, told Rafael Behr:
“Some parents are in digital oblivion. They have no idea what their children are doing with computers and phones”.
I read another article recently by Barbara McMahon in the Times on 26 March, in which she said:
“Research suggests that children of preschool age are spending increasing time with their faces a few inches away from screens instead of entertaining themselves with traditional toys or reading books”.
Lisa Guernsey, author of Screen Time, was quoted as saying:
“The greatest touch screen in the world of a child is an adult face”.
This is not alarmist talk. It is happening in the real world and children have what has been referred to as an electronic bedsit that parents are often not allowed to enter. We have to guard ourselves against these things and be alert to what is going on in the real world. That requires participation in all elements of children’s education.
My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Massey on leading this debate. Her support for this subject has been assiduous and she has shown real leadership over the years that I have known her. I thank her for keeping it on the agenda.
I have listened carefully to what noble Lords have said and agree with the main thrust of the argument, but with one or two caveats or differences of emphasis which I will just point out. Of course it need not be a discrete subject and of course it is about the ethos of the school and things like that. To sum it up, it is about what we teach, how we teach and the type of place a school is. All those things are important, and need a bit of space on the curriculum. Personal, social and health education is a body of knowledge as well as a set of attitudes and a number of skills. Sometimes, we almost find refuge in the view that we do not need to worry, as it will be covered by good English teachers or good maths teachers, or by the good old PE teacher or the religious education teacher. Because we have had that attitude and have never really got the subject to the top of the priority list, it has never been taught as effectively as it might be. There is a big difference between teaching it and children learning. Very often, we tick the box as “done” when we have made sure that it has been taught, but we really should tick the box when we are sure that students have learnt. There is still a big gap between teaching it and students learning it in this area of the curriculum and of knowledge. When we think about what we want for our own children—when we describe the sort of citizens we would want children to be—we mention much of what would be covered in this area of the curriculum and of knowledge. That is the nature of its importance.
Crucially, although I do not think that children do not have the facts about some of the difficult issues to do with health education or sex education, I believe that they do not necessarily have the ability to make the right decision at the right time. We all know from our own lives how difficult that is. It is very much an adult skill which we need children to gain pretty early on in their lives. That will not be taught in maths or in English, or necessarily in science or PE. Around that is what is missing when we have tackled how this subject should be taught. I am traditional about this. We know what makes a good teacher, what makes effective teaching and what brings success, but we do not have them in PSHE, which is the problem.
I have five comments that I want to throw into the debate. First, the subject area needs to be valued: schools, students and teachers need to know it is important. I have not heard the Secretary of State make a speech about PSHE and I am not really sure what the Government’s policy is. I cannot think of even a handful of ways in which this Government have given the message to the school system that PSHE is important. Secondly, we need recognition for pupil progress and achievement. We have that in the academic subjects but we do not have that in this subject. Thirdly, we need to train teachers. Fourthly, there is a best practice pedagogy. There are good and bad ways of peer mentoring, and teachers need to know what the effective ways are. Fifthly, it would be great to have one of our leading heads say, “I started my career as a PSHE teacher”. That route to school leadership has not yet happened. Although no one is against PSHE, my worry is that we are not sufficiently for it to get it to the top of the agenda. We can make nice speeches and feel comfortable with it, but unless we look at why students are not learning it as effectively as they might do, we will not make the progress that this subject certainly needs and deserves.
My Lords, I will make three points. First, I strongly support the calls of the noble Baronesses, Lady Massey of Darwen and Lady Morris, for a strengthening of the position of PSHE in the curriculum. Earlier this afternoon, I had the good fortune to speak to pupils and teachers from Leamington Spa’s Trinity Catholic School, which is particularly strong on pastoral care and particularly reaches out to young people who are looked after by local authorities. I spoke to one pupil who has her PSHE lesson on Monday mornings, in which she is currently studying child labour in the developing world. She was animated; it was interesting her. I spoke to one of the teachers responsible for teaching the subject in the school, who said that the status of this subject was low among other teachers and it is not respected. She also said that it is difficult to teach and teachers need to be well trained to deliver it properly. She pointed out that, particularly in her school, many children do not hear what they need to know from their parents, and they get that in these classes.
My second point concerns governors. I was speaking to the same head teacher, I think, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey—the primary school head teacher who had turned around three schools using PSHE. I listened with great care to what the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark, and the noble Lord, Lord Eden of Winton, said about school ethos. Interestingly, the head teacher used PSHE as the basis for developing an ethos within the school that respected relationships, where relationships between pupils, pupils and teachers, and the school and parents were fundamental. She also found, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said, that if you get the relationships right, the learning takes place. I hope that is somewhat reassuring to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord. To some extent I share the noble Lord’s concern about the possible hijacking of some political correctness in terms of sex education. We need to watch that carefully but should not stop doing this because of those concerns.
The head teacher I spoke to had the first chartered PSHE education teacher in her school, in 2008. Since then, we have three chartered PSHE teachers; there may be more now. What is happening to move that ahead? Why is the progress so slow? Perhaps I may also ask the Minister about training for teachers in child development. This should be available to all teachers and would underpin success, particularly in this area as it deals with the emotional development of children.
I remember working with a 10 year-old child about five years ago on a summer play scheme on which I had a placement. This child was attention-seeking and getting into fights with other children; he caused us all a great deal of anxiety and we were not able to attend so well to other children because of him. In the lunch hour, he would sit in an old tyre and rock himself. After 10 days of working with that child, I sat in the back of a minibus with him and heard that he was just about to be moved into his new adoptive home. This child had experienced trauma, he was at a very difficult stage in his life, and of course he had regressed towards the behaviour of a three year-old or a five year-old.
It is very important that teachers understand child development so that they can understand why a child is behaving in such a way. Is it simply misbehaviour? Is something going on in the home? Teachers should have the understanding to be able to work their way through this. I ask the Minister: how is he working with Charlie Taylor, the head of Education England, to ensure that with the welcome progress being made in teacher training, this essential element of child development is being embedded?
My Lords, no debate on this subject in your Lordships’ House would be quite complete without a bishop talking about sex. To adapt my right reverend friend’s remarks: how do we light the fire for this subject in our schools?
There is a difficult background to the sexual—by which I mean the mainly heterosexual and relational —chaos that is all too evident in our society, which impacts in particularly negative ways upon children and young people. We have heard reference to the statistics for sexually transmitted diseases—I think there are more than 1 million consultations a year in this country; quite horrendous—and then divorce, the abortion rate, underage pregnancy and much more. All this points to a great deal of misery; in fact, probably the greatest source of poverty in our society comes from relational breakdown and all that goes with it. In addition, we have the distasteful flood-tide of pornography, to which the noble Lord, Lord Eden, rightly referred, which cheapens sexuality in all sorts of ways.
So what do we do? Improvements to sex-and-relationship education must be part of the answer. Of course, some call for a curriculum that is determined by central government. Alongside this there is a demand for compulsory sexual relationship education in primary schools, which, as I understand it, is currently at the discretion of the governing body although it needs to have a policy on the subject. For my part, I can see the case for sex-and-relationship education in the late primary years so long as it does not feed the premature sexualisation of children and childhood, to which the noble Lord, Lord Eden, referred. That is a real problem today, driven largely by commercial interests. These are sensitive issues and I believe that it would be a mistake to centralise the approach in schools even if the Government have a very important advisory role in communicating good practice.
Consultations on PSHE clearly support the crucial role of parents. Schools should have the flexibility to ensure that this sensitive subject is tackled in line with both the ethos of a particular school and the parental wishes, which need to be determined. The law as it stands provides for this and the challenge is to improve the operation of the current law rather than to try to force solutions by a change to it. There are widespread problems with parenting in our society but the answer is not to lessen parental responsibility and involvement but to renew our efforts to improve and educate people about the role of parents. The centralised nature of the curriculum provides scope for this in theory but in practice its implementation is very patchy. In some schools, governors and head teachers consult parents and let them know when the subject is to be taught so that parents can follow it up appropriately at home. However, it seems that best practice is often not followed and governors as well as parents can get frustrated as they are bypassed and as local authorities advocate perhaps controversial material for schools to use. Will the Minister comment on this and respond to three suggestions for any revision to the circular which was referred to earlier?
The first is the need for governors formally to consult parents on this matter and take that seriously before determining with school staff the curriculum for a school. The second is the need for local authorities to make clear that any advice which they offer is advice, that the governors have the responsibility for this issue, in dialogue with the best expert and professional advice, and that governors cannot shirk that responsibility. The third suggestion concerns the need to communicate regularly with parents in determining the curriculum and in letting them know how it is being delivered and when so that it can be followed up in the parental home. That, I believe, would at least make a start in the right direction.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for bringing forward the debate eventually. I support many of the comments that noble Lords have made about skills and values. However, I would like to concentrate on sex education and pick up the question of pornography.
A few weeks ago, I sat in the bedroom of a 15 year-old boy. Together we looked at a website that, at a touch of a button, conjured up hundreds of pornographic films in 32 different categories which I will not embarrass noble Lords by mentioning. This young boy admits that his porn addiction is a barrier to having a relationship because real girls do not conform to the images he sees online. This 15 year-old bitterly regrets this situation. Imagine bitterly regretting such a thing at the age of 15 when he is not yet supposed to be having sex. As uncomfortable as it is for us to acknowledge this, his experience is becoming a new normal—it is not an unusual thing. Multiple studies, including a recent one from Boston University’s School of Public Health which reported on the rise of teen group sex, show that sexual activity among teens is increasingly reflective of commercial sexual fantasy, including its very damaging gender stereotyping. Nearly a third of all girls between 13 and 17 report having engaged in unwanted sexual acts demanded by a partner, which is a terrible blurring of the concept of consent that goes way into adulthood. Children and young adults need a less heightened environment in which to rehearse their route to being self-respecting and respectful sexual beings.
With only minimal changes to the proposed curriculum, the Government have the opportunity to ensure that primary science teaches about the changes brought on by puberty, provides a formal setting for the naming of genitalia and delivers a clear understanding of reproduction. As children get to key stage 3, experiences of adolescence, hormonal change, sexual health and disease contextualised in a science lesson would do much to give children confidence in the quality of the information they have about their bodies, while PSHE provides a broader and more discursive forum in which young people can learn about many of the complex issues they face in this area.
A recent report from the Department of Health, A Framework for Sexual Health Improvement in England, puts the emphasis for the under 16s on building knowledge and resilience and for those who are 16 plus on access to high quality services and information to provide knowledge of what sex is, resilience against the sexualised imagery that dictates inappropriate behaviours and confidence to resist the pressures that result in unwanted or abusive sexual activity. No young person should be isolated or ignorant on their journey to sexual maturity. It is disappointing that the Government have not yet made PSHE a statutory requirement, but they could undertake to make more explicit the relationship between the statutory requirement to provide for the mental and physical development of children and the provision of PSHE in our schools.
In my view, PSHE should provide not only sex education, it should include sophisticated learning about the internet itself. It should be learning that explores and emphasises its wonders, but does not duck any of the problems it produces, not least the unremitting backdrop of commercially driven sexual content. We have to be careful not to vilify parents. They are struggling to police their children on the net and many of the young people I speak to do not wish to discuss intimate bodily functions with their parents. I fear that if we do not grasp the opportunity to offer high status, high quality PSHE, the realpolitik is that we will leave the sex education of many young people to the pornographers.
My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen for securing this debate and introducing it so well. I want to bring a slightly different dimension to our debate and talk about the social and political context in which education needs to be seen and located. After all, we are asking what new skills and knowledge are needed in order that people can grow up in our society as sane human beings. Our society has changed profoundly over the past few decades and it is going to change even more. That will present the citizens of the future with new challenges. I want to look in particular at three of these new challenges which have not yet been noted in our debate.
First, there is the challenge caused by globalisation. We are an integral part of an interdependent world. The rest of the world is not beyond our boundaries; in fact, the expression “the rest of the world” does not make sense because it is already here in our midst, shaping us in a profound way. That is so not only in the form of immigrants, but also in the form of new cultures and new modes of ideas. The very idea of a border becomes in a sense problematical. Because we are constantly being exposed to new currents of thought and new ideas, there is inevitably a sense of panic. What is going to happen to us? There is a sense of disorientation and the loss of a sense of belonging. Our children, from a very young age, are faced with the problems of, “Who am I? Where do I belong? How do I retain a sense of continuity while at the same time coping with change?”. The first basic survival skill that they are going to need will be how to maintain a sense of identity that is not frozen. It must be able to cope with change, but at the same time it should not be like a set of clothes which can be discarded in favour of another set. We will have to teach them reflective skills from a young age.
The second profound change our society is undergoing is that we are increasingly multicultural. This is not only because of outsiders but because of choices that our own people are making, such as gay marriage, cohabitation and lots of other things. If we are going to live at peace with ourselves and others in this kind of society, we will require certain multicultural competences and sensibilities. We should learn to appreciate differences, feel at ease in their presence, and also develop an imaginative sympathy. Right from the age of two or three, children should be able to recognise that people can be of different colours and have different ways of life, and feel at ease with them and learn to cope with them. That skill is absolutely crucial as children grow up if we are going to maintain any degree of social cohesion and social harmony.
The third skill that I think is just as important has to do with something that one or two of your Lordships have already mentioned. There is a pervasive culture of indifference to others. We have seen severe cuts to people’s livelihoods brought about by the banking crisis, which I thought would have provoked an enormous sense of injustice and anger. It did not do anything of the kind. Bankers seem to be shameless; what are the rest of us doing? We who failed to mount sufficient pressure on the Government to bring about a regulatory regime are complicit in and partly responsible for the consequences of our deeds. Therefore, these cuts are not happening behind our backs; they are happening because of us.
It is this culture of indifference—“I have nothing to do with it, it is all the Government over there taking decisions”—that has to be countered. That involves a sense of compassion, concern for others and, going a little further, what some philosophers have called the ethical care of the self—a certain sense of pride in oneself, a sense of responsibility for oneself, so that one should be able say, with regard to health education, sex education, or whatever, “I am not that kind of person. I value myself too highly to become pregnant as a teenager or to engage in certain abominable practices”. If one had that kind of pride in oneself, which is more than self-respect and different from self-esteem, one would not dream of doing certain things. Can we instil that culture of care of the self in our children? If we do, we will have solved many of our problems without having recourse to technology or bureaucratic regulation.
My Lords, I add my sincere thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for having secured this debate, which is extremely important.
Our schools are now labouring against a much bigger problem than in the past. In the days when we went to school, figures relating to society were far better. Just to quote a few, the UK now has the highest rate of family breakdown in the western world and only just over half—55%—of 15 year-olds live with both their birth parents. That is a huge social change. Children are considerably more likely to have a television in the bedroom than a father living at home. We also know from good, sound research that 80% of variability in pupil achievement is attributable to so-called pupil factors, particularly family influence, so schools are struggling against a huge backdrop of problems that children may be bringing in with them, which are not the children’s fault.
I will touch briefly on emergency first aid, which has already been covered by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. I cannot but join wholeheartedly with their comments. If there was one thing that every child should learn, it would be the two hours of CPR. The children are very likely to be on the scene when the person concerned drops dead. Even though there is only a 15% chance of success, if unsuccessful, they can in their grief be consoled that they did everything they could.
I know of a woman, now in her 60s, who in her late teens found her father dead in the chair, and she has never recovered from the fact that she did not know what to do. She did not even know how to try. She just dived for a telephone and waited, and of course her father was dead. If only she had known to give him one thump on the chest, she might have felt better about the whole of her life. But it is not just about CPR. It is about coping with bleeding, choking, fractures—the real basics. Young people are the ones at risk of those; they are the ones at risk off falling of a horse, falling down a cliff face and so on.
As regards the life skills with which we are trying to equip children, they are about relationships. We are not dealing with only the nuts and bolts, if you like, of sex; we are dealing with the whole business of relating and coping with all the emotions that go on. Sadly, we have seen a rise in the number of girls reporting non-consensual sex from 28% in 2002 to 38% in 2008. Something is wrong and we cannot ignore it.
We also have to help children to cope with all those difficult emotions. EU Kids Online looked at children’s concerns on the internet and found that 22% are concerned about pornography and 18% about violent content. We know that between 1995-96 and 2005-06 there was a 66% increase in the hospitalisation of 12 to 14 year-olds from for self-harm. We have the data from the report on child well-being in rich countries and we do not do well. The United Kingdom does appallingly on teenage fertility rates. We rank badly for alcohol being drunk twice a week and children having used cannabis in the last 10 months. But we also do badly on children being involved in a physical fight and in being bullied at school at least once in the past couple of months. All of those are negative influence on children’s emotional development.
Unless we grasp the nettle, tackle this, make it part of our statutory provision and value the need to teach children all the aspects of thinking and relationships, we will continue to fail, as we seem to be doing now. I ask the Minister: where is the Government’s teenage strategy? What is happening to that group who appear to be invisible in policy?
My Lords, I join colleagues in thanking my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen for securing this debate, and it comes on the eve of the Children and Families Bill coming to this House. I would like to concentrate my remarks on PSHE and its impact on youngsters with special educational needs.
Last year, I sat on a commission set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Autism. We looked at reform of the special educational needs system and we produced a report, The Right Start: Reforming the System for Children with Autism. In a survey which figured in our final report, we found that 84% of respondents said that teachers were not given enough training effectively to teach and support children with autism. Training for teachers is obviously an essential step in ensuring that all staff gain an understanding of the condition which they can then pass on to their students.
One in every 100 children in school is autistic, and most are in mainstream schools. For many of these children, school can be a difficult place. Their condition makes communicating with other students difficult, and many will experience sensory overload. The Children and Families Bill, which is currently in Committee in the other place, gives us an important opportunity to transform the special educational needs system so that more children with autism and SEN will have access to the special support that they need.
We must also think about children’s experience of school life more widely and how we can improve understanding of special educational needs pupils. That is why personal, social and health education lessons are an opportunity to improve, among other things, communication between all students, both those with special educational needs and their peers. Such lessons should help young people to develop a rounded and tolerant understanding of the community in which they live. This must include awareness and understanding of disability, including conditions like autism which can often be hidden. Children with autism, especially those with high-functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome, can find that their disability and the challenges resulting from it are not obvious to their peers or teachers. Therefore, the classroom presents an important opportunity to help tackle this lack of awareness and misunderstanding. The National Autistic Society—I declare an interest as vice-president—recently conducted a survey which revealed that 22% of young people with autism said that they have no friends at all. A shocking 63% of young people with autism said that they had been bullied. What parent would not be greatly concerned if they found that their children left home for school and spent their school day isolated, alone and friendless? If children have special educational needs, they are singled out for abuse and intimidation by their fellow students simply because they are different—bullying and abuse caused by ignorance, intolerance and, sometimes, spite. We know that some schools have excellent strategies to tackle bullying and we need to encourage that good practice. However, it is important that teachers have a full understanding as well as training to cope.
Transforming opportunities starts at schools; it is about improving special educational needs and changing attitudes among teachers and students alike. Promoting personal, social and health skills in schools should be involved in that and should be about educating young people for the real world. It should be an enriching experience and one that should shape our youngsters for the future in which they will live.
My Lords, this afternoon I want to focus on personal and social education. We have heard a fair bit about some other aspects of PSHE but I want to concentrate on those two. Personal and social education matters for many reasons but for three in particular. The first is employment, the second is family and the third is social mobility.
The ability to get on with people, to manage one’s emotions and to understand social relationships is incredibly important in almost every walk of employment: in retail, in hospitality services, in healthcare, in politics and, indeed, in nearly all jobs that involve teamwork and leadership skills. Personal and interpersonal skills, and the emotional understanding of parents, are perhaps the key to establishing a stable, happy and secure family and to rearing happy and successful children. Then there is social mobility. Everybody is crying out for social mobility but they do not seem to be prepared to make the necessary moves towards it. Personal and social skills are absolutely fundamental to social mobility in our society.
Each child learns interpersonal skills in the family, in primary school and, I hope, in secondary school. Families today vary widely in their ability to give their children the social and emotional skills which they are going to need. A high proportion of primary schools have a satisfactory Ofsted score, but a satisfactory score only means, “Just good enough and should do better”. However, the majority of secondary schools in this country today give personal and social education a very low priority indeed. In more than 90% of secondary schools, PSHE, if it is offered at all, is delivered by a teacher with no specialist training in the subject. Those early years in secondary school are precisely the time when young people are growing up and need well trained teachers helping them to explore the personal and social challenges which lie ahead of them in the adult world. That needs skilled teachers. Interpersonal skills are not learnt overnight nor are they necessarily learnt in the classroom. I believe that such learning should be achieved using interactive programmes involving guided discussion in class based on young people’s interests and linked to programmes of extracurricular activities designed to develop social and interpersonal skills and character capabilities.
Of course some of the best schools are already doing this—but why are all schools not doing it? I think there are three answers. One is money, the second is time and the third is lack of qualified staff. It is in that context that I ask the Minister for two commitments. The first is to accept in principle the importance of taking advantage of that window of opportunity which exists during a child’s early years in secondary school, to build up the self confidence, the personal and social skills, and the character capabilities they will need later in adult life. Secondly, with such a programme in mind, as a matter of urgency I would like the Government to make a commitment to fund one or two of the major teacher training universities to develop a training module for specialist teachers to ensure that all younger people in secondary schools get the support and guidance that they need during the early years of their secondary school life. They can then develop at an age when they are very keen to know what adult life will be like and they will have the skills that they need for the challenges they are likely to meet in their adult life.
My Lords, I too, congratulate my noble friend Lady Massey. She has been a tireless champion of the importance of PSHE and has given us the opportunity to keep this issue live by debating it again today. Indeed, we have had a very rich debate.
I apologise in advance that in the short time I have, I will not be able to acknowledge the excellent individual contributions that we have had from noble Lords across the Committee today. I shall structure my remarks around three points: first, the arguments in favour of strong PSHE, including sex-and-relationship education, delivered through schools; secondly, the question of whether that objective can be achieved without statutory underpinning; and, thirdly, to ask the Government what are their next steps, given their response to the results of the recent consultation on PSHE.
On the arguments in favour of strong PSHE, we have heard in the many excellent speeches today the reasons for promoting the health, well-being, personal safety, confidence and self-esteem among young people. I will not rehearse those powerful contributions; I could not improve on them, and agree with all of them. Not only in this House but in the other place there is a strong cross-party consensus for high quality PSHE and SRE in schools, promoted not least recently by the international campaign to tackle violence and abuse towards women and girls. The particular point in that recent debate was made strongly that boys as well as girls need good sex-and-relationship education, as the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, rightly warned us today.
There are many other reasons to support strong PSHE in schools—not only problems, such as the soaring rise in sexually transmitted diseases among young people, but in the inculcation of positive values, resilience, good citizenship, and so on. Not least, there is evidence from young people themselves in surveys conducted by the Youth Parliament showing strong support for this subject in schools. Parents, too, in many surveys, including on Mumsnet, overwhelmingly said that they want this provided for their children in schools. Teachers, too, and even the Government have conceded, in Elizabeth Truss’s Written Statement on the results of the PSHE consultation that,
“all schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/3/13; col. 52WS.]
There is no argument about the importance of good PSHE and sex and relationship education in schools.
My second point refers to the crucial question: whether the objective that we all share can be achieved without statutory underpinning. First, as we have heard, we know that the teaching of PSHE is at best patchy. The Ofsted report in 2010 suggested that provision was at least good in three-quarters of schools, but the survey did not include any school in special measures or under notice to improve, so that figure is likely to be a gross overestimate. Even so, it means that at the very least a quarter of schools are not providing good PSHE. Secondly, from our experience in government we know that left to their own devices, we do not see the improvement that we want from schools. In government we got consensus for statutory sex-and-relationship education as a first step to statutory PSHE, but unfortunately that fell away in the wash. Finally, the respondents to the consultation showed that 78% supported statutory PSHE or at least SRE, recognising that the necessary consistency and quality in these subjects will not come from schools left to their own devices.
In conclusion, given the Government’s position, despite that result on the survey they will not make this subject statutory, at the very least will the Minister first pull back from watering down the compulsory sex-and-relationship education as outlined in the national curriculum consultation and instead strengthen the factual content and build in a strong relationship component? Secondly, will he take up the suggestion of the National Children’s Bureau and others to make an explicit link between PSHE and the national curriculum when they publish the national curriculum document?
My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in the debate, and particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for raising this important issue. I know of her long-standing personal commitment to ensure that children not only receive an excellent academic education, but learn the soft skills so that they can be “rounded and grounded”. I find myself in agreement with most of what has been said today. I agree with the noble Baroness that PSHE is not just a single subject, but a concept that should be part of the life blood of all schools, and that every school should have a clear PSHE ethos and programme. I want to assure noble Lords that I will use every opportunity to exhort all schools to do this and we will consider carefully what noble Lords have said today.
However, we believe that teachers need the flexibility to decide what to teach and how to teach it in ways that are appropriate. I will agree to meet the noble Baroness, interested Peers and other parties to discuss this important issue because there is no question that high quality PSHE education is vital to equip children and young people with the knowledge and skills they need. That is why we have outlined in the introduction to the new national curriculum our expectation that schools should teach PSHE by drawing on good practice. All young people should benefit from high quality PSHE education, including sex-and-relationship education. It is the Government’s aim to empower schools to deliver this as part of what my noble friend Lady Perry called a “broad and balanced” curriculum.
It is important to distinguish here between the national curriculum and the wider school curriculum. Over time, the national curriculum has extended to cover more subjects, prescribing more outcomes, and taking up more school time. The Government launched their review of the national curriculum to achieve two goals: first, to set out the core knowledge that pupils should have that is on a par with other high performing countries; and, secondly, to slim it down by reducing prescription, thus allowing teachers more flexibility and freedom to exercise their professional judgment. We know that international evidence shows that the best school systems in the world devolve more autonomy to the professionals working on the ground. Our overall reduction in prescription will give teachers greater flexibility in the way they teach, allowing them better to tailor their curriculum and to engage students in the classroom.
The sponsored academies programme, which has been built on the excellent work done by the previous Government, is about sponsors taking over the running of poorly performing schools that are often in deprived areas. Many of the areas will, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, touched on, have a high incidence of poor parenting, teenage pregnancy, absent fathers, drug and alcohol abuse and gang issues. As the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, said, it is a complex world. Running programmes that empower pupils to combat these issues is second nature to the sponsors and to many other schools in such areas. We want to build on this good practice to enable and exhort all schools to follow what good schools do in a way that is appropriate to them. We feel that the danger with a box-ticking approach is that schools will revert to the minimum provision, whereas our ambition, while recognising that we are a long way short of it at the moment, is that all schools should provide far more than that. For many children in situations where family life has collapsed and religion plays no part in their lives, their school represents the only solid brick they have.
I recently had occasion to investigate the gang activity in one particular area of London. What I discovered was, frankly, frightening and deeply disturbing. One of the important things that any school in an area such as this should do is provide strategies for preventing their students being recruited into gangs, which is happening at an increasingly young age. However, a school in a leafy suburb probably has other issues to worry about. It is horses for courses, and we want our schools to be free to adapt their provision accordingly. However, our approach is that we should not legislate for PSHE, particularly when the needs of individual pupils vary so widely. We trust teachers and head teachers to provide the PSHE that is relevant and necessary in their own school, but we plan to set high expectations.
However, many elements of PSHE have a statutory basis elsewhere in the national curriculum. For example, science covers the biological aspects of reproduction and the life cycle at key stages 2 and 3. Science also covers issues of health and drugs, ensuring pupils are taught about such topics as the impact of diet, exercise, drugs and lifestyle on the way their body functions, and the effects of drugs on behaviour, health and life processes. In PE, pupils are taught to become,
“physically confident in a way which supports their health and fitness”.
Several noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, spoke most convincingly of the necessity of good sex-and-relationship education, which is one of the most important aspects of PSHE and is compulsory in maintained secondary schools. All schools must have an up-to-date policy in this regard. One of the cornerstones of this education is parental involvement and consultation. The guidance covers a broad range of topics and stresses the need for pupils to be taught to develop a strong moral framework to guide their decisions, judgments and behaviour.
The very important issue of violence against women was highlighted internationally in February by the powerful One Billion Rising campaign. Young people need to be aware of these important issues and our guidance provides a strong framework for this to happen and how to avoid exploitation and abuse. This includes the teaching of consent. We have provided the PSHE Association with grant funding to promote the teaching of consent and help schools to develop their curricula. We have also commissioned the Bailey review.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, and the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for their comments on raising the quality of PSHE teaching in schools. I agree that this is important. In addition to a demanding curriculum, good-quality teaching is fundamental. There is overwhelming evidence that links teacher quality to pupils’ attainment. The Government’s reform of ITT demonstrates our commitment to recruiting the very best graduates into teaching and to giving teaching schools more of a role so that schools close to the needs of particular types of pupils can develop appropriate training.
The PSHE Association provides a wealth of resources for teachers and has launched its chartered teacher programme. This gives PSHE teachers the opportunity to evidence their professional practice. We have asked Ofsted to report on specific effective practice in PSHE teaching. It has agreed to do so and is considering the best way in which this might be accomplished and could include, for example, a national conference.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Eden about the danger of the internet. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has developed a specific educational resource that teachers can use to ensure that their pupils have the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe when using the internet.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds talked about emotional development. Emotional skills can be developed through all aspects of the curriculum. Key emotional and moral issues such as respect and tolerance should be part of all teaching, and practised and modelled by teachers themselves. At my school, all teachers and pupils have a clear vision of the characteristics that we want our pupils to develop, such as compassion and resilience.
As to the relationship between religious education and PSHE, schools are free to design their PSHE programmes to complement other aspects of the school curriculum and a school’s ethos as a whole. I agree that religious education and PSHE together can contribute to a strong-values ethos.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Masham and Lady Massey, commented on health education. One of the key aims of any PSHE programme is to ensure that pupils receive the information they need to stay healthy and safe. I would expect a basic understanding of the rudiments of health to be a strong part of this. Again at my own school, we have a substantial information service on health issues and problems. This service is accessible by all pupils via the school intranet.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, spoke about the importance of teaching first aid skills. PSHE provides opportunities for schools to teach first aid if they wish, and engage with such organisations as the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance. My honourable friend Elizabeth Truss met the British Heart Foundation and the Resuscitation Council on Monday this week. She listened with interest to their concerns and will consider them carefully as part of the national curriculum review.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester that decisions about SRE should be taken by parents. Governing bodies of all maintained schools are required to have an SRE policy. I agree wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, about the importance of building pupils’ confidence and social skills.
I thank the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester for their comments on school governance, particularly in relation to education. We are simplifying the guidance on governance, particularly in relation to statutory provision of sex education. We believe that this will be much clearer. As regards the number of chartered teachers, this has been a rigorous programme but we anticipate the numbers to rise significantly next year.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, that global understanding and multicultural literacy are important skills for pupils in today’s society—so important that I suggest that such provision should not be limited to PSHE lessons but be part of the whole school ethos, embedded throughout the curriculum in all teaching.
The Government believe that PSHE is a vital part of a broad and balanced curriculum and that excellent PSHE provision is part of the life-blood of all good schools. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this important debate.