Preparing pupils for life beyond school is about ensuring they develop the skills needed to live life to the full, confident that they are making the right choices, being comfortable with themselves and respecting the diversity of people around them.
PSHE lessons provide a safe forum for developing confidence and understanding of some key life skills. In particular, pupils learn to develop a healthy, safer lifestyle and form good relationships. PSHE also helps pupils become independent in both their thoughts and actions, while developing empathy for those around them.
PHSE lessons are timetabled, with one period per fortnight for Years 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. The Year 11 programme also includes a detailed course with a careers and applications focus. We teach PSHE in tutor groups in most years, to encourage an open discussion in which everyone has a chance to express their ideas and opinions, whilst also forging a valuable relationship with a carefully chosen member of staff.
Beyond the timetabled lessons, aspects of PSHE are also embedded within tutorial time, assembly, in lots of academic subjects and in any school activity which is concerned with personal and social skills and happiness. The Department invites experts into school to talk to year groups, and – through sessions organised by the PPA – to parents, on issues such as personal safety, puberty, social media use and alcohol. Often in the format of workshops, drama and Q&A sessions, the pupil sessions provide another way of learning and of expressing yourself, as well as reinforcing PSHE messages.
Citizenship issues can also be found across the curriculum in subjects such as geography, English and religious studies and are intrinsic to the our ethos and learning environment.
As parents and teachers, what do we most want for our children?
We want them to enjoy their childhoods and then to go on to lead flourishing adult lives, confident in their abilities and self-worth; to be productive and happy members of society. A happy life is not a matter of the stuff you have, or whether you are beautiful, healthy, powerful or rich bur rather one in which you deal well with the things that you have – and cope well with illness, poverty, and loss of status, if these things happen to you.
Through teaching emotional wellbeing, we aim to help our students acquire the confidence and awareness to become a person who can reflect on their own thoughts/actions and those of others, and then act accordingly. Hence, the underlying question we address in emotional wellbeing is not “what should I do?” but “what sort of person should I be?” Teaching emotional wellbeing is about involving students in a three stage process: (i) awareness – what do students notice about themselves and others around them, (ii) intention – following thought and discussion, what are the practical steps that a student can take to improve the living of their lives and (iii) evaluation – observing what has been learnt in a real life context. With these aims in mind emotional wellbeing lessons are relaxed, reflective, discussion-based and experiential rather than abstract where possible.
Currently there is one emotional wellbeing per fortnight in Year 7 and 8, taught to tutor group size classes. It is hoped that the course will continue to be developed into Year 9 and above.