I’m really glad to see the EEF (Education Endowment Fund) report on literacy in secondary schools state categorically that literacy is subject specific, not just general.
“Each subject has its own unique language, ways of knowing, doing, and communicating.”
Students need to be able to read, read well, comprehend what they’re reading, and put it to use. If they can’t do something as basic as that, how are they going to access the curriculum? How will they move on to higher levels of learning? How will they achieve anything significant in their GCSEs and A-Levels? The answer is, they won’t. Therefore, it’s up to each individual subject area to really think about its unique language, ways of knowing, doing, and communicating. And so we come to PSHE.
Students need to be reading in PSHE as well. I’m tired of how PSHE has traditionally been delivered across different schools that I’ve witnessed – let’s talk a bit, discuss some things over card sorts, ‘reflect’ on what we’ve learnt (usually without structure), and then go home. No. There’s so much rich content available for use in PSHE, which we who design the curriculum are aware of, because we use it to justify the existence of this subject on the timetable. There’s surveys with attitudes on different things; there’s newspaper articles seemingly every day on the misuse and harm of drugs and technology; there’s so many things to know about safeguarding and how that feeds into the work we do. It has a distinct style that displays concern, empathy, matter-of-factness (e.g. around health information), and advice catered specifically for those going through issues. Why should all of that background reading be denied to our students?
Where to source material from
One of the strengths of PSHE is that we’re not relying on old, irrelevant, discontextualised material. Our material is current, relevant to the lives of our students, and in the context of the environments they’re in – be that in school, home, or their local area. I’m just going to list out different places you can go to for material you can get your students reading in class.
- News articles. I’ve found the Guardian’s ‘Society‘ section quite helpful in this regard. For example, you can see that today there’s an article that says one in four women experience domestic abuse before the age of 50. That is something that fits into multiple areas of the curriculum.
- The Childline website’s ‘Info And Advice‘ section has lots of things related to different topics such as bullying, relationships, sexual health, feelings, etc. Other excellent websites are the NHS website (for info around tobacco, alcohol, stress, for example); Umbrella (for all things sexual health, and abuse and violence); the NSPCC’s ‘Keeping Children Safe‘ section; Brook (again, more for sexual health and relationships); Mind (excellent for issues around mental health). There’s so many – the point is that you can search by topics and find lots of reading material.
- The British Social Attitudes website looks at people’s views on things like fairness, democracy, immigration, work, and health.
- The ‘Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel’ annual report is a very interesting read, especially for things such as domestic abuse, sexual abuse, links to mental health, and implications for children that are looked after or on a child protection plan. The 2020 report can be found here.
- DfE reports come out all the time, providing great contextual information. Here’s one on children and young people’s wellbeing. This will also help you think about the content of your curriculum.
- Other reports get released by different organisations all the time too on important areas. For example, here’s one on gangs and violence from 2017.
- If you go to the personal development section of Amazon, you can find SO many books on this area, which are especially useful when covering healthy routines and behaviours, and mental health. One of my personal favourites is ‘Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway’.
- You can Google search a myriad of poems to do with different subjects such as loss and grief, confusion, anxiety, happiness, etc. Put them in your lessons.
- If you’re using the ‘Christopher Winters Project’ resources, or the PSHE Association ones, the teacher guides have lots of information in them that you can use in lessons too. Why should that remain exclusive to the teacher when it explains so much for students too?
I hope you get the point. PSHE shouldn’t be outside of the realm of literacy. It has so much reading you can do, which will only add flavour to your lessons and give them gravitas. Best of luck with it.