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BHA welcomes Ofsted report highlighting need for improvements in PSHE

Ofsted has today published a new report examining the strengths and weaknesses of Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education in English schools. The report, Not yet good enough: personal, social, health and economic education in schools highlights that further improvements need to be made in teacher training, curriculum coherence and rigour of assessment. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has welcomed the report, and called on the Government to do more to strengthen PSHE.

In the first half of last year Ofsted inspected 50 schools on PSHE, and in the second half a survey of 178 young people was conducted on the subject. Findings of the report include:

  • ‘PSHE education was good or better in 60% of schools and required improvement or was inadequate in 40%. This indicates that the quality of PSHE education is not yet good enough in a sizeable proportion of schools in England.’
  • ‘Sex and relationships education required improvement in over a third of schools. In primary schools this was because too much emphasis was placed on friendships and relationships, leaving pupils ill-prepared for physical and emotional changes during puberty, which many begin to experience before they reach secondary school. In secondary schools it was because too much emphasis was placed on ‘the mechanics’ of reproduction and too little on relationships, sexuality, the influence of pornography on students’ understanding of healthy sexual relationships, dealing with emotions and staying safe.’
  • ‘In just under half of schools, pupils had received lessons about staying safe but few had developed the skills to effectively apply their understanding, such as the assertiveness skills to stand up for themselves and negotiate their way through difficult situations.’
  • ‘Teaching required improvement in 42% of primary and 38% of secondary schools. Too many teachers lacked expertise in teaching sensitive and controversial issues, which resulted in some topics such as sexuality, mental health and domestic violence being omitted from the curriculum. This was because 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.’
  • The report recommends that ‘Schools should ensure that the school delivers age-appropriate sex and relationships education that meets pupils’ needs and contributes to safeguarding them from inappropriate sexual behaviours  and sexual exploitation.’

BHA Education Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘It is clear that more work needs to be done by the Government in order to improve the vital subject of PSHE in our schools. This needs to include the introduction of initial teacher training, an improved curriculum, and a requirement on all schools to teach the subject.

‘We were disappointed when the Government announced in March that the outcome of the PSHE review is essentially no change, but urge the Government to do what it can to improve those elements of sex education that are taught as part of national curriculum science, for example puberty.’


For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072.

Read the previous BHA news item, ‘BHA responds to outcome of PSHE Review’, 21 March 2013:

Read the previous BHA news item, ‘BHA signs SEF letter calling for strong sex education in national curriculum science’, 12 April 2013:

Read the previous BHA news item, ‘BHA responds to English national curriculum review’, 24 April 2013:

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on PSHE and Sex and Relationships Education:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief. The BHA contributes to debate on a wide range of ethical issues from stem cell research to sex education. The BHA is a member of the National Children’s Bureau Sex Education Forum (SEF) and the Children’s Rights Alliance for England.

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