Nicky Morgan has been accused of “sidestepping” a decision as to whether or not the government will move towards making PSHE and sex education compulsory in schools.
The education secretary today released responses to the Education Select Committee’s report from February, which recommended the Department for Education (DfE) “develop a workplan for introducing age-appropriate PSHE and sex education as statutory subjects in primary and secondary schools”.
But Ms Morgan’s decision is still unclear.
She said: “All young people should leave school prepared for life in modern Britain. High quality PSHE teaching has a vital role to play in this, helping young people understand the world around them, building resilience and helping them to make informed choices and stay safe.
“In March I announced new measures to improve the quality of PSHE, including the development of a new, rigorous PSHE quality mark and working with the PSHE association to quality assure resources.
“However, we recognise that PSHE is not yet good enough in many schools. In the coming months I intend to look at all the options to ensure PSHE is taught well everywhere.”
Schools Week pressed the DfE for clearer details but was told no further statements would be made.
Neil Carmichael (pictured right), chair of the Education Committee, branded the response as “feeble”.
He said: “The response made by the government today is disappointing.
“Ministers entirely sidestep the call made by MPs in the closing months of the last Parliament to give statutory status to PSHE.
“They also reject or brush over nearly every other recommendation made by the previous Education Committee in their key report published five months ago.”
He added that it is unclear why it should have taken the government so long to publish “such a feeble response”.
“The inquiry found the Government’s strategy for improving PSHE and sex and relationships education in schools to be weak. Yet there is nothing in this response to reassure Parliament – or young people – that the situation will now improve.
“Ministers know that PSHE requires improvement in 40 per cent of schools, yet they appear to see no urgency in tackling this.
“I am confident that the new Committee will want to pursue this matter with ministers, making use of any new evidence and questioning the Secretary of State further in due course.”
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive at the National Children’s Bureau, said: “The Education Select Committee Inquiry, after hearing evidence concluded that the argument in favour of statutory PSHE and SRE had been won. Ministers must follow suit, and guarantee all pupils their right to vital ‘life lessons’ to prepare them for adulthood.”
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive at theNational AIDS Trust, added that the government’s refusal to give pupils an equal access to information is “creating a two-tier education system”.
Yesterday, Green MP Caroline Lucas renewed her efforts to make PSHE compulsory when she presented a bill to Parliament with cross-party support.
The PSHE bill is based on an earlier piece of legislation tabled by the Brighton Pavilion MP, but which never made it past first reading last July.