Personal and Social Health Education (Reform)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 8th March 2017.

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Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

7. To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to reform personal and social health education, in light of evidence presented to the Education and Skills Committee on 22 February 2017. (S5O-00738)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I provided evidence to the Education and Skills Committee this morning on, amongst other things, personal and social education. I will carefully consider any outcomes and recommendations from the committee’s inquiry on PSE as part of our own work on health and wellbeing in the curriculum.

We are all aware of the role that high-quality PSE can have on children and young people’s health and wellbeing, and ensuring that it can be delivered will form part of my contribution to the forthcoming mental health strategy. This morning, I said to the Education and Skills Committee that I am open to considering how we can undertake that activity more effectively and I look forward to hearing the outcome of the committee’s deliberations on the matter.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

It has long been recognised that, not just in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom, the situation is patchy as regards the provision of education in relation to sexual health, mental health, consent and a wide range of other critical life skills that young people need to have access to. There has been some success south of the border, with a cross-party campaign, including a private member’s bill by my colleague Caroline Lucas, pushing the UK Government to acknowledge the need to make PSHE mandatory in all schools.

Does the cabinet secretary accept that the situation is patchy in Scotland? Does he agree that young people in our schools have a right to high-quality education on these issues? Will he ensure that by the means that I have mentioned or by other means, we achieve the objective of ensuring that young people in Scotland are no longer in a lottery as regards the provision of these important skills?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I agree entirely with Mr Harvie’s point that it is important that all young people in Scotland are able to be equipped with the requisite knowledge and awareness of the important issues around their health and wellbeing and their sexual health, including issues of consent. We discussed many of those issues at the committee this morning in what I thought was a helpful conversation.

Mr Harvie rather makes my point for me in saying that there might be a different route by which we undertake that work in Scotland given that we do not have a fixed curriculum. However, health and wellbeing is one of the three principal areas of the curriculum for excellence and, within health and wellbeing, there will be education on relationships and sexual health.

As Mr Harvie will be aware, the Equalities and Human Rights Committee has asked me for an opportunity to reflect on some of the issues that should be in our refreshed strategy. I await the committee’s response in that respect. Once I have that, and have reflected on the conclusions of the Education and Skills Committee, I will be able to address fully the issues that Mr Harvie raises. It is important that young people have that awareness and the opportunity to form their views on these important questions.

Photo of Ross Thomson Ross Thomson Conservative

Will the cabinet secretary join me in welcoming the fact that the time for inclusive education campaign pledge for inclusive education has now received the support of a majority of MSPs? What is the response of the Government to that? Will the cabinet secretary tell the chamber what steps the Government will take to implement the actions in the pledge, now that Parliament has the will to act, so that we can educate to liberate?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As I said to Patrick Harvie, the Government is addressing those issues through the work that is being undertaken on relationships, sexual health and parenthood education, which needs to be comprehensive and inclusive.

The Equalities and Human Rights Committee has asked me for an opportunity to consider some of the issues that have been raised in its deliberations. I have provided that opportunity and await the committee’s conclusions in that respect. Once that information is to hand, the Government will take forward steps to ensure that the approach that we take on relationships, sexual health and parenthood education as part of health and wellbeing, which is one of the three core curricular areas in Scotland, is advanced comprehensively in Scottish education.

Photo of Colin Beattie Colin Beattie Scottish National Party

What action is the Scottish Government taking to promote healthy relationships among young people? What progress is being made on addressing risky behaviour by our young people?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Fundamentally, children and young people should be able to feel safe, respected, happy and included in their learning environment, and all staff must be proactive in the school situation in ensuring that that is the case. Within and outwith schools, young people must be able to operate in an environment in which there is a complete intolerance of bullying, whatever the motivation of that happens to be, and through their education they should be able to learn tolerance, respect, equality and good citizenship as part of fulfilling the four capacities of the curriculum for excellence.

Prejudice has no place in Scotland and the Government continues to work with a range of organisations, such as Stonewall Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland and the TIE campaign, to ensure that we address the important LGBT issues that young people face, and to ensure that young people are supported in that respect.

I reiterate to Mr Beattie the points that I have made to Mr Harvie and Mr Thomson about the importance of the guidance that will be issued on relationships, sexual health and parenthood education, which will largely reflect the conclusions of the analysis that we will undertake.