From September of 2019 the Department for Education will require all schools to teach Sex and Relationships Education, a subject that is currently undervalued according to children’s charity Coram.

Due to looming statutory requirements schools are becoming increasingly aware of how unready they are to implement PSHE in the classroom as a syllabus subject, a report from Coram finds.

This is a subject that has been avoided and treated as surplus to requirements by many headteachers, including one anonymous source reported by Janet Palmer, Ofsted’s National Lead for PSHE education. In an interview with PSHE Association she cites one student as saying:

“My headteacher wants to know why we are still teaching PSHE when it is isn’t statutory and doesn’t really count for anything anymore”

Ms Palmer’s retort to this popular headteacher’s opinion is that a strong PSHE department can go a long way to fulfilling the SMSC (Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural) requirements set out in the new National Curriculum framework that all schools must adhere to.

Research from Coram Life Education has revealed certain areas where schools can improve their PSHE classes and adapt to the new statutory requirements. The research – a summation of surveys and focus groups undertaken by 85 headteachers – finds that:

  • The biggest issue schools said they face is friendship issues (83%) and while the majority are confident teaching about friendships and family, they want more support to teach puberty, reproduction and feelings, and staying safe and consent
  • Two thirds of schools say they need more guidance on statutory requirements
  • One in three primary schools need more help with identifying children’s needs in relation to Sex and Relationships Education (SRE)
  • Three quarters say they need more advice on consulting parents about SRE.

The demand for better quality lessons and lesson material based on ’embarrassing’ sexual education and its sub-categories is high. One teacher in the Coram report was noted to have said:

“I’d like an easy and fun way of teaching this sensitive area.  SRE is embarrassing for the children. I’d like plans and resources that are easily accessible and easy to follow and teach.”

In support of the recent program proposed by Coram that will be available on their direct platform SCARF in September of this year, Kim Johnson, President of National Association of Head Teachers said that:

“The report highlights the key issues for ensuring children and young adults receive the very best relationships and sex education from well trained, qualified and resourced teachers.”

Ofsted have been vocal about the inadequacies of PSHE departments in schools for a long time. A report that they submitted in 2013 drew parallels between a strong PSHE department and strong academic grades. The report was entitled “Not Yet Good Enough” and it hasn’t changed much since then according to Janet Palmer.

With the implementation of Coram’s project including a comprehensive set of lesson plans, activities and teacher/parent guidance along the themes of relationships and emotional health, body ownership, puberty and reproduction, we will hopefully see a more positive title in the years to come.