Three ways one simple survey is improving our PSHE provision

Aimee Stevens sets out how NHS research is powering her school’s PSHE teaching with data, influencing its curriculum and giving its students a voice

Aimee Stevens sets out how NHS research is powering her school’s PSHE teaching with data, influencing its curriculum and giving its students a voice

26 Sep 2023, 5:00

The value of personal, social, health, and economic education (PSHE) in schools has never been more important. As teachers across the country well know, the disruption to students’ development caused by the pandemic has had serious consequences for their social, emotional, and physical health. Meanwhile, schools are increasingly expected to provide wraparound care for students with extra breakfast and after-school clubs to extend opportunities for students’ social learning.

These contributing factors mean there has never been more pressure on PSHE teachers to nurture students’ personal development. This is why reviewing your school’s approach to PSHE is vital, to ensure provision supports every school’s overarching objective of nurturing happy, healthy and engaged children and young people.

Teaching facts, not fear

At Penrice Academy, it’s our belief that PSHE should be data-driven and information-led. One of the challenges of teaching PSHE is that pupils can think their teachers are scare-mongering and trying to dissuade them from experiencing things without reason.

This is why I build my lessons around government-sourced, genuine statistics. In my classroom, I want to have healthy discussions that are based on facts and not fear. Being able to use statistics and data in my lessons provides strength and clarity to my teaching and helps students understand these issues in a wide and balanced context. 

A free personalised resource

With school budgets squeezed, the investment and resource put into PSHE certainly feels the pinch. Despite this, the range of topics and important conversations we need to cover in a thirty-minute per week PSHE lesson is ever growing.  

Therefore, taking advantage of opportunities that can bolster your provision but don’t require any budget are crucial. Penrice Academy has recently taken part in the pilot of the new online version of the NHS England ‘Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use among Young People in England’ survey.

The data from this survey reveals the current prevalence, trends, and attitudes towards smoking, drinking, and drugs among students aged 11 to 16 across England. Helpfully, this year the survey is being conducted completely online, which has improved its accessibility for our students and reduced administration time. 

Once the survey is complete, every school receives an individual report from NHS England, which can then feed back into your school’s PSHE curriculum and pastoral provision. Having this information has helped us to ensure we are being responsive to the behaviours, experiences and attitudes of our students by adapting our PSHE provision accordingly.

A voice in national policy

As a teacher in a school in a relatively remote part of the southwest, I am conscious of the fact that our young people are not always given a voice or a platform to share their stories and experiences. This does not mean that their voices are not important or that their contributions are not valuable. My job is to show them that they should and are being heard. That is why surveys like this are such an important part of our PSHE provision.

Not only does it build a national picture of trends and behaviours among young people, but it is one of the main sources of information for government departments, local authorities, and charities. The information therefore helps the formulation of national government policy and wider guidance.

I want our students and their experiences to be a part of that conversation. Not only is it important for the accuracy of the data for NHS England to have schools participate across the country, but it is also important for our students to know that their experiences matter, and for us as teachers to reflect that within our curriculum and our lessons.

In order to be able to respond to the emerging and changing behaviours of our students, we need to have accurate information about what those changing trends are. Utilising this to open up conversations in the classroom is the most effective way to shape your PSHE curriculum so that it genuinely delivers for students.

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