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'Critically appraise the decision, arising from the Rose Review, to make PSHE a statutory part of the primary school curriculum'
It is the aim of this assignment to critically evaluate the decision to make PSHE a statutory part of the primary school curriculum from 2011. It will look at the benefits and the disadvantages of making PSHE statutory in light of this decision and how this effects practice overall.
PSHE is subject that provides knowledge and skills to deal with a range of issues that children and young people may face as they grow up. It allows them to develop as individuals, and as they grow, develop into successful members of a social and an economic society (National Curriculum: 2000). Within the primary sector it is taught alongside Citizenship that forms the non-statutory framework. However PSHE is distinct of Citizenship although some areas may overlap. Both subjects emphasise the development of skills and exploration of attitudes, with the distinction that Citizenship focuses on pupils' contribution to a purposeful society such as making decisions as opposed to PSHE which supports pupils' development in leading emotionally confident and healthy responsible lives as members of society. (QCA: 2009).
The debate that surrounds the teaching of PSHE and whether it should be a statutory part of the national curriculum has caused much argument over the last five years. Many voices are in favour of the decision made by Ed Balls in November 2009 to make PSHE statutory across all key stages. Advocates call for PSHE to be placed on every timetable across the land, and for specialist training for teachers. It is then they argue that PSHE can be delivered properly, allowing the time and status equal to its potential significance for the development of pupils (Consultation: 2010). The opposition of PSHE becoming statutory however, argue that 'forcing schools into PSHE provision will not guarantee 'high quality teaching of the subject' (find quote). During the consultations other objections included issues such as an already overloaded time-table, concerns about extra money and resources that would be needed to recruit staff ,provision of in-house training and decisions such as what to teach and who would develop the Programme of Study (See appendix 1 for further comments).
It is the duty of all schools to incorporate 'Every Child Matters' (DfES - 2003) policies within their own ethos and school frameworks to ensure the five outcomes of staying healthy, keeping safe, enjoying and achieving, making positive contributions to society and achieving economic well-being are met. It is entirely up to individual schools how best to implement the outcomes but the teaching of PSHE and Citizenship are for many schools good starting points. However many schools fail to deliver the subject properly or not at all, as two detailed reports undertaken by Ofsted in 2003 and 2005 identified. A main concern in the reports was that inadequate training was a major stumbling block, and these findings from the reports have hugely influenced current recommendations. Ofsted also stated that the evidence was clear for making PSHE a statutory foundation subject at all key stages within the national curriculum, both in terms of the research evidence that highlights the importance of PSHE in itself, and in terms of the evidence from Ofsted that current policy is failing to ensure all children receive their entitlement to high quality PSHE (Ofsted: 2005). The provision of PSHE when taught at its best, offers a space in which pupils can stop to consider and reflect on their personal values and beliefs and their place in the world. This makes it an excellent vehicle for exploring personal environments, individual aspirations and the design of personalised learning opportunities that are the goal of 'ECM'. Indeed in his recommendations within the 'Primary Review', Sir Jim Rose states that policies made such as 'ECM' underpin the aims of the revised primary curriculum ' so that is fit for all statutory education' (Sir J. Rose:2009). By making PSHE statutory, advocates argue that the Government are confirming the importance of ECM policies and welcome the indication of the shift in a prescriptive curriculum to become less so and allow for a more creative, free flowing curricula providing excellent teaching and learning for all.
PSHE is often seen as a subject that is hard to define. It has been presented without the need of a distinct curriculum focus (QCA 2000a, 2000b). As a result, it has been delivered with a concoction of approaches and arrangements. Graham Haydon (2005, p. 10) observes that 'statements from official sources about the scope of PSHE are sometimes almost inanely broad, sometimes rather frustratingly specific in giving a list without an underlying rationale.' This reference to the PSHE 'list' deserves attention. What Haydon asserts is that it is 'health' and health issues that have been the primary concern of PSHE; he argues that PSHE can and should cover a wider range of topics that are not always health related. Although he does concur that the impact of the National Health School Standards have assisted in providing good provision of PSHE and is an excellent way forward in establishing consistent, quality PSHE lessons in our schools. For schools to receive National Healthy School Status they have to achieve a certain criteria, and just like ECM policies, schools have to work with children and the wider community. The NHSS is a programme jointly funded by the DfES and the Department of Health (DH) and hosted by the Health Development Agency (HDA). The overall aim is to help schools become both healthy and effective, providing an environment that is conducive to learning and that encourages pupils to achieve. Guidance has been provided to education and health partnerships in the form of standards for developing local healthy schools programmes. The NHSS is at the core of the government's healthy schools programme. One of its key areas of activity is emotional health and well-being (including bullying). In July 2005, Ofsted published a report entitled 'Healthy Minds: promoting emotional health and well-being in school'. This report examined the vital role played by schools in promoting the emotional wellbeing of their pupils, and analysed practice based on evidence gathered from visits by Her Majesty's Inspectors to 72 schools. It also reported on the impact of the guidance provided to schools 5 years ago by the Department for Education and Skills: Promoting children's mental health within early years and school settings and the National Healthy Schools Standards (NHSS), agreed in 1999. A Serious concern is raised in the Ofsted report about the large number of schools in the survey which were not working towards meeting the standard. Only just over half were aware that the NHSS existed and, of these, only a very small minority were working towards or had met the criteria for emotional health and wellbeing in their school. Characteristics of schools which demonstrated good practice in the promotion of mental health included an ethos which valued and respected individuals, a serious approach to bullying and pupils' difficulties with relationships combined with a swift resolution of problems, good arrangements for listening carefully to pupils' views, and the involvement of parents.
The research undertaken by the Government has led to a review of both the Secondary and Primary curriculum. The new curriculum has a clear message that children and young people matter. The involvement in decisions made that affect children and their accumulation of skills as they pass from key stage 1 to key stage 4 are of crucial importance. Their understanding and competence in dealing with their relationships, and complex situations they may face such as drugs, must not be left to chance. By ensuring a programme of study by placing PSHE within the statutory curriculum will address these issues with pupils in a way that involves them actively, starting where they are and helping them forward in ways that they experience and report as relevant to their lives. This vision for the future of education includes personal development. Although the QCA (2007a) lack a concrete definition of what personal development means, they recognise that the well-being of a child or young person is integral to their future lives and their impact to society. Of course with all changes, problems can arise and objections made.
It is argued that PSHE cannot be taught as we would Maths or English and that it would be impossible to assess a subject based on values and attitudes. The opposition argue that by shifting towards more factual content, open discussion and non- judgemental listening skills needed to tackle controversial and sensitive issues would be destroyed (James Park:2009). He asks for example how parenting skills could be tested, and how could the usual grading that is applied to knowledge and understanding of topics explored such as drug taking and smoking be marked? Can children in key stage 1 who discuss feelings and emotions be placed as a level 2? Assessment plays a key role in establishing the development of pupils, it helps diagnose any problems that pupils may have,and informs teaching and curriculum planning. But there is a clear distinction between assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) argue in their review of the proposed changes that the Government need to be explicit in the realisation that there are limitations in relation to outcomes within PSHE education. They state that much of PSHE is not measureable, and attainment targets can not take in to account pupils different learning paths and experiences related to their own personal social and emotional developments. Another concern is that attainment targets would add to what is already seen as a competitive culture in education, and overload busy teachers with more work in an all too busy curriculum. They argue that this effectively detracts from the merit and value that PSHE education has to offer (ATL:2009). The advocates of PSHE becoming statutory also agree that assessment may be difficult but respond by saying that the attitudes and values promoted by the subject will help students to learn, boosting those achievement targets on which so much attention is focused. While their argument is not without merit, it also asks a number of questions. Given the nature of the subject and the diverse skills of those who teach it, what guarantee is there that lessons tagged PSHE will actually deliver the outcomes that some research shows are achievable? One suggestion offered is that attainment targets take a form of curricular entitlements and pupils then discuss if they feel their targets have been met. Another suggested way to meet this challenge is for PSHE to be taught through specialist teachers who have been through an established training programme. The Ofsted report (2007), states that specialists tend to be better at making effective use of group work and role-play. They also tend to be better at taking account of pupils' prior experiences so as 'to create a climate in which pupils are able to express their views and feelings and reflect on the views of others.' By moving to make PSHE statutory specialised training can be developed.
The argument for statutory PSHE is a strong one, and I agree with John West Burnham (2009) that a main concern of schools is to prepare children and young people for the information age. The breadth of knowledge, skills and understanding encompassed by PSHE education is potentially better connected to this vision of education. In the vision of modern schooling, PSHE education has every right to be considered a 'subject' like any other. Secondly, well-being is a legitimate aim for and functions of schools of this century and the next. We are making a mistake if we forget that the world that children and young people are both constructing and will grow to live in already differs considerably from the one in which the current generation of parents, policy-makers and educationalists is operating, but this is the context in which these decisions are being made. The gap in generational capital is widening. Children and young people's learning can and should connect with their well-being now and in the future which includes but is not dominated by their academic achievement. If it is accepted that families and communities make significant variables in the educational experiences of children then PSHE must be a high priority within our schools. It is ironic that it is sex and relationships education (the most controversial of the topics that make up PSHE education) that establishes the value and importance of this connection in particular. I think simply PSHE connects although it has a unique body of knowledge, understanding and skills, and can not be seen as any other subject can, there is no doubt that PSHE education has a unique relevance to the lives and life experiences of children, their families and their communities. This is a great strength. By placing PSHE education on a statutory footing, schools will finally be compelled to deliver. Excellence in curriculum planning, teaching and learning, assessment and participation is possible. Children and young people want to see highly trained teachers delivering inspiring, insightful lessons in PSHE education - the flowering of a subject, of teaching and learning that can offer so much in engaging all pupils is within reach. The ills of the world that our children are growing up in are many and varied, and PSHE education is an attempt to give children an understanding of some of the ills they may face. It is clear that it supports wider well-being outcomes. So, an educational reform with a personal and social character that is fundamentally about children can only be a good thing. As a parent, and a future teacher I can not disagree that learning about careers; financial capability; emotional health and well-being; diet; safety; sex and relationships; internet safety; work-related learning ought to be within the gift of the modern education system, an entitlement for all children and young people. This I feel is the essence of PSHE education. Putting the well-being of children at the heart of our education system remains a moral, social, educational and political imperative. Unfortunately due to Government calling a general election, deletion of the clause proposing PSHE education to become a statutory entitlement within the Children, Schools and Families Bill has been dropped despite broad cross party support for PSHE during debates in both the Houses of Commons and the Lords. This decision has disappointed many campaigners who fought for PSHE to be statutory and campaigners such as the PSHE Association (2010) say it is a 'grave injustice' to children and young adults and will continue with the campaign when the new parliament returns. Until this happens I feel that it is the duty of all schools to teach PSHE and offer the crucial opportunities that support the emotional and social development of pupils. This will in effect ensure that children will develop in to secure adults in a society that we all strive for.