Waltham Forest educators discover the future of PSHE in schools

Headteachers, senior leaders and subject experts have been brought together by the London Borough of Waltham Forest to explore new government guidelines on Relationships Education and Health Education in primary schools, which come into effect in September 2020.

The PSHE Discovery Conference on 13th March was organised by Headway Education, a social enterprise established to help provide children, and those who teach them, with the most up-to-date, sophisticated, high-quality and engaging materials possible, in partnership with the Borough. Headway’s innovative 1decision PSHE programme for primary schools is already used by over 100 schools around the country, and educators in Waltham Forest had the opportunity to learn more about the resource.

Within the bank of the 1decision programme for 5-11 year olds, schools can engage children in PSHE and related subjects through its relationships, growing and changing, feelings and emotions, and keeping/staying healthy modules. Teachers cover issues such as friendship, bullying, appropriate touch, puberty and healthy eating, as well as explore peer pressure, cyber bullying, image sharing, differences within religion and same sex marriage. The interactive on-screen programme features videos on key topics with alternative endings, with supporting activities and assessments throughout.

Speaking at the conference, Catherine Hutchinson, Public Health Strategist for Health in Schools at London Borough of Waltham Forest, outlined some of the major challenges around health in schools which drive the overall PSHE agenda. “Most mental health disorders develop at primary school age, 67% of teachers say they come into contact with pupils that self-harm, and suicide is the most common death in young people,” she said. “This is why we are pushing the 1decision resource to primary schools. The sooner you can talk about things the better, including Relationships and Sex Education (RSE), healthy relationships, consent and other important topics.”

Catherine went on to highlight the specific issue of school meals meeting healthy eating standards. “Tooth decay does not come up that much, but it is immensely important,” she said. “It affects speech and how you consume food. However, a lot of our primary school children are not going to the dentist. We are doing a lot of work with local dentists to make sure they are accepting children as patients, often from the age of two. We are also planning on auditing school meals to check they are meeting the standards.”

Other speakers included Headway Managing Director Ken Pritchard and 1decision creator Hayley Sherwood. “Schools need to think about children and how they learn, to ensure they are equipping young people with the vocabulary, understanding and confidence to be able to explore what are often highly sensitive issues,” Hayley said. “Our use of animated characters makes these PSHE, and now RSE and Health Education, topics less personal for the children. Pupils watch the characters and live action films with child actors in simulated real-life situations, decide what to do next with the options provided, and subsequently work through the activities and apply their new knowledge to situations they may face now and in the future.”

David Kilgallon, Director of Education at Waltham Forest Borough, added: “Anything we can do to enhance young people’s experience at school is critical. Schools are about more than data and figures. They are about teaching young people how to move on in their life and career and the best opportunity to do that is early on. Impact is far greater when they are eight, nine or ten years old. 1decision is something we came across and, after having several meetings to see it from all different angles, we find is really strong.”