I recently read an article that reported on a new study carried out by the Centre Forum Mental Health Commission that suggested that happiness classes should become part of the school curriculum. The article highlighted some very valid and interesting issues such as factors that cause young people to develop a mental health disorder and the fact that, as a consequence, some turn to cannabis, alcohol or self-harm.
In another piece, there was a call for the inclusion of issues regarding sexual abuse and violence into the school curriculum based on the idea that the number of cases of sexual abuse and rape being recorded would reduce if young people were made aware and understood the issues.
Nowadays, possibly as a consequence of ubiquitous nature of technology and the 24-hour news it offers, it would seem that a week doesn’t pass by without a politician, scientist or even a celebrity, calling for awareness of a particular issue to be added to an already crammed-full PSHE (Personal, Social, Health Education – also referred to as PSE, PSHCE and PSHEE) curriculum to ensure it is delivered to young people in a classroom.
The question that I found myself reflecting on is how the ever-evolving PSHE curriculum can be delivered to students, in a manner that ensures good pedagogical practice.
In my role as a supply teacher, I get to visit numerous schools that employ different approaches and innovative practices that allow this to happen and it is worth sharing these ideas as PSHE departments in other schools may wish to try them out themselves.
Periodically, in one school I attend, they have ‘Stop-the-Clock’ days. This is when for whole or even just half a day, the normal subject timetable is abandoned and the tutor groups within different year groups focus on different, age-related PSHE subject areas. So, year 8’s may look at healthy-living including lessons on healthy-eating and the dangers of smoking. Year 10’s may study aspects of sexual health such as relationships, STI’s and contraception.
The cross-curricula approach
A number of schools in which I have taught employ a cross-curricula approach to the delivery of the PSHE subject matter where certain aspects are explicitly integrated into specific subject area. This could be where sexual health and contraception is naturally combined with the delivery of reproduction within the science curriculum. Relationships could be explored within the drama curriculum or the subject of drug taking could be considered when focusing on fictional writing or poetry.
Another option, other than dedicated PSHE lessons, is to deliver PSHE content during form time. As these tend to be relatively short, then the activities may need to be stretched over a number of periods or constricted to short discussions etc. As a consequence of limited time, this approach does have the benefit of holding the attention of those students who might have a tendency to go off-task in longer PSHE lessons. The disadvantage however, is that form teachers may not have the expertise in delivering certain subject areas - as an ICT teacher, I confess to finding the delivery of content on contraception to my form of lively year 8’s very uncomfortable and challenging.
Do you have any other innovative suggestions regarding the delivery of the PSHE curriculum? Does your school or department take a different approach? Please comment below and share your ideas so that other teachers and departmental head may learn and develop their practice.