27 Apr 2007

Why the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill should include a clause about marriage preparation

The Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill should include specific guidance towards marriage preparation and not rely upon the Secretary of State to publish it.

I am suggesting additional clauses should be added to section 2 of the draft Bill concerning 'guidance', which starts with 2 (a) the difference between arranged and forced marriage:

(e) the opportunities and advantages for the parties to participate together in a research-based educational programme of marriage preparation - including an assessment tool or pre-marital inventory that meets international standards.

(f) this programme is to assist them in preparing for a healthy marriage and to:
  1. confirm to the Registrar or deputy Registrar the voluntary nature of their commitment to the marriage, and
  2. protect themselves and each other against any possible accusations about the marriage being one that is forced or bogus.

(g) the advantage of obtaining a certificate from the facilitator of the programme of marriage preparation that they have satisfactorily completed both the educational programme and the inventory.

the purpose of the Bill is described as:

“Make provision for protecting individuals against being forced to enter into marriage without their free and full consent; and for connected purposes.”

In the SUMMARY OF CONSULTATION RESPONSES provided by the Odysseus Trust they refer to:

3.4 Any other changes

The consultation asked for suggestions about any other changes to the Bill. Respondents made various suggestions of other issues relevant to forced marriage, including:

• The need for increased resources to tackle the problem of forced marriage, including for community groups and the voluntary sector;
• The importance of tackling domestic violence, including forced marriage, in a comprehensive, holistic way;
• The need for greater understanding of the obligations of marriage and the voluntary nature of marriage;

Among the proposed amendments is:

63Q Guidance
(1) The Secretary of State may from time to time prepare and publish guidance to such descriptions of persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate about—
(a) the effect of this Part or any provision of this Part; or
(b) other matters relating to forced marriages.
(2) A person exercising public functions to whom guidance is given under this section must have regard to it in the exercise of those functions.

Based on what happened to the attempts to have provision for marriage preparation included in the Family Law Act of 1996, I doubt if anyone except a horse marine will believe people can rely upon the Secretary of State in any government getting around to giving guidance to persons exercising public functions concerning marriage.

As evidence for this view, in an earlier debate [4th November 2002] Ruth Kelly said:

"In our White Paper, [Delivering Vital Change] the Government explained that the registration service is ideally placed to act as a focal point for information about services associated with births, deaths and marriages, such as ........ marriage preparation ...... I believe that there is a genuine opportunity for local authorities to develop those services innovatively to meet the needs of their communities, now and in future. A wider role for the registration service will improve on the current piecemeal approach by local authorities and will be underpinned by the proposed national standards."

The Family Law Act was over ten years ago. ‘Delivering Vital Change’ was five years ago. The proposals “to develop …. services innovatively to meet the needs of their communities” - which were contained in a Regulatory Reform Order, not a Bill - eventually failed to come into effect. Have they now been dropped completely? It seems likely. Governments have no stomach for ‘delivering vital change’ in this field, even though they use words to indicate that is their intention.

My conclusion is the principle of guidance for marriage preparation needs to be in the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Bill and not left to future Secretaries of State to determine. There is another reason for this: how can a Registrar distinguish between a couple entering an arranged marriage from a forced one, unless the couple have undertaken a valid assessment with a suitable facilitator who is willing to sign a certificate that he/she believes the couple have completed the programme in good faith? If the authors of the Bill are really intent upon trying to prevent forced marriages – and not just provide remedies - they should be willing to accept my proposed amendments and Peers and MPs should support it. The Government is perfectly willing to adopt evaluation methods proved to work in other countries. They should follow the example of the Healthy Marriage Initiative in the US.

Social Capital Index - the case for a clause in the Statistics and Registration Service Bill

Social Capital is an unstoppable concept. David Cameron is instinctively in tune with electors in understanding that the highest aspirations of most people are for good relationships with family, friends, and neighbours; and if those aspirations are fulfilled - not merely they, but – the wider society benefits. Such people contribute – in many cases voluntarily and enjoyably – to a wide spectrum of good causes. It is in the interest of the State to foster the development of such social capital, and to do so without constantly trying to engineer outcomes.

Social capital is about networks. It is about connections between family members, friends, neighbours and community groups and institutions.

'Investing in each other and the community: the role of social capital', by Paul Haezewindt [Published in web format: 5 September 2006] from Social Trends, vol 33, pp 19-27. ISSN: 0306-7742 includes:

"Marital status and household type shows a significant relationship with a number of indicators of social capital. Married couples exhibited the highest levels of social capital. They were more likely to be trusting of their neighbours and enjoy high levels of reciprocity with them and were also most likely to have higher levels of social support. Eighty four per cent of married people had three or more people to turn to in a crisis. Divorced or separated people had the lowest level of social support, 72 per cent had three or more people to turn to. This group were also least likely to enjoy living in their local area. Single people were less likely to be civically engaged and be less neighbourly than other groups, but they were more likely to have satisfactory friendship networks. It should be noted, however, that marital status is strongly related to age. For example, 75 per cent of single men and women are aged between 16 and 34, while 84 per cent of married people are aged 35 or above 14. High proportions of lone parent households were likely to have both satisfactory friendship and relatives networks. Non-related households, such as people in flatshares, were least likely to know, trust and speak to neighbours, and low proportions also reported having a satisfactory relatives network...............

Few social capital indicators are found to have statistically significant relationships with factors such as income or employment status..............."

David Cameron is quite right to be upholding the institution of marriage. Given the facts about marital status and social capital, it is only sensible to measure changes in social capital by neighbourhood using the indicators available - such as neighbourhood statistics and indices, local authority best value performance indicators, and NHS Healthcare Commission performance ratings – and to provide an index of social and domestic cohesion by neighbourhood.

26 Apr 2007

Social Capital Index (SCI) compared with the Retail Prices Index (RPI)

"The Retail Prices Index (RPI) is the most familiar general purpose domestic measure of inflation in the United Kingdom. It is available continuously from June 1947. The Government uses it for uprating of pensions, benefits and index-linked gilts. It is commonly used in private contracts for uprating of maintenance payments and housing rents. It is also used for wage bargaining."

"The [Consumer Price Index] CPI is the main UK measure of inflation for macroeconomic purposes and forms the basis for the Government's inflation target. It is also used for international comparisons. The RPI is the most familiar domestic measure of inflation in the UK; its uses include indexation of pensions, state benefits and index-linked gilts. CPI and RPI both measure the average changes month-to-month in prices of consumer goods and services purchased in the UK, although there are differences in coverage and methodology.

The CPI contains price indices, percentage changes and weights for the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), Retail Prices Index (RPI) and the components that make up these indices. Internationally, the CPI is known as the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP), although the two indices remain one and the same."

There is no index of 'social capital' in the UK, but worldwide the literature on the subject is growing fast as people are becoming more aware of its significance.

The ONS provides 'Measurement of social capital in the UK 2005'. This paper presents the context for social capital measurement in the UK, the approach taken and international measurement issues. Author: Penny Babb.

"The rise in popularity of ‘social capital’ as a social concept in the late 1990s coincided with a new interest in evidence-based policy in the UK – drawing on social research to inform the nature, implementation and evaluation of policies. There was also a desire in Government to address social inequalities and social exclusion – looking for ways to reduce the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged, and meet the needs of the excluded members of UK society. This focus resulted in the development of community policies, to regenerate neighbourhoods and promote cohesive communities. The principal aim of the community policy is to:

'develop strong and active communities in which people of all races and backgrounds are valued and participate on equal terms…'

The OECD definition of social capital presented in The Well-Being of Nations describes it as:

'networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate cooperation within or among groups'

This embodies both networks and norms and so was adopted in the UK to form the basis of our data collection and analysis.

To measure social capital, we first needed to identify the key dimensions that underpin it. Five main aspects form the basis of the UK work:

  • civic participation – the propensity to vote, to take action on local or national issues
  • social networks and support – such as contact with friends and relatives
  • social participation – involvement in groups and voluntary activities
  • reciprocity and trust – which include giving and receiving favours, as well as trusting other people and institutions such as the government and the police
  • views about the area – although not strictly a measure of social capital, it is required for the analysis and interpretation of the social capital measures, and includes satisfaction with living in the area, problems in the area."

The ONS seems to be going down a route that requires the completion of questionnaires even though 'proxy' measures could be used. For example from the list above:

  1. 'problems in the area' could be represented by social statistics that are already available, such as truancy, ASBOs, etc..
  2. 'Social networks and support' and 'reciprocity and trust' could be represented by marital status, domestic violence figures, household size etc., data that is already available.

The RPI and SCI have in common a basket of components that are weighted. The added dimension of the SCI is that it applies to each neighbourhood, like the ONS Neighbourhood Statistics and indices. As a tool for decision makers the SCI could prove very useful to local people - community and faith leaders, parish councillors, school governors, GPs, health visitors etc.. The question is, "When will politicians recognise that these local leaders are much more likely to be able to address the problems in their area than occupants of the Westminster village?"

25 Apr 2007

Social Capital Index - Statistics and Registration Service Bill

In the debate on the Statistics and Registration Service Bill in the House of Lords yesterday the issue of social and domestic cohesion was raised:

Baroness Noakes: There is also the question of developing new statistics. For example, the social capital project has been drawn to our attention. Statistics which monitor social and domestic cohesion are much sought after by those active in this field — by which I mean active in helping to cure society’s ills with practical projects on the ground rather than developing policies. A lot of statistics and data are available, but they omit some important information on marriage breakdown and family status at a local level. Many groups think that this is particularly important, and the information has not yet been pulled together in the form of a social capital index, as has been suggested to us. I do not know why that has not been done, and I hope that the Minister can tell us why we have no social capital index or equivalent measure available at local level.

The board should have the needs of users at the heart of its work, and there should be full engagement with them.

This is splendid news!

Needless to say, however, the Minister declined to oblige Baroness Noakes with an answer to her question, "I hope that the Minister can tell us why we have no social capital index or equivalent measure available at local level."

So she tried again!

Baroness Noakes: Perhaps the Minister could answer my specific questions about a social capital index. I asked what was happening with the project on that and why we do not have a social capital index.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I hope that I can. That was one of the things that I said that we would take away and think about. The information that I have is that the ONS carries out work on social capital, and has done since 2001. The board’s powers, including, at Clause 18, that to produce statistics, would enable it to produce additional work on social capital if necessary. I am told by officials that we will write to the noble Baroness to explain more and to answer any specific points that she has.

Baroness Noakes: I am grateful that the Minister will write because people who we have been in touch with me are particularly concerned about that. I see that those in the Box are smiling. They will do the letter for the Minister; it is not a problem.

The Minister’s response was entirely predictable. Anything that these Benches suggest to improve the Bill and to keep the needs of persons such as users properly in view are regarded not as an improvement but as an unnecessary elaboration, or possibly even unhelpful. I will consider carefully what the Minister said. I look forward to the letter that his officials will draft for him on social capital and I will decide at that stage whether or not I shall return to this issue on Report.

Feisty lady!

24 Apr 2007

Social capital - more children in care, despite 'early intervention'

Children in care: Telford numbers rise despite use of early intervention by Sarah Cooper, 25 April 2007 [Children Now]

"Telford & Wrekin Council has seen a rise in the number of looked-after children on its books despite using early intervention.

The figures go against Government thinking spelled out in Every Child Matters that early intervention schemes would reduce the numbers of children in care. But professionals believe this does not mean the system is not working and instead say it is proving more efficient at helping families in need......."

"But Ian Johnston, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said he is not surprised the numbers of children in care have increased. "Government policy is too simplistic and one of the problems with political parties is they look for the quick fixes." [my italics]

"The rise in numbers was revealed at last week's Looked-After Children: Early intervention and specialist services conference run by Priory Education Services. Barbara Evans, head of safeguarding and corporate parenting at the council, said there were 198 looked-after children at the year ending 31 March 2006, while at 31 March 2007 there were 231."

The problem with evidence like this is that to be properly understood it needs to be put into context and studied over a suitable period of time, probably several years.

All the more reason, it seems to me, to keep pressing for a Social Capital Index of which the increase or decrease in children taken into care should be one component.

Social capital - 'social responsibility'

Today the House of Lords considers amendments in Committee to the Statistics and Registration Service Bill [see earlier posts]. It provides an opportunity to insert an amendment for a Social Capital Index, as there is a clause [19] already in the Bill for the RPI [Retail Price Index].

Writing in the Guardian [23rd April 2007] David Cameron says:

“Government can encourage social responsibility by building and strengthening the institutions of a responsible society. Supporting families - because a stable home life is the best way to ensure children grow up as responsible citizens. Transferring power to local and neighbourhood institutions (and finding ways to promote people's engagement in them) - because that will make people behave more responsibly. And we have to trust people more: whether that's professionals in public services or people who want to volunteer in their community.”

He must be right about this. David Cameron is talking about how we build social capital. Unfortunately he is not yet addressing the issue of how we measure social capital and changes in it by neighbourhood. One day he will have to do this if he wants to establish his credentials as a politician who is really concerned about marriage and family life. Fine words butter no parsnips. They prompt the question, "Why are the Conservatives so coy about tabling an amendment for a Social Capital Index?" Ultimately, people measure what they value.

Fortunately there is a groundswell of recognition of the need for measuring changes in social capital. An excellent web site for information about social capital measurement is published by Paul Bullen, an Australian.

He provides a link to Indicators of Social and Family Functioning by R Zubrick, AA Williams, SR Silburn, (TVW Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Perth,Western Australia) and G Vimpani (Child and Youth Health Network, University of Newcastle) May 2000.

The Executive Summary begins:

According to a ..... OECD Forum report (January, 1997):

‘pressures on social cohesion are likely to evolve over the next two decades as unemployment, earnings inequality, demographic shifts, technological progress, open trade, and greater competition in less constrained market places, continue to contribute to economic and social turbulence.’

"Australia is no less immune to these pressures, with a perceived decline in social cohesion which has placed stress on family and social functioning. Rapid economic and social change can manifest as serious problems in the developmental health and well-being of children, young people and their families. These problems include child abuse, early school failure, truancy, depression and suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, juvenile offending, violence, relationship and family breakdown."

It supports my contention that we need a Social Capital Index as much as the RPI in the Statistics and Registration Service Bill and that a major element of this SCI should be the factors relating to social and domestic cohesion.

The components [problems] listed above are very similar to those which I have proposed for the index, which is reassuring.

15 Apr 2007

PSHE and Social Capital - absence of a moral code in the home puts some children under additional pressures

The following are extracts from the Ofsted report 'Time for change? Personal, social and health education' [Published: April 2007 Reference no: 070049]:

"At times, it is the school rather than the home that provides the moral code and, in its absence in the home, some children are put under additional pressures."

"Parents greatest challenge is to set clear expectations, and to be aware of and to accept responsibility for their children's behaviour. Some parents do not rise to this challenge."

"the ability to make moral judgements about what to do in actual situations and the potential to put these judgements into practice"

"Most of the schools in this survey ensure that their aims and values are well known to pupils and their parents, and that they are adhered to consistently. They will often refer to personal morality, the effects of actions and choices, and the nature of relationships concepts very relevant to SRE. However, some of the schools visited need to broaden their coverage of SRE and clarify what they mean by achievement in this area, so that it includes developing pupils' values and attitudes....."

"focusing on a pupil's individual needs and avoiding a one size fits all approach......... trying to bring together the work of mentors, counsellors and external support agencies with individual pupils and, if appropriate, with their families"

Consistent adherence to the aims and values of the school, including a moral code, is a worthy outcome arising from good teaching of PSHE. But pupils must find the mixed messages they are hearing very confusing:

(1) On the one hand government ministers repeat the New Labour mantra "we shall not promote one type of family structure as opposed to another".

(2) On the other, schools are trying to promote "personal morality, the effects of actions and choices, and the nature of relationships concepts very relevant to SRE......." and are concerned with "developing pupils' values and attitudes....."

In fact 'family structure' is a garbled concept in 'government speak' as teenage motherhood is deprecated and the government even produces league tables showing which local authorities are best at reducing teenage pregnancy. To pretend its attitude to family structure is a neutral one is belied by its own policies.

What is baffling is why - if this sort of league table is a valid concept in improving this aspect in particular of social and domestic cohesion - there are not comprehensive neighbourhood statistics and a league table comprising an index of other aspects of social and domestic cohesion together with a social capital index?

One minister [Maria Neagle] who said "we shall not promote one type of family structure as opposed to another" went on to say, "We must deal with people and families as we find them, and we must try to ensure that whatever structure children are brought up in, they have the best possible chance in life. In 97 per cent. of cohabiting couples, the father registers the birth of the child with the mother. We should not be prescriptive about precisely what the best structure is."

This is disingenuous, as the break-up rate of couples who are unmarried at the time of the birth of their child is far greater and faster than that of couples who are married at the time of the birth.

"We should not be prescriptive about precisely what the best structure is" looks and sounds like an argument that the government is not concerned with the facts, is unwilling to study the research on family structure, and will suppress - whenever it can - the publication of statistics that are relevant.

Faced with such humbug, what chance have schools got in promoting a moral code when the government is effectively opposed to the very idea and is actively promoting 'diversity' at every opportunity ?

14 Apr 2007

PSHE and Social Capital - Ofsted says "schools are beginning to realise the inadequacy of much of their assessment"

Time for change? Personal, social and health education

Age group: 11-16
Published: April 2007
Reference no: 070049

This document may be reproduced in whole or in part for non-commercial educational purposes, provided that the information quoted is reproduced without adaptation and the source and date of publication are stated.

Alexandra House
33 Kingsway
London WC2B 6SE
No. 070049
T 08456 404040 Published
April 2007 © Crown Copyright 2007

Extracts from the report [my italics]:

It is important that sufficient time is allocated to PSHE and that good use is made of it. Too many schools do not base their PSHE curriculum sufficiently on the pupils' assessed needs. The area recruits few teachers with directly relevant qualifications to teach PSHE. Three quarters of secondary schools have developed specialist teams of teachers to teach it successfully. However, PSHE is taught by non-specialists in some schools and too much of this teaching is unsatisfactory. Assessment continues to be the weakest aspect of teaching.

Many schools focus narrowly on assessing pupils knowledge rather than determining the impact of their PSHE provision on improving pupils attitudes and skills...........

Schools have, therefore, become aware of the need to improve assessment and have drawn on advice from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). Even so, many schools do not know about this advice and have not yet taken steps to improve assessment..........

The revised standards for the National Healthy Schools Programme (NHSP) have raised senior leadership teams awareness of the importance of strong PSHE provision. The standards require participating schools, through a whole-school approach, to tackle the four themes of the programme:

healthy eating,
physical activity,
emotional health and

that lead to 'healthy school' status.......

Leadership and management of PSHE are good in nine in ten schools, although monitoring and evaluation remain the weakest aspects.........

Schools should:

• involve pupils in:

− considering how the PSHE curriculum might meet their needs best
− determining what the outcomes should be and how these should be achieved
− improve the assessment of pupils' progress in PSHE by evaluating changes in attitudes and the extent to which pupils are developing relevant skills

• report annually to the governing body on the monitoring and evaluation of PSHE

• improve the monitoring and evaluation of the quality of PSHE provision

• ensure that work at Key Stage 3 takes sufficient account of pupils' learning at Key Stage 2

• develop constructive links with a range of support services through drop-in centres or extended school provision, in order to respond appropriately to the personal needs of pupils and their families..........

At times, it is the school rather than the home that provides the moral code and, in its absence in the home, some children are put under additional pressures. In nearly all schools, the PSHE programme is the vehicle for tackling many of these pressures.............

23. Parents greatest challenge is to set clear expectations, and to be aware of and to accept responsibility for their children's behaviour. Some parents do not rise to this challenge. Pupils look to schools for help hence the importance of high quality PSHE.

27. If pupils are to be able to analyse, reflect on, discuss and argue constructively about issues in PSHE, they need to develop appropriate skills. In good provision, pupils showed:

• communication skills, such as putting forward a point of view and listening to others

• decision-making, so that they could make sensible choices based on relevant information

• the ability to make moral judgements about what to do in actual situations and the potential to put these judgements into practice

• interpersonal skills, so that they could manage relationships confidently and effectively

• assertiveness skills

• the ability to act responsibly as an individual and as a member of various groups.

40. Assessment continues to be the weakest aspect of PSHE teaching. It is sufficiently rigorous in only a minority of schools and unsatisfactory in half. One of the reasons for the lack of even simple assessment strategies is schools belief that pupils enjoyment of the subject is due, in part, to the absence of any assessment framework. This is misguided: teachers need to know if pupils have acquired the knowledge, understanding and skills they intended them to learn. In turn, this should influence planning to ensure that pupils continue to make progress.

41. Most schools focus narrowly only on pupils' progress in developing their subject knowledge and understanding. Relatively few schools attempt to assess changes in pupils' attitudes or their developing skills. Few schools have valid data which might be used to inform planning and, where the data are available, they are not used.

42. Good practice in assessing pupils. current knowledge includes using evidence from evaluations of teaching, assessment data, the outcomes of discussions with pupils, and behavioural surveys.

To improve assessment, schools should:

• make good use of the QCA's new assessment guidance and end of Key Stage statements for PSHE

• determine pupils' current knowledge and understanding before a new topic is taught

• plan assessment as a key element of teaching and learning

• involve pupils in assessing their own progress

• gather evidence on pupils' knowledge, understanding and skills

• challenge pupils' attitudes and raise their awareness of how their actions have an impact on themselves and others.

43. With its focus on pupils' outcomes, the new school inspection framework strengthens the role of PSHE. However, in trying to identify and evaluate outcomes, schools are beginning to realise the inadequacy of much of their assessment. New advice from the QCA is starting to have an impact, although not all schools are aware of it........

48. Planning for SRE also requires an understanding of young peoples' needs. Knowing about aspects of SRE does not, on its own, ensure a young persons personal safety and sexual health. Effective SRE should help pupils to develop the personal skills they will need if they are to establish and maintain relationships and make informed choices and decisions about their health and well-being.

49. An SRE programme is likely to be particularly effective if it enables pupils to:

• communicate a point of view clearly and appropriately, and listen to the views of others

• make sensible choices about what to do in particular situations

• manage relationships with friends confidently and effectively

• act responsibly as an individual and as a member of a group...........

51. Most of the schools in this survey ensure that their aims and values are well known to pupils and their parents, and that they are adhered to consistently. They will often refer to personal morality, the effects of actions and choices, and the nature of relationships concepts very relevant to SRE. However, some of the schools visited need to broaden their coverage of SRE and clarify what they mean by ahievement in this area, so that it includes developing pupils' values and attitudes............

55. Smooth transition is also hindered by inadequate assessment. In particular, work at Key Stage 3 takes insufficient account of pupils' prior learning and experiences at Key Stage 2. This mismatch is all the more stark because of recent changes to PSHE programmes in Key Stage 2.

56. Most PSHE lessons, through the inclusion of discussion and group work, give pupils opportunities to ask questions to clarify their understanding. However, such lessons cannot easily enable pupils to ask for more personal advice that they would not wish to discuss in front of their peers. Although most schools regard the class teacher/form tutor as the key adult to support individual pupils, some pupils find that they have better relationships with a subject teacher. Discussions with pupils during the inspections indicated that they would be reluctant to discuss some personal issues with any member of the teaching staff. This reluctance arises from their concerns about confidentiality and whether the teacher is able to advise them on more sensitive issues, such as sex and relationships.

57. To go some way towards resolving these concerns, successful schools have adopted approaches to support individual pupils which include:

• building pupils' confidence

• always taking seriously all issues raised by pupils

• handling information professionally and confidentially

• ensuring effective liaison with integrated support services

• focusing on a pupil's individual needs and avoiding a one size fits all approach

• trying to bring together the work of mentors, counsellors and external support agencies with individual pupils and, if appropriate, with their families

• not being afraid to admit failure with some pupils; there will be some whose complex needs cannot be met within a school.

63. Schools are required, through a whole-school approach, to deal with the four obligatory themes that make up the 'healthy school' status, to provide evidence against all criteria for each theme and to demonstrate outcomes that have made an impact on pupils' learning experiences and/or behaviour. The four themes are:

• PSHE (including sex and relationship education and drug education)

• healthy eating

• physical activity

• emotional health and well-being (including bullying).

64. With these developments in mind and the concerns about the time currently allocated to this aspect of the curriculum, the on-going QCA review of the curriculum is timely and will address the curricular content and how PSHE outcomes might be achieved. Many schools are already considering how PSHE might support the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda. Schools already recognise the importance of their PSHE programmes in either coordinating the contributions of different subjects or taking sole responsibility for dealing with the Every Child Matters agenda.

65. Care should be taken to ensure that the PSHE curriculum meets the needs of young people. Not all schools or national bodies establish effective ways to gather the views of pupils. Focus groups or school councils might help to shape wider discussions, although they should not be seen, necessarily, as representing the wider school population. The involvement of PSHE advisers and their local authorities would help to broaden consultation and secure access to the views of more young people, in that way helping to ensure that a future PSHE curriculum meets their needs successfully.

End of extracts.

This is a very useful report for all those interested in PSHE. I am pleased that talk2me addresses the issues raised by the report about weaknesses in the current practises of many schools, particularly "in trying to identify and evaluate outcomes, schools are beginning to realise the inadequacy of much of their assessment."

Future posts will explore specific aspects of the report.