Children ‘at risk’ after schools drop PSHE safety lessons
The PSHE Association has issued a warning to the Government over serious risks to child safety – as official figures show a significant fall in time allocated to personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education on the curriculum, including lessons on how pupils can help to keep themselves and others safe from abuse and online dangers.
New analysis of Department for Education data has revealed the time spent in secondary schools teaching PSHE education has fallen by over 32% in just four years.
The significant decline comes as new YouGov online polling shows that 92% of parents believe that all pupils should receive PSHE lessons about staying safe from abuse and unsafe contact from strangers both online and offline.
The PSHE Association has called on the Government to take urgent action to make PSHE lessons a statutory entitlement for all school pupils.
The Association’s Chief Executive Joe Hayman said: “These new figures show an alarming decline which will clearly reduce schools’ ability to cover child safety issues such as contact from people they don’t know and staying safe from abuse. This is a deeply concerning trend which leaves children at risk and comes in stark contrast to the views of the overwhelming majority of parents who clearly want their children to receive this education.
Mr Hayman has also written to the new chair of the independent inquiry into historical child sex abuse, Professor Alexis Jay, to highlight the issue.
He added: “In 2014, Alexis Jay said that survivors of abuse in Rotherham were scathing about the education they received in how to keep themselves and others safe. The independent inquiry into child sexual abuse which she now heads has been asked to consider the steps it is necessary for state institutions to take in order to protect children from such abuse.
"We have written to Professor Jay setting out the clear evidence that this kind of education can break cycles of abuse but this potential will never be fulfilled if ministers do not ensure that it is taught in schools.”
A range of reports over recent weeks have highlighted the need for this education to help to keep children safe. Recent figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that over 10% of women had experienced sexual assault in childhood, and that more than three in four victims of such assault had not reported it. International evidence shows that when pupils receive lessons on abuse, they are more likely to seek help, but such lessons are optional for schools to teach and Ofsted has said that what is being taught is “not good enough”.
The Conservative MP and former Child Safety Minister Tim Loughton added:
“The profile of child sexual exploitation has never been higher not just through historic cases now coming forward but the risks posed in the increasingly technological world in which our children grow up. So it is disappointing that schools appear to be doing less not more in educating our younger citizens of the hazards online and giving them the tools to cope with predatory adults as well as inappropriate and abusive approaches from other young people.
"This again reinforces the urgent need to make sure that all our schools and society as a whole are a lot smarter in the way we approach quality sex and relationship education which has been woefully neglected for too long.”