Review of Personal and Social Education

– in the Scottish Parliament on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a statement by John Swinney on a review of personal and social education. The cabinet secretary will take questions at the end of his statement, so there should be no interventions or interruptions.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The health and wellbeing of children and young people in our schools is central to our ambition to achieve excellence and equity for all in a high-performing education system. Personal and social education is a key element of that approach and it must be firmly aligned to the curriculum for excellence. Children and young people must be equipped with the skills and knowledge that they need to make their own decisions.

Equity for all can be achieved only through an inclusive education system. Scotland’s inclusive approach celebrates diversity and allows all children and young people to develop an understanding and recognition of difference. That contributes to the development of an increasingly inclusive, compassionate and equal society. A core principle of personal and social education is to provide young people with the requisite knowledge, skills and resilience to fulfil their potential.

I am very pleased to announce that the review of personal and social education has been completed and I have accepted all the recommendations of the review. I believe that the recommendations will strengthen the delivery of personal and social education in our schools and will support our young people to reach their full potential.

The recommendations will further embed our ambitions for prevention and early intervention in our schools to provide every young person with the opportunity to grow, achieve and succeed as individuals.

Before I speak about the details of the review, I take this opportunity to thank the Education and Skills Committee for investigating the main issues in relation to the content and delivery of PSE. The committee’s report, “Let’s Talk About Personal and Social Education” helped to establish the focus of the review. I am also grateful to Christina McKelvie MSP for her role during her time as convener of the Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee and for the committee’s report, “It is not Cool to be Cruel: Prejudice-based bullying and harassment of children and young people in schools”, which also highlighted the importance of high-quality personal and social education.

I take this opportunity to thank everyone who contributed to the review, especially the young people whose insightful contributions played a huge part in it. Their time and contributions were extremely valuable in shaping the final report and recommendations.

Personal and social education is a key component of the curriculum for excellence. It should support children and young people to gain the knowledge, skills and attributes needed for life in the 21st century, including skills for learning, life and work. Good and relevant personal and social education is a major factor in providing the foundations of successful learning and supporting schools to close the attainment gap.

Personal and social education should be designed to enable children and young people to develop, learn about their rights and responsibilities, help them stay healthy and safe and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities that they will experience.

The review includes 16 recommendations outlining how we can, in co-operation with our partners, improve the delivery of personal and social education to provide all young people with the learning experience that they need and want. The recommendations have been informed by a 20-month review process that involved reviewing existing resources, a thematic inspection of PSE delivery in 55 schools and early learning centres and an extensive six-month engagement programme with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, local authority representatives, third sector organisations, faith groups and young people.

The thematic inspection undertaken by Education Scotland was a significant element in the review process and I am grateful to the inspection team for completing the inspection in a short time. The thematic inspection highlighted key strengths of PSE delivery, as well as areas for improvement, both of which were crucial elements of a thorough and extensive engagement with a range of stakeholders, providing the basis for the suite of recommendations that will strengthen PSE delivery and prepare children and young people for learning, work and life.

The priority and place of PSE in the curriculum and the role of schools’ senior teams in promoting PSE’s importance in our schools is crucial. I am therefore pleased to announce that the Government and our key partners will co-produce a new PSE toolkit to enhance PSE delivery at all stages of education. It will illustrate models of good practice, provide support and resources for teachers on the delivery of PSE and provide models for involving children and young people in the design and delivery of PSE.

It is vital that PSE provides children and young people with the right learning at the right stage and in an appropriate manner. The Scottish Government and Education Scotland will produce advice and guidance on approaches to monitoring young people’s progression in PSE to support schools in providing learning that equips our young people with the knowledge, skills and resilience that they need.

To provide support to teachers and pupils on mental wellbeing, new guidance on the spectrum of mental health and wellbeing services that are available will be produced. That will complement the work that we are taking forward to provide access to school counsellors and enable schools to complement existing provision with additional services and share effective practice that is already delivering improvements in our schools.

Throughout the review, the issue of consent and how it is taught was raised. That is an important aspect of personal and social education. Our young people are facing a number of influences on what is appropriate and inappropriate, especially from online resources. As I announced in November, we will update the existing statutory guidance available to schools on relationships, sexual health and parenthood to ensure that consent education is stage and age appropriate, that it focuses on the issues relevant to young people and that it provides support and resource to our teachers on issues such as sexual harassment and online influences, linking with the work that we are taking forward to deliver lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusive education in our schools.

The senior phase at school is a critical time in which we prepare our young people for life after school. Young people themselves told us, through targeted engagement, that PSE was not meeting their needs and preparing them with the necessary life skills and knowledge that are vital if the pioneers and leaders of tomorrow are to be equipped and ready for the challenges ahead. We will therefore establish a senior phase PSE mentoring programme to enable pupils to design and deliver PSE learning that is relevant to them and that focuses on the issues and knowledge required for the next phase in life. We will also provide support to teachers, through the PSE toolkit, on where they can access support for pupils preparing for life after school.

As well as preparing our children and young people, it is critical that we provide the right level of support and resource for our teachers, to ensure the consistent delivery of PSE in all our schools. We will therefore develop a suite of learning resources that promote a focus on the key issues identified by young people during the review process: life skills; personal development; planning for choices and change; relationships; sexual health; and parenthood. Key partners in career-long professional learning, as well as the third sector, will be instrumental in helping us to deliver this recommendation.

I am also acutely aware, through the review process, of some of the high case-loads that pastoral and guidance teachers are having to deal with, which is having an effect on the support being offered to our young people. I want to improve that situation and to allow teachers to deliver the support and help to young people that they want. The PSE toolkit will deliver that ambition by providing our hugely important pastoral guidance staff with additional resource, a reduction in the bureaucracy that they face and details on evaluated good practice models. Additionally, I believe that our work with local government partners and the teaching unions will enable us to take steps to highlight the vital and rewarding role of pastoral guidance teachers as a career pathway. It is not just the existing teaching profession that we need to equip with the necessary skills and resource, but the teachers of tomorrow. That is why we will work with the General Teaching Council for Scotland to update the standards for professional registration to ensure that the importance of PSE is recognised, and that it is a skill expected of all newly qualified teachers.

There is a great deal of strength in our education system and I am determined to ensure that the delivery of personal and social education is making a difference to the lives of children and young people in Scotland. I am sure that all members here want, like me, a Scotland where children and young people form healthy relationships and value diversity; where everybody should be recognised and respected for who they are individually; where our children and young people can grow up in a safe environment in which their rights and needs are respected and protected; where every child and young person is supported to be who they want to be and treated equally in order to enjoy equal chances and choices in all aspects of their lives; and where every child and young person is valued for the contribution that they make to our society and to communities.

One of the young people quoted in an online survey said:

“PSE is really good for learning about everything you might encounter in life ... It’s very empowering and PSE is a very good and vital subject.”

That is the experience that we want for all our children and young people in order to give them the skills and knowledge to prepare them for learning, work and life. The range of actions to strengthen the delivery of personal and social education that I have announced today reaffirm our commitment to making that a reality for all children and young people, which will make a real difference to their lives in Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

The cabinet secretary will now take questions on the issues raised.

Photo of Elizabeth Smith Elizabeth Smith Conservative

Yesterday, on several news channels, we heard about the disturbing circumstances that led to the death of teenager Molly Russell. In a very brave interview, her father spoke emotionally about how social media has the potential to damage a young person’s life, irrespective of the quality of the guidance provided at home or in school.

In the context of the cabinet secretary’s comments about working with a wide range of stakeholders, I ask what engagement the Scottish Government has had with the social media industry to complement the work that is being done at United Kingdom level to ensure that online safety is a central part of PSE in the toolkit that the cabinet secretary described.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government has discussions with a range of interested parties about the issues around social media. It is important that we focus our work in personal and social education on equipping young people with resilience and the capacity to make judgments around the handling and use of social media, to ensure that they are suitably equipped and protected when dealing with some of the potential challenges that come with it.

Personal and social education is implicit in the ethos of education. I want to make sure that the good practice that I see in schools to encourage the nurturing of good relationships is deployed not only in the context of school activity, but enables young people to think about their contribution to the world of social media and the impact that their actions can have if they are not appropriately set.

We are taking actions that are designed to ensure that in an ever-changing world—which is changing at a faster pace than any of us have seen before—young people are equipped with the essential attributes of resilience to enable them to manage those challenges. Some of that will come from personal and social education and some from the wider impact of curriculum for excellence, which is focused entirely on the objective of ensuring that young people are equipped for modern life and supported in meeting its challenges, some of which may present themselves through social media.

Photo of Iain Gray Iain Gray Labour

I thank the cabinet secretary for early sight of his statement. We agree with him that schools are very much about the health and wellbeing of our young people, their values and social development and, indeed, progress towards inclusivity and equality in wider society. Therefore, the review is important and the acceptance of its recommendations is welcome.

However, it is now almost two years since the Education and Skills Committee report that Mr Swinney says provided the focus for that review, and it is another two years before he expects delivery. When does he expect to bring his implementation plan to Parliament, and the updated statutory guidance on relationships and sexual health to be completed? Mr Swinney also acknowledged the pressure that there is on guidance teachers, which he says will be addressed by a PSE toolkit. Does he not agree that it would be better addressed by having more teachers—specifically, more guidance teachers—and how will he try to deliver that?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am signalling to Parliament the considered way in which the Government has addressed this important issue. It is important that we take the time to put in place and implement the right measures. We are moving to the implementation phase, which will take place over the next two years to ensure that we make the required progress on a staged basis.

I expect the revised guidance on relationships, sexual health and parenthood to be launched at the Scottish learning festival in September 2019. It is currently being piloted in 40 schools around the country. We want it to be piloted effectively, so that it can be adapted to ensure that it can be implemented widely in our education system. If we can do that on a shorter timescale, we will, but I want to be sure that the material that we put in place meets the needs of the teaching profession and of children and young people.

The PSE toolkit is designed to be a helpful addition to the resources that are available to guidance teachers. It will assist them in identifying best practice and deploying it to the best of their ability.

On Mr Gray’s general point about the number of teachers, I say to him that the number of teachers is, of course, rising. Mr Gray knows that. It has been rising for the past number of years and it is at the highest level that it has been at since 2010. We are making progress on increasing the number of teachers and, obviously, the steps that we have taken and the investment that the Government has made are helping that process.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Can I have short questions, please?

Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary outline how this year’s programme for government commitment to invest in school counselling services will assist in the delivery of PSE?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As Ruth Maguire will know, the Government set out in the programme for government the commitments that we are making in relation to the roll-out of counsellors in schools. As part of implementation of the programme for government, the first part of that work—putting in place counsellors in secondary schools—will be deployed. Dialogue is under way with local authorities about the most appropriate means of undertaking that to supplement the resources that are available in schools to provide the support that young people require.

This morning, I visited Queen Anne high school in Dunfermline, in Fife, and saw at first hand the very integrated and focused support that the school has put in place to provide assistance to young people. It draws together a range of expertise from a number of different disciplines but, fundamentally, it is child focused and child centred. The addition of the mental health counsellors will support that process and enable a broader range of skills to be available to be deployed to support young people in our schools.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I respectfully ask for shorter answers in order to try to get everybody in.

Photo of Oliver Mundell Oliver Mundell Conservative

What involvement have parents and carers had to date in development of the toolkit? What consultation and support will be given to help them to reinforce the messages at home?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As part of all our work, we engage widely within Scotland—that is what takes time—and we have engaged with parental representatives as part of this process. It is very important, as we take the next steps, that we take care—particularly in relation to some of the issues on relationships—to actively engage parents in the process, so that they are comfortable with the approach that is being taken and can support it with some of the wise guidance that is offered within the home.

As Mr Mundell will know, we attach the greatest significance to parental engagement, and my view is that that needs to be to the fore in taking forward the next stages of this work.

Photo of Gail Ross Gail Ross Scottish National Party

Following the incredible commitment and success of the time for inclusive education campaign, how will the principles of the campaign and the inclusion of LGBT rights and issues be delivered through the PSE reforms?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

As I announced to Parliament before Christmas, we are embarking on taking forward inclusive education. That message lies at the heart of the statement that I have given in Parliament today and at the heart of the thinking and the ethos behind personal and social education. We will ensure that the implementation of inclusive education is right at the heart of personal and social education and that the commitment to the aspirations of the TIE campaign that I expressed in my ministerial statement to Parliament are reflected and practised in our schools.

Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

I welcome the announcement of guidance on mental health and wellbeing services to complement the previous announcement regarding counsellors in schools. Will the cabinet secretary tell Parliament when the first new mental health counsellor will be in a school? Will the implementation of the new counsellors be targeted at certain areas or schools?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

We are working with individual local authorities to take that activity forward. I would expect the first of the mental health counsellors to be in schools during the forthcoming financial year; provision has been made for that in the budget. Some local authorities and individual schools have different approaches to the provision of mental health support, so we will work in a complementary fashion with existing provision, but I expect roll-out to commence during 2019-20.

Photo of Ross Greer Ross Greer Green

I thank the Government for the actions to which it has committed today. The review that led to the report was the first thing that I asked for after my election to this Parliament.

Given that the campaign to fix personal and social education has, at all points, been led by young people, I ask that the PSE delivery and implementation group includes young people. I recommend members of the Scottish Youth Parliament as appropriate representatives.

I ask the Government to confirm that workplace rights and associated skills are included in the life skills that are considered essential as part of PSE and that, as such, they will be reflected in resources and guidance—

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

That was two questions. I liked the first one okay.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

On Mr Greer’s substantive point, it is essential that we hear the voices of young people in all aspects of the work that we take forward in the development of education policy. At all stages of the process, I want to hear the views and voices of young people. That will be the case in the group that we establish to take forward the activity that we are talking about.

On Mr Greer’s second point, on workplace rights, it is important that PSE remains relevant to the changing times in which we live; it must equip young people with a knowledge and understanding of the circumstances that they will face. I mentioned that I visited Queen Anne high school this morning; there, guidance services are provided alongside work by Skills Development Scotland, in recognition of the proximity to the developing Scotland’s young workforce agenda. I think that the issues will be adequately covered in the approach that we take.

Photo of Tavish Scott Tavish Scott Liberal Democrat

If we are to improve personal and social education across Scotland, I hope that the cabinet secretary recognises the importance of school guidance teams having a range of skills, qualifications and attributes. In that context, does he understand the case that has been made for including youth workers and people with youth work qualifications in guidance teams, to achieve the essential reforms that are so necessary?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I agree entirely with that. It is interesting to look at youth workers’ achievements in reaching young people who might be difficult to reach through what we regard as the traditional education structures and in enabling those young people to continue to participate. The broadest range of skills will be relevant to help us in this work, and in my view there is a strong and significant role to be played by youth workers in the exercise.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

Will the cabinet secretary set out how the new PSE toolkit, the announcement of which is welcome, will help to reduce the workload and bureaucracy that have been a concern for teachers?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Part of the approach that I have been taking has been about encouraging more collaboration in the education system, so that elements of the good practice that undoubtedly exists in different parts of Scotland are shared more widely and individual practitioners do not have to develop materials and resources from scratch. It is about supporting good models of teaching delivery around the country.

That is exactly what the PSE toolkit will do. It will help the people who are involved in delivering personal and social education by providing a rich set of resources, which will assist practitioners in their work. As part of our general approach to trying to reduce the workload of the teaching profession by encouraging collaboration and other measures, steps have been taken, and the PSE toolkit will help in that respect.

Photo of Annie Wells Annie Wells Conservative

I note the Scottish Government’s commitment to work with the General Teaching Council for Scotland to update the standards for professional registration. Will the cabinet secretary say when the updated standards will be in place? Is it the Scottish Government’s opinion that additional teacher training should be introduced in relation to the revised PSE?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Initial teacher education must take due account of the steps that we are taking on PSE. That is one element of the process; the other element is the emphasis on continuous professional learning. Particularly with a theme such as personal and social education, as we try to maintain its relevance to the world that young people face, there will be a constant need for practitioners to undertake continuous professional development. Ensuring that PSE is central to the approach in initial teacher education and is recognised in continuous professional learning gives us a good foundation for our dialogue with the General Teaching Council for Scotland on ensuring that professional updates take account of these important topics.

Photo of Clare Adamson Clare Adamson Scottish National Party

We know that personal and social education is an important factor in encouraging positive behaviour and healthy relationships in young people. Will the cabinet secretary expand on how the reviewed guidelines on consent education will be rolled out in the PSE curriculum and how quickly that might happen?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The material on that topic is currently being piloted across 40 schools in Scotland. We will look at the experience of piloting those resources to make sure that we can guarantee that they are appropriate for use. As I indicated to Oliver Mundell, we have to take into account parental understanding of the steps that we are taking and ensure that the roll-out of education about consent is age and stage appropriate for individual children and young people.

The importance of that cannot be overstated, because we have to make sure that young people are given the most substantive and thoughtful support to enable them to come to the right judgments about consent and the formation of relationships. These are issues of enormous significance and concern in our society, and we must make sure that we get the approaches correct before we roll them out across the whole education system.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

Given the often very sensitive issues that are considered, in my experience PSE classes are run with small groups rather than full classes. What action is the cabinet secretary taking to ensure that there is agreement not only on the approach to PSE, but on how it is delivered, and how will he ensure that sufficient resource is available to make personal and social education meaningful for all young people?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

A significant amount of professional judgment will have to be deployed to address the point that Johann Lamont makes about the environment and circumstances in which personal and social education can be delivered successfully. That judgment is best left to individual professionals, and the Government is trying to ensure that we work with partners to equip those practitioners with a range of materials and approaches that will support them in those efforts. I hope that the announcements that I have made today will help to structure the approach to allow individual practitioners in individual schools around the country to make those judgments.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

Will education on organ and tissue donation be included in the curriculum for personal and social education and, if so, what resources will be made available to the appropriate designated education providers?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Emma Harper has asked me a question of a very specific nature about the content of the teaching materials. I will have to come back to her on that specific point, but individual teachers will make judgments about which particular topics and themes should be covered, within the framework that we put forward, to illustrate these important questions.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I thank members for their succinct questions. That concludes questions on the statement.

We will have a slight pause before we move to the next item of business