At the heart of every educational institution lies a commitment not only to academic excellence but also to nurturing well-rounded individuals equipped to navigate life’s challenges. This commitment finds its embodiment in the often underappreciated yet profoundly impactful subject: Personal, Social, Health, and Economic Education (PSHE). Today (Friday), our school celebrated its inaugural annual PSHE day, delving into an array of crucial topics vital for the holistic development of our students.
In assembly on Monday, I acknowledged to the students that PSHE is not always their favourite subject and that events such as this one, are often met with a chorus of groans and some olympic grade eye rolling! We are aware that students often find PSHE lessons difficult. Not because the content is too much for them to access, but because the nature of a good PSHE lesson opens the floor for discussion on some challenging and, often, uncomfortable topics. I invite you to imagine yourself now in a room full of your peers, discussing issues on sex and relationships, consent, self harm, discrimination against those with protected characteristics or pornography to name just a few. Now think back to how you would have experienced that as a teenager. Our societal expectations and tolerances for such topics are often still to view them as taboo, restricting the ability of young people to discuss them freely and openly, and therefore the role of PSHE in school is vital.
Exploring these themes in a safe and non judgmental environment is crucial for children and teenagers. So much of the information they receive on these topics is thrust at them from a variety of online sources, many of which are largely inaccurate, to put it mildly, and some of which can be fundamentally harmful to their understanding of the realities of adult life. PSHE offers them the chance to experiment with concepts and allow themselves the thinking time to consider their own thoughts and feelings towards them without pressuring them to reach a solid conclusion. PSHE debunks myths about life that they may have been exposed to via social media or “playground gossip”. And PSHE supplies them with the tools they need, like reasoning, debate and empathy, to navigate the increasingly tricky waters of the outside world.
Some of the topics we have covered in this week’s PSHE day, are topics that we feel are important to our students for their ongoing social development and to better equip them to manage personal challenges that they may experience at some point in their future. Whilst we wish smooth sailing in life for all of our students, we must acknowledge that this is not always the case. Inviting experts into school to discuss some of the grittier areas of the curriculum ensures that our students have an opportunity to consolidate prior learning in the most valuable way. The following themes have formed significant elements of the day:
- One of the primary pillars of PSHE revolves around mental health and self-care. Discussions around self-harm and managing one’s wellbeing are indispensable in today’s world. Our students engaged in conversations that not only fostered understanding but also provided coping mechanisms and support networks for those in need.
- In an age where digital realms dominate, addressing harmful online content, including the exposure to pornography, is imperative. Empowering our youth to navigate the internet safely and responsibly is part of our duty as educators. The PSHE day was a platform to illuminate the potential dangers and promote strategies for responsible online behaviour.
- Understanding consent is paramount in fostering healthy relationships. The sessions on this topic were aimed at instilling respect, boundaries, and the importance of mutual agreement in all interactions. Addressing issues related to sexual violence within this context, further empowered our older students to recognise and combat such behaviors.
- Financial literacy stands as a fundament of adult life. Equipping our students with the knowledge and skills to manage their finances ensures they step into the world beyond school as prepared and confident individuals. These discussions on finance during the PSHE day opened doors to understanding budgeting, investments, and responsible financial decision-making.
Central to the success of these discussions are the skilled professionals who guide and shape these sessions. Lucienne Shakir, Deana Puccio Ferraro and Satveer Nijjar are experts in their fields, adept at tailoring their discussions to be not just informative but also accessible and age-appropriate. Their contributions were invaluable in making the day a resounding success. I must also thank Mr Pietropaoli, our dedicated PSHE Coordinator, who has carefully crafted the arrangements for this day to take place. Without his hard work, this day would certainly not have been so successful. In his letter to parents earlier this half term, Mr Pietropaoli commented,
“The PSHE curriculum plays a vital role in the holistic development of children and teenagers. It goes beyond traditional academic subjects to address the crucial life skills, values and knowledge of which our students need to thrive in today’s complex world. A varied PSHE curriculum encompasses topics such as mental and physical health, relationships, financial literacy, personal safety and much more. Research has consistently shown that a robust PSHE program can have a profound impact on the well-being and future success of our students.”
His commitment and passion to the ongoing development and success of PSHE as a subject is commendable and we eagerly await further progress in this area of school life.
Moreover, the active involvement of parents as contributors added a unique dimension to the discussions. Their insights and experiences added depth and relatability to the topics covered, reinforcing the collaborative effort between home and school in nurturing well-informed and responsible individuals. As we reflect on the success of this inaugural PSHE day, we eagerly anticipate planning future events. We extend our gratitude to all contributors and especially to the parent contributors whose participation added an extra layer of value to the day. Looking ahead, we invite individuals passionate about PSHE topics to join us as volunteers for upcoming events. Your valuable contributions could shape the minds of our future generation. As a parent, if you have expert knowledge on a topic that would be useful for our students, please do reach out to us and we will be delighted to discuss options for your involvement within our PSHE programme.
In conclusion, PSHE is not just another subject in the curriculum; it’s a cornerstone in the foundation of our students’ lives. By addressing these vital topics, we empower young minds with the information and tools they need to navigate the complexities of the wider world confidently and responsibly. I am incredibly proud of our students and the incredible young adults they go on to become, and I know that our commitment to PSHE continues to help make their success in life possible.
Deputy Head Pastoral