The economic case for PSHE in schools

7 Dec 2017

The PSHE Association (physical, social, health and economic education) is both a charity and membership association, representing PSHE teachers and offering them support through guidance, training and resources. They also promote the teaching of quality, evidence-based PSHE in all schools throughout England, campaigning for PSHE practitioners and working with local authorities, academy chains and corporate, voluntary and public sector bodies. They aim to ensure that every student in the country receives high-quality, regular PSHE education which results in better academic achievement, emotional wellbeing and preparedness for the world of work.

To this end, PSHE Association approached Pro Bono Economics to analyse the need for PSHE and the impact of allowing all students access to this education.

PBE matched a number of volunteer economists from various governmental bodies to this project: Andrew Barnard, Ravi Sharma, Andrew Carey, Amy Regan and Justin Seth, who all offered their expertise to undertake a literature review. The focus was narrowed to three separate aspects of PSHE’s impact: behaviour, attainment and attendance, and these three aspects were studied through a short-term lens, with further scope for long-term analysis in future projects. The report, which covers over 1200 studies, examines national and international evidence with the aim of determining the degree to which PSHE's positive impact on physical and mental health might lead to improved attainment and life chances.

The study showed strong evidence that PSHE education has a positive impact on academic attainment, and does not detract from other core curriculum subjects as critics suggest.

The analysis found that school-based anti-bullying programmes resulted in a decrease in bullying and victimisation, and showed children with higher levels of behavioural, emotional, social and school wellbeing have higher levels of academic achievement. There is also strong evidence that high-quality PSHE has a positive impact on academic attainment. The report findings can be used to demonstrate the necessity for excellent PSHE instruction in schools, which will help PSHE Association to achieve their aims.

Diane Coyle, Pro Bono Economics Trustee and professor of economics at the University of Manchester (and, from March 2018, inaugural Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge) said:

“This report summarises the positive impact on academic attainment, including through benefits to physical health, mental health and behaviour, all of which greatly affect students not just in the classroom, but continue to benefit them in their adult life. The value of this Pro Bono Economics report is to establish from the literature the evidence that PSHE is effective in these respects”

Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Chartered College of Teaching said:

“This review is timely.  School leaders and teachers are increasingly interested in responding to evidence about approaches to pedagogy, curriculum design and assessment.  It is essential that we learn more about optimal ways of supporting the development of children and young people’s capacity to learn and thrive.”

Jonathan Baggaley, PSHE Association Chief Executive said:

“By supporting mental health, physical health, safeguarding and healthy relationships, PSHE education removes numerous barriers to learning, clearing the way for pupils to succeed in their academic studies while gaining invaluable knowledge and skills for life.  It must therefore be prioritised so that all children in all schools receive regular PSHE lessons, taught by trained teachers. Many thanks to Pro Bono Economics for their exhaustive work on this review”

We would like to thank our volunteers for their work in completing this report, which can be downloaded below.

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