Gov't accused of ignoring education in the fight against child abuse
Personal, Social, Health and Economic education should play a more prominent role in addressing child sexual exploitation, according to the PSHE Association, other leading bodies and a series of recent reports focused on child safety.
The Association is calling on the Government to respond to an Education Committee report which found that the Department for Education’s approach to PSHE education was “weak”.
The Prime Minister is today hosting a summit on child sexual exploitation, as new evidence emerges from Oxfordshire of widespread child abuse.
Other recent inquiries into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, Rochdale, Birmingham and Manchester have all highlighted the need for schools to teach pupils how to keep themselves and others safe.
The Jay report on child sexual abuse in Rotherham stated that the victims were “scathing” about the lessons they received in school.
This makes the Government’s inaction on improving PSHE - the subject through which pupils learn to keep themselves safe - surprising and disappointing, according to PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman.
He said: “In not acting on the Education Select Committee recommendations and in failing to learn the lessons from four child sexual abuse inquiries, the Government is missing a crucial opportunity to ensure that all children receive education to keep themselves safe and healthy.
“It is particularly concerning that the Government has also failed to listen to the victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham who were, according to the Jay report, “scathing” about the education they received on this area.
“Focusing on professionals failing to report is just one piece in the puzzle: if to the Government is serious about preventing abuse in the first place, we need to help all young people to understand what a healthy, and an unhealthy, relationship looks like. We therefore need Government to commit to statutory PSHE so that children are not let down again.”
If the Government ignores the Education Committee’s recommendation for PSHE to be made a statutory part of the curriculum, the Association says, it will mean that lessons on consent and healthy relationships will continue to be squeezed from school timetables and taught by untrained teachers, leaving pupils at risk.
The campaign for statutory status for PSHE education is supported by 6 Royal Medical Colleges, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, the NSPCC, Barnardo’s and almost 90% of teachers and parents.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Home Affairs Committee, the Chair of the Health Committee and All Party Group chairs from across the political spectrum have also all called for this change.
The PSHE Association is urging the Government to make a stronger commitment to improving the subject’s status before the election in May.