Understanding Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education in Primary Schools


Nick Boddington, Adrian King & Jenny McWhirter

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    This book is dedicated to Noreen Wetton, practitioner, researcher and friend, whose memory inspired the writing of this book.

    About the Authors

    Nick Boddington Starting his career as an art and mathematics teacher working in both primary and secondary schools in north London, Nick Boddington joined the Advisory Service where he specialised in the teaching of sensitive issues including SRE, HIV, bullying and drug education. One of the first Ofsted Inspectors to be trained, he left the Advisory Service as Lead Senior Adviser for Children's Wellbeing for Essex to take up his current position as Subject Adviser with the national PSHE Association. Nick is committed to a model of PSHE that places children's individual and unique understanding of their world and their own enquiry at the centre of learning. He is co-author of a number of government documents, academic texts and teaching resources committed to improving the quality of PSHE education. He has spent over 25 years championing the importance of placing high quality PSHE at the centre of the school curriculum.

    Adrian King has been a teacher in both primary and secondary schools and was Health Education Co-ordinator for Berkshire Local Authority from 1985 to 1998. Since then he has been an independent consultant, trainer and author. In 2004 Adrian was the consultant engaged to write Drugs: Guidance for Schools for the Department for Children, School and Families. He has been Membership Secretary of the National Health Education Group since 1986 and has also been an elected official for both the Drug Education Forum and the Drug Education Practitioners' Forum. Adrian is committed to improving the quality of PSHE education for young people, working to ensure it addresses their needs, and respects both their rights and their responsibilities.

    Dr Jenny McWhirter is the Research Associate for the PSHE Association and has been interested in the health and wellbeing of children and young people since working as a part-time youth worker in the 1980s. She has been researching effective approaches to PSHE education for more than 25 years. At Southampton University she managed an MSc in Health Education with Health Promotion and developed a special study in PSHE and Citizenship for the secondary PGCE programme. Her research includes many aspects of PSHE education, including personal finance, asthma and drug education. After leaving academia in 2003, Jenny worked for DrugScope and later RoSPA, as an education advisor. Jenny has been Chair of the Drug Education Forum and the Drug Education Practitioners' Forum. She was a member of the NICE Programme Development Group ‘Strategies to prevent unintentional injuries among the under-15s’. Jenny's current research includes effective responses to drug and alcohol hidden harm.


    Our thanks to: Celia Allaby, pfeg; Mike Ashton, Editor of Drug and Alcohol Findings; Andrew Brown, Mentor UK; Eleanor Formby, Sheffield Hallam University; Andrew McWhirter, Claudia Pridmore and Lucy Hills (critical friends); staff and children of Banyan and Palm classes, Brindishe Green Primary School, Lewisham; Nicola Overland, Justine Mathews, Jacqui Tyler, and members of the Student Council of Moulsham Junior School, Essex; Nicola Speechly-Watson (formerly Curriculum Development Adviser with Essex Local Authority); Katherine Weare, Emeritus Professor, School of Education, Southampton University.

    Also, our thanks to the following organisations: Elsevier; the PSHE Association; and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

    Finally, we would like to thank the editorial staff at Sage Publications for their help and support.

  • PSHE Education and Safeguarding

    Because PSHE education addresses many of the most sensitive issues in children's lives and draws on children's real life experiences it is inevitable that some pupils will reveal experiences that cause us concern. Any concern whatsoever that a teacher has about a child's personal safety should be shared immediately with the school's ‘named’ or ‘responsible’ person for safeguarding (sometimes referred to as child protection), usually the school's head teacher or deputy head. The rule for any adult working with children is ‘If in doubt, shout’.

    PSHE education is not the central focus for work around safeguarding but it can make a significant contribution. A planned programme of PSHE education can help children to reflect on their own safety, and to develop the skills, vocabulary and strategies that will help them keep themselves safe.

    In the real world children may be unable to protect themselves, especially from adults. These may be adults that they love deeply and care about. Asking for help is not easy, even for adults. If a child is being abused they need to know that the abuse is wrong, that they have a right for it to stop, and that it can and should stop. They have to be able to share how they feel and what is happening to them. If the abuse is sexual they need an appropriate vocabulary that enables them to share and describe the nature of this abuse.

    PSHE education also supports children in recognising the distress of their classmates and their responsibilities for helping others, and it provides them with the skills, strategies and language they need to get support for others they feel are at risk.

    One day your children will be autonomous adults and will need the skills either to protect themselves or access support. This work also provides a foundation for later work in secondary schools. PSHE education encourages the development of positive relationships which may minimise abuse in future society. Examples of the contribution PSHE education can offer are embedded throughout this book.

    There is key legislation covering all professionals’ responsibilities with regard to the safeguarding of children, see the Children Act, 2004, this can be accessed at the following web address: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/31/pdfs/ukpga_20040031_en.pdf (last accessed 28 January 2014).

    PSHE Education and the School Policy Framework

    The vast majority of schools work within a clear policy framework that defines ‘how we do things here’. While policies will often be drafted by members of the school's senior leadership team they are usually the responsibility of the school's governing body, academy trust or in the case of a private school the owner or board of trustees who ratify these drafts. Policies help to make the way schools work transparent to those people who need to know – the teachers, parents and carers, school governors, visitors to the school and external agencies.

    In the case of primary schools, children will usually not be directly involved in the creation of policy; however, many schools consult with children about what is important to them through their student council, and this data informs the creation or review of many policies.

    Policies can help keep all members of the school ‘safe’ by offering an agreed way of working. The best policies are formulated through consultation with all the different groups that will be affected by the policy, and many schools report that the process of constructing a policy is as valuable as the final document. Through consultation a common understanding emerges; there is clarity of purpose; and once this is in place, people can work independently, confident that they know the overall direction of work and the boundaries within which they can operate.

    Policy is not the same as protocol. Protocols are the agreed procedures everyone agrees to follow should something happen. Protocols will be shaped by the individual school's policy.

    The majority of schools will have an overarching mission statement – this tries to encapsulate in a sentence or two the overall purpose of the school. While these can seem a little like a ‘marketing slogan’, once again it is the process of trying to create a concise short statement that truly captures the school's overall purpose that is of value. The power of this process and the dialogue it generates, if undertaken in a truly inclusive ‘whole school approach’, should not be underestimated and can strengthen the whole school community (see Chapter 3 for more on the importance of the health promoting school).

    Many schools then underpin their mission with a series of stated overarching aims (general statements of intent describing the direction in which the children will go in terms of what they might learn or what the teacher will provide) and objectives (more specific statements about what the learner should or will be able to do after attending the school). In the best schools decisions are always undertaken mindful of the school's mission, aims and objectives. Policies then contextualise the mission and aims into either subject policies (for example the school's PSHE education policy) or issue-based policies (for example safeguarding or child protection policy).

    Since a school is a place of learning, any policy related to children should begin by exploring the contribution of the curriculum. For example, a school's anti-bullying policy should focus on how the curriculum reduces bullying behaviour and encourages and enables young people who either experience or fear bullying to be able to get help. The next level of the policy should consider how the school's overarching ethos can address bullying through either modelling appropriate behaviour or supporting children, and then finally how the school will respond to incidents of bullying.

    PSHE education is taught within a wide policy framework. It will be shaped by the specific PSHE education policy, the school's sex and relationships policy, the school's drug policy, anti-bullying policy, health and safety policy and the school's equalities and inclusion policy. Just as with any other subject, PSHE education should be mindful of the school's assessment, reporting and recording policy.

    As we have stated elsewhere, overarching all of these is the school's safeguarding or child protection policy with the guiding principle that ‘The child's welfare is always paramount’.

    We recommend keeping up to date with any changes in expectations at the national level by visiting the PSHE Association's website: www.pshe-association.org.uk.

    ‘Little Alien’ – Photocopiable Activity Plan

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