Calls for a review of all personal and social education (PSE)

Date: 31st May 2017
Category: Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities

The Scottish Parliament Education and Skills Committee is calling for a review of all personal & social education (PSE) after criticising the inconsistent and inadequate provision of sex education in many of Scotland's schools.

The conclusion follows an inquiry by the Scottish Parliament's Education and Skills Committee which looked at how and what should be taught as part of PSE. The Committee heard there was a lack of consistency in what was being taught throughout Scotland meaning that there was patchy provision in teaching young people about sex and relationships, understanding and accepting diversity, and mental health awareness.

Now the Committee is calling for a review of the delivery of PSE throughout all schools in Scotland.

Committee Convener James Dornan MSP said:

"Whilst the Committee heard about some excellent and innovative examples of how PSE was taught and despite it being a key part of the Curriculum for Excellence nationally, it is clear that in some places PSE is just not a priority.

"The Committee received the views of hundreds of teachers, parents and young people including moving personal stories. The Committee heard worrying accounts of vital topics such as what constitutes sexual consent and LGBTI issues not being covered. This simply is not good enough.

"This is a subject which is not just a 'nice to have'. It is a vital part of our education system and one which can help foster an inclusive environment where all children and young people can learn about respecting themselves and others.

"A review of the delivery of PSE in our schools is now a priority and we would ask the Scottish Government to instigate this as soon as possible. There are also things schools and local authorities can do now to make sure that children are getting the most from PSE including working with young people to co-design and engage them in the learning process."

To support its inquiry, the Committee asked pupils and teachers across the country what subjects should be included as part of PSE. The core topics highlighted included:

  • Sex and relationships education
  • Inclusivity
  • Mental health
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Citizenship
  • Financial planning

The Committee also welcomed the Scottish Government's establishment of a working group on LBGTI inclusive education and acknowledged the Scottish Government's commitment to review PSE in its Mental Health Strategy 2017-27. The Committee recommended that any review of PSE be undertaken by Education Scotland and also focus on SRE and the extent to which PSE provision helps schools comply with existing statutory duties.

The Committee recognises that schools and teachers are very busy and any review and the delivery of PSE must take into account workload pressures.


PSE are lessons that tend to be focused on health and wellbeing and practical life and study skills.
Not all schools will choose to teach these parts of the curriculum through a stand-alone lesson and there is no statutory requirement to provide PSE or specific elements of it, such as SRE, in Scotland. However broader statutory requirements exist in relation to health and equalities.

The Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) Scotland Act 2007 places a duty on all schools to be "health promoting". Health promoting includes sexual health and mental health.

In England, the recently passed Children and Social Work Act 2017 will make Relationships and Sex Education mandatory in all secondary schools and Relationships Education mandatory in all primary schools. The Act also enables the UK Government to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic education mandatory to all pupils in English schools.

Together made the following recommendations in its 2016 State of Children's Rights report:

  • Implement RSHP education consistently and effectively by improving content and establishing monitoring systems to ensure schools carry this work out to a high standard.
  • Ensure RSHP education strategies are culturally sensitive and take into account the multiple influencing factors (such as emotional literacy, consent, pornography, attitudes, gender equality and abuse and exploitation) and the need for age and stage appropriate learning within a coordinated long-term approach.
  • Ensure resources used for RSHP education are inclusive of a range of identities (in terms of visible representation and relevant content) including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, minority ethnic young people, and those with a disability.
  • Ensure children who are not in school have access to RSHP education and broaden out-of-school approaches to RSHP education through youth work, faith institutions and other networks.
  • Read more information from the Committee here, including a short video on the issue.