Every child should receive age-appropriate lessons in personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education – and we should not underestimate its importance in helping to address some of the biggest issues facing society today.
The National Crime Agency’s recent warning on how live streaming is increasingly being used to groom, blackmail and abuse victims, many of which are children and young people, is a typical case in point. It is absolutely critical that teachers, parents and children themselves are aware of the potential dangers they face and we all need to be talking to our children about healthy relationships and staying safe online. PSHE education is the vehicle to do just that.
However, PSHE is not a subject which can be simply taught by ‘chalk and board’ or projector slides. In my experience of supporting over 150 UK primary schools in PSHE teaching, there are certain tools and techniques that just work. One is these is utilising education technology and visually engaging content which give schools an opportunity to open up pupils to dangerous situations in a virtual world, enabling them to make choices in a safe environment and being able to make mistakes on the way.
PSHE, as we know, touches on some very sensitive subjects. If you take our 1decision resources, schools engage children in topical issues including online safety, differences within religion, same sex marriage, appropriate touch, and peer pressure. Our modules cover personal safety, health and wellbeing, statutory sex and relationships education, British values, the working world, feelings and emotions, healthy relationships, and media influences.
At the heart of the challenge is equipping children with the vocabulary, understanding and confidence to speak out. Helping them understand what is and is not acceptable. That way, they will know what to do if they come across something they think is wrong. But we also need to engage students through technology they are used to dealing with in their day-to-day lives. Statistics show that at least 65% of children born in the last century are predominantly visual learners because of their significant exposure to technology. Therefore, it is essential that education provides a curriculum suited to their needs.
Our PSHE resources for children aged 5-11 use animated and real-life characters to help make sensitive topics less personal for children. Students watch the characters in simulated real-life situations, decide what to do next, and subsequently work through the activities and apply their new knowledge to situations they may face now and in the future. The interactive on-screen resources combine a series of documentaries and videos on key topics with alternative endings, complemented with supporting activities and assessments throughout.
Our use of technology reflects our approach to prevention not cure. Overall, pupils have really thrived on the digital content and we have evidence from parents that children have continued to think about their lessons at home. The resources are often shared with parents at open evenings and through learning journals, and they can see that we are helping to shape and build their children’s characters in a positive way.
The current Department for Education consultation around statutory PSHE must recognise the role of technology in the delivery of effective PSHE. Teachers need access to effective and outcome-driven resources. This requires investment – investment from schools made possible by top-down investment and commitment from the government. And through this we can reach children early and begin to make a difference on this generation and those to come.
Research from the PSHE Association published earlier this month shows that PSHE education boosts pupils’ grades – this will be no surprise to anyone working in schools and in my experience every child who receives age-appropriate PSHE emerges as a better learner.
Whether PSHE becomes compulsory or not – though clearly if it does this brings an immediate requirement for all schools to address the issue – schools must seek out easy-to-use and age-appropriate technologies which engage children.
1decision is a PSHE programme for 5-11 year olds, and part of Headway learning resources. For more information, visit 1decision.co.uk/