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Nicky Morgan: ‘Let me have a think about making PSHE statutory’

September 4, 2014

Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan has hinted that she could be moving towards supporting statutory Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education.

On Wednesday, the senior Tory told the Times Educational Supplement: “Let me have a think about it. I think PSHE is very important…

“I particularly want to emphasise the relationships element of it, and we have to think about how this ties in with teaching about healthy self-esteem and character.

“I am also Minister for Equalities and one of the things this government will continue to look at is homophobic and transphobic bullying and I think these things all tie in together.”

The Minister added: “There is a balance too between saying from Whitehall ‘this is what we want to do’ and schools feeling more overburdened. It is a balance that I am conscious of needing to strike.”

In response, PSHE Association Chief Executive Joe Hayman said: “We really welcome the Secretary of State’s open-minded approach and her commitment to pupil mental health, education about healthy relationships and preparation for life and work in modern Britain – all key elements of PSHE education.”

Mr Hayman continued: “Nicky Morgan clearly sees the value of PSHE and has listened to the debate about it, but is understandably keen not to overburden schools. A National Union of Teachers survey suggested that an overwhelming proportion of teachers would support statutory status. We do, however, appreciate the government’s position, and look forward to further discussions.”

He concluded: “We completely agree with the Secretary of State that government should not be excessively prescriptive and that schools should have the freedom to meet pupil needs through PSHE education, rather than having their curriculum determined from Whitehall.

“The key thing is to ensure that there is space on the timetable for the subject and that PSHE is taught by trained teachers, which is why we are pressing for statutory status.”

Liberal Democrat Justice Minister Simon Hughes has issued support for a Private Members’ Bill, tabled by Green MP Caroline Lucas, requiring the government to make PSHE a statutory requirement for schools.

Mr Hughes said he expected that Lib Dem MPs would vote in favour of the bill next month.

“I’m not aware that there is anybody in the parliamentary party that doesn’t think this is a good thing,” he said.

“I expect our colleagues to vote for it unless they had a very good reason for not doing so.”

Last Tuesday, in a major policy shift, the Liberal Democrats announced they would make PSHE compulsory in all state-funded schools, as part of a manifesto pledge.

The Lib Dems and the Conservatives twice voted against measures for statutory sex and relationships education (SRE) last year.

The Conservatives and the Department for Education last week reiterated its opposition to PSHE.

It said SRE was already “compulsory” in all maintained schools.

However, several Tory parliamentarians, including the Conservative peer Lord Fowler, MP Michael Fabricant, and Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Health Select Committee, have expressed their individual support for the policy in the past week.

Labour has already promised to make SRE statutory if it wins the 2015 general election.

Nicky Morgan voted against same-sex marriage last year.

But she recently said it was now “great” that same-sex couples in England and Wales can marry.

More: conservative mp, Education Secretary, England, Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan, PSHE, schools, Sex and relationships education, sex education, SRE, tory mp

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