PSHE and SRE 'neglected' in hundreds of inspection reports

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

The on-going debate about PSHE’s place in schools has taken a new turn with evidence showing that Ofsted inspectors are not focusing enough on the subject.

The claim has been made after a study of more than 2,000 primary and secondary school inspection reports from 2015/16.
It has been carried out by the British Humanist Association (BHA), which has now produced a report of its findings and this week said that PSHE and sex and relationships education (SRE) were being “fatally neglected” by inspections.

The report finds that SRE is mentioned by inspectors in less than one per cent of the more than 2,000 inspection reports while PSHE is mentioned in 14 per cent, fewer than most other subjects.

By comparison, geography is mentioned in 26 per cent of the reports, music in 31 per cent, art in 31 per cent, and history in
36 per cent.

Other findings included:

  • Just one per cent of reports mentioned sexual health, safe sex and other related topics.
  • Just one per cent of reports mentioned issues such as gender discrimination and sexism.
  • Just one per cent of reports mentioned sexting, while only one single report mentioned pornography.
  • Homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic (HBT) bullying was addressed in just 14 per cent of reports.
  • There was only one mention of HIV/AIDS in all the reports, which referred to content on emerging economies in a geography lesson.

Not found at all among the reports were topics such as sexual harassment and sexual violence, this is despite recent evidence from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee that one in three 16 to 18-year-old girls have experienced unwanted sexual touching while at school and 59 per cent of young women aged 13 to 21 faced some form of sexual harassment while at school or college.

A campaign calling for compulsory PSHE and SRE in all schools has been backed by a range of bodies and organisations, including five House of Commons Select Committees. However, so far, the Department for Education has resisted the calls, preferring to trust schools to deliver the subjects as they see fit.

In 2013, an Ofsted subject report on PSHE found that teaching was not good enough in 40 per cent of the schools visited by inspectors for the study. The new Ofsted Common Inspection Framework, introduced in 2015, gave more weight in inspections to pupils’ personal development and welfare.

However, BHA chief executive Andrew Copson said this was not translating into action by inspectors: “One of the many ways in which the government has sought to excuse its failure to make PSHE and SRE compulsory in schools is by insisting that Ofsted is effectively guaranteeing the subject is taught through its inspections. Unfortunately, as this report demonstrates, that is very clearly not the case.

‘To lay the blame at the feet of Ofsted and its inspectors would be wrong, however. The fact is that the attention given to PSHE by inspectors is entirely commensurate with the importance ascribed to it by government.

“Ofsted certainly has an important role to play when it comes to PSHE, as it does in other subjects, but the only way that PSHE and SRE will meaningfully improve is if the subject is afforded the statutory status it deserves.”

  • The report, Healthy, Happy, Safe? An investigation into how PSHE and SRE are inspected in English schools, can be found via


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