The DfES has rejected a call by the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy (AKA Teenage Pregnancy Unit to make PSHE compulsory in secondary schools.
You might think that as the country’s leading PSHE publisher I’d be up in arms about this, but actually I think they are quite right to hold back. PSHE is one of the best things to happen in education in the last two decades, but I’ve always been against making any part of it compulsory.
I’ve just helped my wife finish a report for the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Medicine on the state of sex education across Europe. What fascinated me about the research was the personal anecdotes of good and bad sex education. The real cringe-makers seemed to be associated with adults (a mix of teachers and parents) who were forcing themselves through the process despite extreme embarrassment – and often under compulsion.
Good sex education, on the other hand, was delivered by people who were clear why they were doing it, and were congruent that they had chosen the right time and place.
So here’s why I continue to favour voluntary sex education (and by extension voluntary PSHE). To be taught well, it must be taught willingly. And the willing will volunteer anyway.