There has been a lot in the press about PSHE in schools and what topics should cover. It is a challenging jigsaw puzzle and one that schools spend a lot of time discussing. Two examples got me thinking.
Teach students what Acne actually is in PSHE, as so many students are bullied and teased because students don’t understand it.
Teach girls how to get the right bra size as many of them don’t like doing games because they don’t know how to get the right sports bra.
Both seem to be the tail wagging the dog. Surely example one should be focusing on “not bullying” ( which I am confident every school covers) and the fact that everyone is different and prejudices society has ( again a topic I am confident is done in every school covered). I asked the girls in the boarding house about example two. To start with they laughed but then thought about it and were horrified that teachers might actually teach this. ” hope you would use props” was the first comment, ” isn’t that what Marks and Spencer’s is for” said another.
My Head of PSHE works well with regular feedback forms but she is willing to add in topics that I feel need covering. The scheme of work and topics aren’t set in stone and if the school has noticed that a particular issue is becoming more prominent then we can add it in, there and then. I keep a planner of topics or issues as a DSL so I can see if patterns arise. For example around May the sixth form girls suddenly seem to all be on diets. It could be for their summer bikini bodies however we investigated and found that the sixth form ball was the catalyst. So we added it in this topic just before the time it was an issue the previous years.
We also asked the pupils what topics they wanted covered. This has been the most valuable and our biggest influencer. Not only do we read and discuss their feedback forms but we have gone to the school pupil forum and asked them. Topics they had enjoyed so far but wanted more information ( and therefore time) included Mental Health ( including resilience ) university / job application, how to write a CV and fill in a job application, student loans, credit cards, different types of contraception for different stages of their life and real life stories. Whenever we have had guest speakers in, they have enjoyed the people who have lived through and come out the other side.
Surely therefore the pupils and individual schools are the best people to decide what they want covered in PSHE and although hind sight and experience are an amazing thing, if the pupils aren’t interested, they’re not going to listen, no matter how important it is.