PSHE is described as an important part of a child’s education which should be delivered by all schools . The state that the non-statutory nature of the subject allows PSHE to be moulded to the needs of specific groups of pupils, depending upon the environment in which they live and their particular needs. A critical aim provided for by this subject is that it should enable pupils to be able to make sound assessment of risk, and encourage learners to build up the necessary skills and knowledge to enable them to make considered, informed decisions. This is particularly important with regard to issues such as drug education, sex and relationships education, financial education and health education . The subject is described as the vehicle through which meaningful debate about essential issues can be brought into children’s lives which allows them to develop the life skills to become independent, informed and active citizens (Department for Education and Employment/Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, 1999; endorsed by Worcestershire County Council, 2007). The DfE (2015, p. 4) state that PSHE is a planned programme of school-based learning opportunities and experiences that deal with the real life issues children and young people face as they grow up,” covering those issues in two strands: personal well-being covers sex and relationships education, drug and alcohol education, emotional health and well-being, diet and healthy lifestyle and safety education, with economic well-being covering careers education, work-related learning, enterprise education and financial capability. It is pertinent to note that although PSHE for Key Stages is not compulsory, some aspects are statutory, such as education with regard to sex and relationships, drugs, careers and work-related learning. It should also be noted that schools are expected to coordinate, plan, monitor and assess their provision of PSHE, as with any other subject area.
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In order to be able to fully comprehend PSHE in its current form, it is important that there is an understanding of its development which began with an acknowledgement that children’s personal and social development should be at the centre of any educative process, in order to ensure balanced cultural, spiritual, moral, mental and physical well-being . As stated above, the educative process should foster attitudes of equal opportunity, democracy, healthy living and sustainable development which in turn should enable pupils to develop a profound sense of self . Its inception as a subject came in the 1980s although much of the content associated with it was delivered via the hidden curriculum . With the advent of the National Curriculum came the notion that this content could be delivered as a part of the 10 curriculum subjects stipulated as being compulsory by the government. It was only as a result of the increased emphasis upon inclusive education that PSHE began to be seen as a discrete subject in its own right, being driven by the need for a citizenship education programme and a renewed commitment to the highest quality educational provision for all children (Department for Education and Employment, 1997). Health education as well as personal, social and emotional development were addressed via the Foundation Stage curriculum documentation which paved the way for the Early Years Foundation Stage (Department for Children, Schools and Families , 2008). This document, and documents produced for educational provision post 2003, were influenced by the Every Child Matters (ECM) initiative which called for a greater degree of multiagency working in order to ensure the safeguarding of children. ECM aimed to provide teaching which allows children the opportunity to develop the knowledge, understanding and skills which enable them to be healthy, to remain safe, to enjoy life and to achieve things, to contribute to society around them and to be able to attain financial stability. There are palpable links between these aims and that of any good quality PSHE provision (Knowles, 2009) as well as additional support programmes across all age groups, such as the Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning Syllabus which provides a holistic approach towards encouraging the social and emotional skills that underpin effective learning, positive behaviour, regular attendance, staff effectiveness and the emotional health and well-being of all learning and work in schools”.
Clearly, PSHE has a central role to play in the curriculum with regard to providing pupils with opportunities to explore important issues which effect of them as individuals and society in general. The approach which individual settings take with regard to this area will have an impact upon the effect that it can have in children’s lives. It is critical that the school’s approach to PSHE is one which is engaging, thought-provoking and inclusive in order to provide equality of opportunity and an acceptance of difference irrespective of individual pupil backgrounds, abilities, faith, sexual orientation and gender identity. The whole school community must work as a team from the governors all the way through to the youngest pupils in order that pupils are provided with opportunities to develop as balanced, fair minded individuals.