The seven myths of PSHE education

With an increasing focus on the role of PSHE education in preparing young people for today’s world, the PSHE Association’s Jenny Barksfield dispels seven commonly found myths about this crucial subject in SecEd.

Recognition of PSHE education’s potential to improve children and young people’s safety, health and life-chances appears to be on the increase, yet a few misunderstandings about the subject remain. 

With schools preparing for relationships and sex education (RSE) – and hopefully all of PSHE education – to become statutory in all schools from September next year, we wanted to debunk some of the most common myths about the subject.

PSHE education is a “nice-to-have” but must make way for academic subjects

It’s not a question of either/or when it comes to PSHE and academic subjects. Research shows that PSHE supports pupils to achieve, by both helping to remove barriers to learning (for example anxiety, bullying or concerns about social media) and by fostering skills and attributes such as resilience that help pupils achieve (Pro Bono Economics, 2017). 

You don’t need a full scheme of work for PSHE education as there are plenty of “off-the-shelf” lesson plans available.

Some excellent lesson plans from national organisations – often free or of little cost – are available for planning individual lessons, such as those that have achieved the PSHE Association Quality Mark (see further information), but these should be integrated into your planned programme instead of being used in an ad-hoc or reactive fashion. Without forward planning even the best resources will fail to have the desired impact.

PSHE education lessons do not need to be planned in the same way as for other subjects, as they can be fully led by student discussion.

Skilled PSHE teachers will be able to judge when something comes up through discussion that is important to pursue, even if it means veering from the lesson plan. However, this does not mean that PSHE lesson plans should be free-form with no clear learning objectives and outcomes in mind. This again is where planning comes in, and topic areas should be considered as part of a broader scheme. High-quality teaching resources will support teachers to incorporate student discussion in a meaningful, structured way.

Read more myths The seven myths of PSHE education

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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  1. Children hate PSHE so much that by year 11 they all bunk off. One head of year even made a comment in the year book to the effect that she had failed to convey the idea that ‘PSHE lessons are not optional’. Oh, the irony – PSHE is still non-statutory, so yes, they are optional…. and why was she so annoyed about the 16-year-old truants making ‘informed choices’ to miss the lessons? Surely that shows the lessons so far have been successful?

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