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Equipping Tomorrow's Adults Through PSHE

01/02/24, 22:00

Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education has never been more vital in its power to transform lives - but it's also under attack from resources that are stretched to breaking point. This article delves into the reasons why PSHE deserves prime positioning and how external resources can be harnessed to help fill the gap.

Teachers suffering under increasing workloads 

It's an uphill battle that teachers know all too well, squeezed between rising administrative demands, larger class sizes, and evolving curriculum expectations. This constant pressure leaves little time for individualized attention, innovative lesson planning, or professional development - and topics like PSHE can fall by the wayside. A leaked government report last year revealed some teachers are working 60 hours or more a week, with a quarter considering leaving the profession altogether because of the "unacceptable" high workload. The findings from a survey conducted by the Department for Education (DfE), and seen by Sky News (31 March, 2023), said "eight in ten were working upwards of 40 hours, while 22% worked 60 hours a week or more. The average teacher works just shy of 50 hours a week." However, a glimmer of hope shines in the form of external resources and services. That's where services like The Prime Agency can step in with innovative educational content, that informs and entertains, whilst addressing the need for engaging PSHE.

Building Blocks for Resilience: Mental Health and Wellbeing

One of the most crucial aspects of PSHE is its focus on mental health and wellbeing. With one in eight young people experiencing a mental health problem, equipping them with coping mechanisms and fostering emotional literacy becomes imperative. PSHE provides a safe space for discussing mental health openly and honestly, challenging stigma and empowering students to seek help when needed.

Broadcaster Roman Kemp knows first-hand the impact of serious mental health issues. In 2020 his best friend passed away and Roman made Our Silent Emergency, a candid and personal documentary exploring mental health and suicide. He encouraged those in need to talk to friends, family and professionals, but has since strived to move the conversation on from talking about mental health, to discovering what action is needed to support those suffering.

In a recent interview with the BBC Roman addressed what more could be done now: 

"More funding in terms of prevention. There is a lot of money that is spent on postvention and intervention, but you need to stop the problem before it even arises. You need to get into schools, you need to be able to provide those mental health support teams, that can help someone, when they get to adult life, they know how to deal with these issues. They are not presenting at A&E trying to work out what is happening with their brain, it would have been already learnt and talked about at school. That’s a massive thing in this documentary, me going out asking what help do they need? Teachers are under so much stress. It was an eye opener."

PSHE can bridge this gap by training teachers to facilitate supportive discussions, teaching students about different mental health conditions, and introducing mindfulness techniques for managing stress and anxiety.

Navigating the Digital Landscape: Digital Literacy and Citizenship

The digital age presents unique challenges for young people. PSHE plays a crucial role in nurturing responsible digital citizenship, teaching them about online safety, critical thinking, and responsible online behavior.

A BBC News report recently showed a huge uptick in cyberbullying in Kent, "Almost a third of participants in the survey said they had been been on the receiving end of cyberbullying - up nearly a fifth on the same survey five years ago. In addition, nearly 500 young people admitted to being online bullies themselves, equating to about 11% of those surveyed." (BBC News, June 2023). 

PSHE can equip students to identify and navigate cyberbullying, protect their privacy online, and critically evaluate information encountered online. This empowers them to be responsible digital citizens and navigate the online world with confidence.

Relationships and Sex Education: Fostering Healthy Relationships

PSHE plays a critical role in fostering healthy relationships and providing comprehensive sex education. This goes beyond the biological aspects, encompassing consent, healthy communication, and building respectful relationships.

According to the ONS "25% of women aged 18 to 74 experienced abuse before the age of 16, in England and Wales (year ending March 2022). (ONS, Feb 2024). PSHE can empower young people to recognize and challenge unhealthy relationship dynamics, build healthy boundaries, and seek help if needed. This contributes to creating a generation aware of and committed to building respectful and positive relationships.

Economic Awareness and Life Skills: Preparing for the Future

PSHE goes beyond personal and social development, also equipping students with essential life skills and economic awareness. This includes financial literacy, career planning, and understanding their rights and responsibilities in the workplace.

Young people in the UK are less confident about their career prospects compared to their international peers according to an article published in the Independent. "A survey conducted for The Prince’s Trust found those in lower-income countries were more optimistic about having better jobs than their parents. A third of Britons surveyed in the research (33%) also said they did not feel confident they would always have secure employment. Around the same number of Britons (35%) were concerned they would not have a fulfilling career." (The Independent, August 2023). PSHE can prepare them for this dynamic environment by teaching them job application skills, financial management, and entrepreneurship. This empowers them to make informed decisions about their future and navigate the changing economic landscape with confidence.

Investing in the Future: Prioritizing PSHE

The benefits of PSHE extend far beyond individual students, impacting communities and contributing to a healthier, more resilient society. By fostering mental well-being, responsible digital citizenship, healthy relationships, and economic awareness, PSHE lays the foundation for a generation equipped to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

Despite its undeniable value, PSHE often faces challenges, including inadequate funding, lack of dedicated teaching time, and varying quality of provision. The government, educational institutions, and wider society must prioritize PSHE, ensuring it receives the resources and support it deserves. This includes dedicated training for teachers, robust curriculum frameworks, and a cultural shift that recognizes PSHE as an essential pillar of well-rounded education.

In conclusion, PSHE is not a mere add-on, but a vital component of equipping young people with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to thrive in a complex world. By prioritizing PSHE, we invest in the future, fostering a generation of resilient, responsible, and engaged citizens ready to build a brighter tomorrow.

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