Research review highlights PSHE’s role in boosting academic attainment

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
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There is “very strong evidence” that PSHE has a positive impact on academic attainment, particularly for disadvantaged pupils, a research review has concluded.

The report, compiled by the charity Pro Bono Economics for the PSHE Association, says that the subject’s proven impact on physical and mental health, levels of bullying and general behaviour means that it can remove barriers to learning and helps skill development.

The PSHE Association is now renewing calls for the government to act to make PSHE statutory alongside relationships and sex education (RSE), which is due to become a statutory requirement from September 2019.

The independent review was produced by expert economists from a number of government departments, volunteering through Pro Bono Economics.

It looked at national and international evidence contained in more than 1,200 pieces of research. This showed that PSHE programmes can be effective in developing social and emotional skills, better behaviour, supporting emotional wellbeing, improving physical health, and tackling bullying.

The review concludes that these positive outcomes help young people to be healthier, happier and safer, which enables them to do better in school.

For poorer students, the impact is greater as PSHE can also develop skills and attributes such as confidence and positive risk-taking, the report suggests.

PSHE is currently a non-statutory school curriculum subject, but in a 2013 subject report Ofsted estimated that 40 per cent of schools were not yet teaching it well enough. Furthermore, Department for Education data shows that time spent teaching PSHE fell by 29 per cent from 2011 to 2015.

Last year, when the government put plans into law to make RSE statutory by September 2019, it also gave itself the option to make PSHE statutory at a later date.

The statutory guidance for RSE is expected to be published soon and the PSHE Association is now pushing the government to follow this up by announcing plans for statutory PSHE.

Jonathan Baggaley, chief executive of the PSHE Association. said: “By supporting mental health, physical health, safeguarding and healthy relationships, PSHE education removes numerous barriers to learning, clearing the way for pupils to succeed in their academic studies while gaining invaluable knowledge and skills for life.

“It must therefore be prioritised so that all children in all schools receive regular PSHE lessons, taught by trained teachers.”

Diane Coyle, Pro Bono Economics trustee and professor of economics at the University of Manchester, added: “This report summarises the positive impact on academic attainment, including through benefits to physical health, mental health and behaviour, all of which greatly affect students not just in the classroom, but continue to benefit them in their adult life.”

  • Literature Review Evaluating the Impact of PSHE on Students’ Health, Wellbeing and Academic Attainment, December 2017, Pro Bono Economics, PSHE Association:


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