PSHE is often a wooly subject but necessary to create a safe space

When you think of PSHE, what comes to mind?

When you think of PSHE, what comes to mind?

For most, I would wager, that PSHE is a woolly subject that you are not quite sure about.

Is it that drop-down day once a year?

Or those three sex education lessons you do in the summer term.

Or is it the circle times you do when someone has a fight at lunch?

Maybe it is your subject and it drives you mad trying to coordinate something that is given so little kudos.

Maybe you don’t even know what the letters stand for!

PSHE is the acronym for Personal, Social and Health Education.

The Ofsted document ‘Not Yet Good Enough’ shares that PSHE requires improvement in nearly half of all schools. And with little or no content training in initial teacher training, it is no wonder that many don’t know what it is, let alone have the skills to teach high quality, impactful PSHE lessons.

We are in an age where our children and young people are flooded with the online world, where fear around the status of the country in the global arena has been building for years, we are in a place where child on child violence seems to be rising day by day and grooming and child sexual abuse is at worryingly high levels.

So, how do our children and young people learn to navigate such a world without a safe space to explore their ‘real-life’ challenges?

For me, PSHE is so much more than that woolly label often associated with it of ‘life skills’. I argue that PSHE (when taught well) first and foremost provides a safe, held space so that students can explore the very many things that they may be struggling within their life- inside and outside of school.

For example – we know that 1 in 4 students will be the victim of abuse in our classes. 25% of your students, at any one time, will be in a space where something awful is happening to them.

With high-quality PSHE you can:

create that safe space,
where there are ground rules in place,
where no one asks you a direct question in front of your peers,
where work is de-personalised…

… so that you can build empathy and ask questions about the ‘character’ rather than share from your own dark experiences (which, we know, you are unlikely to do).

If you are taught how to reach out, to get help. If you are given anonymous ways to contact people for help. If you are exploring topics such as domestic abuse or keeping secrets or body autonomy in a way that helps you see that what you are experiencing is actually not the norm and not the experiences of all of your peers.

Then perhaps….just maybe, you might be able to share subtle hints or even gain the courage to confide in someone and ask for help.

Where else in the busy school day is this space readily provided?

Think about that. Where else are your students given regular empowering lessons that might just change their lives from a cycle of abuse to reaching out for help?

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