PSHE’s link to behaviour – and Ofsted success

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The link between effective PSHE education and good student behaviour is evident, Ofsted has reminded schools. A report into PSHE provision also notes a close correlation between schools’ overall inspection grades and their grade for PSHE.

The link between effective PSHE education and good student behaviour is evident, Ofsted has reminded schools.

A report into PSHE provision also notes a close correlation between schools’ overall inspection grades and their grade for PSHE.

The study, entitled Not Yet Good Enough, found that PSHE provision was good or better in 60 per cent of the 50 schools visited (24 primary, 24 secondary, two special).

Inspectors highlight a range of good practice, while also listing areas where provision is lacking. Criticisms include that: 

  • Sex and relationships education (SRE) required improvement in almost half of secondary schools and a third of primaries.

  • Teachers lacked the training to tackle sensitive and controversial issues.

  • Most pupils understood the dangers of smoking and illegal drugs, but were less aware of the damage associated with alcohol misuse.

  • Teachers did not always check pupils’ previous learning meaning work was being repeated and not built on.

  • In secondary schools, too much emphasis is placed on the “mechanics” of reproduction rather than on the importance of healthy sexual relationships.

Ofsted says it is concerned by a lack of “high-quality, age-appropriate SRE” in more than a third of schools which it says could leave children vulnerable to “inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation”.

The report adds: “This is because they have not been taught the appropriate language or developed the confidence to describe unwanted behaviours or know where to go to for help.”

Inspectors found that while half of schools gave lessons about staying safe, few pupils had the skills to apply this knowledge, “such as the assertiveness skills to stand up for themselves and negotiate their way through difficult situations”.

The report found that teaching was good or better in 62 per cent of secondaries, but that too many teachers lacked expertise in tackling the sensitive and controversial issues, which resulted in topics such as sexuality, mental health and domestic violence being omitted.

It adds: “This was because subject-specific training and support were too often inadequate. In 20 per cent of schools, staff had received little or no training to teach PSHE education. Teaching was not good in any of these schools.”

Some secondary students told inspectors that their PSHE lessons “had avoided discussion of sexual and emotional feelings and controversial issues such as sexual abuse, homosexuality and pornography”.

The curriculum was good or better in two-thirds of schools and was usually more “coherent and comprehensive” in schools which offered discrete lessons. Ofsted said pupils’ knowledge in schools which taught PSHE through other subjects was largely dependent on their GCSE options. Also, in 80 per cent of schools, outside speakers were making a valuable contribution, the report found.

The development of pupils’ personal and social skills was found to be good or better in 42 of the schools with inspectors seeing the commonplace and casual use of homophobic and disablist language in the weaker schools.

The report states: “The contribution that effective PSHE education can make to good behaviour and safety and to pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is evident throughout this report.”

Noting the close link between a school’s grades for overall effectiveness and PSHE, the report adds: “All but two of the schools graded outstanding at their last Section 5 were also graded outstanding for PSHE education, and none were less than good.”

Ofsted highlights evidence of good practice and also lists the characteristics of outstanding PSHE, which inspectors say revolves around teachers’ excellent subject knowledge and skill in tackling sensitive topics, the effective use of questioning, high-quality enrichment activities, rigorous assessment, a regularly reviewed curriculum, and high-profile leadership support.

Download the report at www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/not-yet-good-enough-personal-social-health-and-economic-education-schools


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