Education Secretary announces improvements to teaching of PSE in schools

Schools will be given updated guidance on teaching pupils about relationships and consent in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

Education Secretary John Swinney announced teachers in personal and social education (PSE) classes will receive new “support and resources” to help them inform youngsters about “issues such as sexual harassment and online influences”.

Another reform will “enable pupils to design and deliver learning that is relevant to them” for the classes.

The changes are being made after a review of PSE in Scotland found teaching in this area to be inconsistent and inadequate.

In 2017, MSPs on Holyrood’s Education Committee uncovered evidence that for some young people, particularly those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI), “sex education comes from the internet, including pornography, due to a lack of adequate provision within school”.

It also found the issue of sexual consent was not covered consistently in classes.

A total of 16 recommendations for change were made as a result of the review carried out after that, with Mr Swinney saying these had all been accepted by the Scottish Government.

Green MSP Ross Greer, who pressed for the committee to carry out the initial investigation, welcomed the changes.

The West of Scotland representative said: “PSE is crucial to every young person’s education, helping them with everything from relationships to their mental health.

“I know that in reality it is often seen as an afterthought though and wildly inconsistent delivery across the country is badly failing hundreds of thousands of young people.

“Action on this was the first thing I called for after my election, putting this process in motion, so I’m satisfied to see the progress we’ve made.”

His comments came after Mr Swinney said making the changes would “strengthen PSE delivery and prepare children and young people for learning, work and for life”.

Mr Swinney stressed: “It is vital that PSE provides children with the right learning, at the right stage and in the right manner.”

He added PSE lessons were “critical to giving young people the knowledge, skills and resilience to navigate the various stages of their lives and reach their full potential”.

Mr Swinney said: “Pupils have told us that PSE needs to be more relevant, empathetic and informative and must reflect the issues facing young people today.

“Updated consent education will be stage and age appropriate, will involve young people in the design and delivery of classes and will deliver more consistent teaching at all levels.”

Stephen McCabe, the children and young people’s spokesman for the local government body Cosla, said councils would work with the government, teaching unions and others to ensure the recommendations are “implemented appropriately”.

He stated: “Personal and Social Education is an important element of the work schools across Scotland are involved in everyday to ensure that children and young people develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need now and in the future for mental, emotional, social and physical well-being.”