Review of Personal and Social Education: preparing Scotland's children and young people for learning, work and life

Review of personal and social education (PSE), including the role of guidance in schools and school counselling services and the effectiveness of the provision of the universal support entitlement for children and young people in local authority schools.

1. Introduction

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) is the national approach in Scotland to improving outcomes and supporting the wellbeing of our children and young people.

GIRFEC describes children and young people's wellbeing in terms of eight Wellbeing Indicators; safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible, and included. These are the basic requirements for all children and young people to grow, develop and reach their full potential. The GIRFEC Wellbeing Indicators provide a common language so that children, young people, families and practitioners (such as teachers, school nurses and youth workers) have a shared understanding of what is meant by wellbeing. The GIRFEC National Practice Model[1] provides a framework for practitioners to understand a child or young person's needs, and consider what support they might need.

Personal and Social Education (PSE), the term used to deliver health and wellbeing (HWB) education in schools, plays a key role in this. The substantial importance of HWB/PSE is reflected in its position as one of eight areas of focus in the curriculum and at the heart of children's and young people's learning. HWB is also a central focus of the Scottish Attainment Challenge and the National Improvement Framework for Education. Along with literacy and numeracy it is one of the three core areas that are the responsibility of all staff in the school.

Learning in HWB/PSE is designed to ensure that children and young people develop the knowledge and understanding, skills, resilience, capabilities and attributes which they need for mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing. Some areas of HWB are the responsibility of all staff in a school. Others have a specific focus, with links to other HWB organisers and other curriculum areas.

HWB is also about the whole approach of the early learning and childcare setting, school, college or other setting. Children and young people should feel nurtured, safe, respected and included in the learning environment and all staff should be proactive in promoting positive relationships and behaviour in the classroom, playground, and wider learning community. Everyone within each early learning setting/school and its wider community, whatever their contact with children and young people may be, shares the responsibility for creating a positive ethos and climate of respect and trust; one in which everyone can make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of each individual within the school and the wider community.

HWB/PSE is a specific timetabled lesson which covers aspects of planning for choices and changes, substance misuse, relationships, sexual health and parenthood, in addition to aspects of physical activity, sport and health. There are six areas which provide a holistic view of HWB.

  • Mental, Emotional, Social and Physical Wellbeing;
  • Planning for Choices and Changes;
  • Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport;
  • Food and Health;
  • Substance Misuse; and,
  • Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP).

Those marked in bold are the responsibility of all (physical activity and sport at early and first levels.).

Schools are encouraged to develop the curriculum to suit their local context and meet the relevant age and stage of development for children and young people. It is good practice for schools to consult with children and young people and respond to their views appropriately, to ensure this meets the needs of all children and young people in the school or educational setting.

There is no specific guidance for local authorities for teaching of PSE, guidance is however made available on individual areas explained above and is updated regularly. There is no equivalent national guidance relating to PSE for young people from S4 to S6.

However, there are two key Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) resources which support teachers to plan learning, teaching and assessment for children and young people aged 3-15 which are the experiences and outcomes for HWB[2] and national benchmarks for Personal and Social Education[3].

Experiences and outcomes span across all five levels of the broad general education phase – Early (pre-school and P1), First (P2-P4), Second (P5-P7), Third (S1-S3) and fourth (S4-S6) – to recognise the nature of development

  • establishing open, positive, supporting relationships across the community, where children and young people will feel that they're listened to, and where they feel secure in their ability to discuss sensitive aspects of their lives;
  • promoting a climate in which children and young people feel safe and secure;
  • modelling behaviour which promotes HWB and encouraging it in others;
  • using learning and teaching methodologies which promote effective learning; and
  • being sensitive and responsive to the wellbeing of each child and young person.

Benchmarks provide clarity on the national standards expected within each curriculum area at each level. They set out clear lines of progression across all curriculum areas from Early to Fourth Levels. Their purpose is to make clear what learners need to know and be able to do to progress through the levels, and to support consistency in teachers' and other practitioners' professional judgements. The benchmarks are designed to be concise and accessible, with sufficient detail to communicate clearly the standards expected for each curriculum level.

Building the curriculum 3 – a framework for learning and teaching[4] was published in 2008 for everyone involved in promoting effective learning for children and young people from 3-18 and outlines the important messages for those involved in planning the curriculum. It sets out what every child and young person should expect their education to provide them with.

With regard to PSE/HWB, it states that every child and young person is entitled to expect their education to provide them with:

  • Personal support to enable them to gain as much as possible from the opportunities which CfE can provide.
  • Support in moving into positive and sustained destinations beyond school.

The guidance outlines that all children and young people should have frequent and regular opportunities to discuss their learning with an adult who knows them well and can act as a mentor, helping them to set appropriate goals for the next stages in learning. This provides opportunities to challenge children's and young people's choices, which may be based on stereotypes. Young people themselves should be at the centre of this planning, as active participants in their learning and development.

For children and young people who need additional support for their learning, this may involve interpretation of the curriculum in ways which address their particular needs and enable them to achieve to the highest levels of which they are capable. This may include planning for enrichment of learning within a particular level, rather than applying pressure to progress to a new level of cognitive development where this is inappropriate. Enrichment of learning through exploration of different contexts may, in some circumstances, also be an effective way of meeting very able pupils' needs at some points.

All children and young people should experience personalisation and choice within their curriculum, including identifying and planning for opportunities for personal achievement in a range of different contexts. This implies taking an interest in learners as individuals, with their own talents and interests.

"I really enjoy PSE and find that in my school, some of the PSE teachers (including my current one) make the lessons almost as if they feel like a safe space where anyone can share their opinion or feelings on any subject and the teachers can be trusted…"

(source: Young Scot online survey: October 2018)


Email: Rachel Macpherson

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