In our next ‘In Conversation with…’ articles, we hear from Lisa Handy & Jan Forshaw, our Curriculum CPD PSHE leads. Here they collectively share their thoughts, observations and tips on their passion, PSHE
What drives you to keep going and advocate PSHE education?
We’re driven by a need to ensure that children have access to the right information at the right time. It’s been brilliant that about 80% of PSHE has been made statutory and has been for the last 3 years, but it’s still early days in the whole scheme of things and there remain some areas, such as Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) that need working on to ensure teachers are well supported to feel skilled and confident to teach the subject, and to ensure the voices of children and young people are being heard – and that this is informing our curriculum offer.
What are some of the key issues you think we are currently facing in PSHE?
A lack of confidence in teachers and schools to make the best decisions for the pupils they teach in RSE. There’s a lot of scaremongering happening in the media at the moment; RSHE has become very politicised, yet the majority of schools are doing a fantastic job and the vast majority of parents and carers trust that their child’s school is doing the right thing. A recent research report carried out by Durham University found that 91% of parents had never felt the need to contact their child’s school about RSE.
In your experience, what are the challenges faced by teachers with PSHE?
Tackling the misinformation that is out there, which in turn leads to lots of time spent meeting with parents to allay their fears about what is being taught – and when – to their child. This is increasing teacher workload and having a negative effect on teachers’ confidence in delivering the subject. This can have a detrimental impact on schools and lead to them choosing not to teach subjects such as sex education, even though the Department of Education strongly recommends primary schools do. In turn, this leads to children losing out and not getting the information they need and want at a timely point – for example, not preparing them for life in secondary school.
What would be your three Top Tips?
- Know your pupils and ensure your PSHE (including RSHE) content stays relevant to their lived experiences and backgrounds.
- Strive to ensure PSHE is a whole-school and indeed whole-community approach. Learning key skills in the classroom and then not rewarding those behaviours when pupils display them in the wider school environment – such as the playground or the dining hall – can be a real missed opportunity to create a safe environment where all children feel they belong. Involving parents and carers regularly in understanding what’s being taught and why it’s important to teach it also helps to build trust across the wider school community.
- Stay connected to colleagues in similar roles. We regularly see teachers who are members of our SCARF Facebook forum generously giving their time to share their ideas – and doing so with genuinely kind, considered responses. This can be a real boost and support to teachers who’ve encountered a tricky situation.
If you could encourage all Primary school teachers to consistently do ONE thing in PSHE, what would it be?
When delivering PSHE, it’s really important we spend time creating a safe learning environment. It’s important for both staff and pupils to know what’s expected of them, where the boundaries are, and the importance of respecting those boundaries. It helps everyone to feel comfortable, knowing that pupils’ and teachers’ personal experiences aren’t relied upon when learning about issues that can feel sensitive to some. This gives children and young people the confidence to speak out and ask questions, without fear of being put down, laughed at, or belittled in any way.
Lisa & Jan both lead the Gateway Alliance Curriculum CPD – Personal Social Health & Economic education events with the most recent receiving fantastic feedback:
‘The session was excellent, so relevant and really helpful for me in my next stages of subject leadership and developing it more proactively.’
‘They provided us with various ideas that we could use with parents and thinking about the importance of using a shared voice towards curriculum development’.
‘The session was very informative with lots of different ways of engaging us.’
Lisa Handy is a highly experienced RSE Educator, Trainer and Consultant. With over 20 years’ experience within the primary and secondary RSE field, having previously worked for Brook, NHS, National Children’s Bureau and was previously a Sex Education Forum Coordinator. Lisa now leads teacher training courses as Coram Life Education‘s RSHE Training and Programme Manager enabling schools to implement high-quality provision for PSHE and meet Ofsted expectations.
Jan Forshaw MBE is the Head of Education for Coram Life Education and responsible for managing and developing the
education services, including their content, strategic direction and evaluation. Jan oversees SCARF and its effectiveness in embedding a whole-school approach to children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. Her earlier career was as a teacher in middle and primary schools, including senior leadership roles. On Thursday 20th April 2023, Jan Forshaw received her MBE as part of the New Year’s Honours of King Charles III in recognition of her incredible service to Life Education during Covid.
If you want to know more, you can find both Jan & Lisa on X (Twitter):
Coram Life Education on X (Twitter) @CoramLifeEd
Lisa Handy on X (Twitter) @HandyEyes
If you would like to benefit from Lisa & Jan’s expertise to support your PSHE provision in school, please contact us on email@example.com
Click here to find out more about our other Curriculum CPD events this year at Gateway Alliance.