What young people say

Latest statement from the Department for Education:

“Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education. All schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice, and this expectation is outlined in the introduction to the proposed new national curriculum.”

Room for improvement…

Despite the excellent work going on in some schools, there is still room for improvement in many, as highlighted in Ofsted’s recent report. Findings included:

  • Most pupils understood the dangers to health of tobacco and illegal drugs but were less aware of the physical and social damage associated with alcohol misuse, including personal safety.
  • Too many teachers lacked expertise in teaching sensitive and controversial issues.
  • In 20% of schools, the staff had received no training or support to teach PSHE education.
  • By far the weakest aspect of teaching was the assessment of pupils’ learning
  • There is a close correlation between being a good school overall and good PSHE education.

In a mapping study of PSHE education the subject of drugs, alcohol and tobacco was found to be covered once a year or less by over 60% of schools at Key Stages 2 to 4, and 74% of schools covered it once a year or less at Key Stage 1. In the case study primary schools, drugs education tended to be identified as a weaker aspect of PSHE education, neither included in SEAL nor timetabled separately.

What young people say

Ofsted’s report found pupils were positive about the need for PSHE in schools: 86% of respondents to their online survey agreed or strongly agreed, with only 2% disagreeing.

During Mentor’s London Youth Involvement Project, youth advisors compared their own experiences of drug education. These were very mixed, and the young people criticised the lack of time spent on these topics; teaching by teachers who lacked specialist knowledge or skills; repetition of information they had covered in previous years; and a focus on factual knowledge about drugs rather than exploring situations relevant to their own lives.

To see whether these experiences were typical they carried out a survey of London secondary pupils’ experiences of drug education. Over 500 responses provided a snapshot of drug education in the capital: around a fifth did not recall having any drug education at all.

From this research they recommended:

  • Drug/PSHE Education should be a standard part of teacher training
  • Schools should be required to spend a certain amount of time on drug education and to cover specific topics
  • Schools should engage young people by using  interactive teaching techniques
  • Drug education lessons should feel like an ongoing learning process not one off information sessions
  • If people are discussing  their own experiences this must be appropriate to the audience of young people
  • Confidential student evaluations of lessons to help improve drug education

What does effective drug and alcohol education look like?

Check out our presentation to find out more.