Sex education ‘not good enough’

Posted On: 
1st May 2013

An Ofsted report on PSHE has found that sexuality, mental health and domestic violence not being taught properly in 40% of schools.

The inspection body said PSHE teaching required improvement in 42% of primary and 38% of secondary schools and “too many teachers lacked expertise in teaching sensitive and controversial issues”.

It said subject-specific training and support were too often inadequate.

In 20% of schools, staff had received little or no training to teach PSHE education. Teaching was not good in any of these schools.

“By far the weakest aspect of teaching was the assessment of pupils’ learning which was often less robust for PSHE education than for other subjects,” Ofsted said

“In too many schools, teachers did not check or build on pupils’ previous knowledge which resulted in them repeating topics, and they had lower expectations of the quality of pupils’ work in PSHE education than for the same pupils in other subjects.”

Learning in PSHE education was good or better in 60% of schools and required improvement or was inadequate in 40%.

In the weaker schools, the casual use of homophobic and disablist language was commonplace and pupils’ personal and social skills required improvement.

PSHE Association’s Chief Executive, Joe Hayman, said:

"The reality is that while there is outstanding practice in many schools, too many teachers go into PSHE lessons ill-equipped to deal with the extremely important and challenging issues the subject covers.

“Whether dealing with safeguarding areas of personal safety in relation to sex and relationships, substance misuse and issues related to mental health, it is obvious from the report that teachers need more training and more support.”

Ofsted said sex and relationships education required improvement in over a third of schools, leaving some children and young people unprepared for the physical and emotional changes they will experience during puberty, and later when they grow up and form adult relationships.

“This is a particular concern because as recent research conducted by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation indicates, failure to provide high quality, age-appropriate sex and relationships education may leave young people vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and exploitation, particularly if they are not taught the appropriate language, or have not developed the confidence to describe unwanted behaviours, do not know who to go to for help, or understand that sexual exploitation is wrong,” the report said.

“In just under half of the schools, pupils learnt how to keep themselves safe in a variety of situations but not all had practised negotiating risky situations or applied security settings to social networking sites.”

Mr Hayman commented:

“We agree with Ofsted that PSHE education ‘Is not yet good enough’ and want to work with schools and other partners to raise standards by providing quality resources, updated programmes of study, training and support to schools to effectively plan, deliver and assess their PSHE programmes, with assessment a particular priority as the Ofsted report suggests.

“We also know we need to make the case at a local and a national level for PSHE education to be given the status it deserves. In that context, we call on the Department for Education to heed our request to make a more explicit link in the national curriculum framework between PSHE and schools’ statutory responsibilities.

“This would provide clarity for schools about the importance of PSHE education, a key recommendation of the Ofsted report. “