Vice-obsessed social education in Scottish schools “useless” MSPs told


VICE-obsessed social education in Scottish schools is a “complete waste of time” – MSPs have been warned.

Students say they are taught “useless” information about drugs and alcohol in personal and social education (PSE) classes when they want to know about writing CVs and filing tax returns.

And a senior education lecturer has described the subject as “arid” and demanded a “radical rethink” of the syllabus.

The onslaught came after a parliamentary committee put out a call for comments on the subject, which is compulsory for Scottish secondary school students.

Hundreds of submissions were received from students, parents teachers and campaigners, which slammed the teaching of the subject. Teachers are accused of obsessing with sex, drink and drunks in what one parent branded a “cringe-worthy” manner.

Student Christopher Stevenson, stated: “Personally, I find PSE a complete waste of time.

“I think this because, for at least my PSE class, we discuss nothing relatively important. For me and my peers, PSE is extremely repetitive as the only topics we really discuss are: alcohol, drugs and how we should be revising for our prelims.

“We have been taught about alcohol and drugs since S1 which I find useless.”

Another, from a parent called R. Ritchie, states: “My daughter is in S5 and considers PSE a lost opportunity.

“It is cringe-worthy, concentrating on drink, drugs, sex. They need to know practical stuff – how to cook, make minor repairs, detect illness, identify everyday dangers etc.”

Whilst one anonymous submission stated: “There should be more life skills lessons, such as filling out a CV, learning how to pay taxes, and how to manage a bank account.”

Dr Joan Mowat, senior lecturer in education at Strathclyde University, said: “Personal and Social Education as it is currently conceived and ‘delivered’ in Scottish schools is often arid, deemed to be not relevant by young people.

Dr Mowat

“It is ‘delivered’ often by the least experienced members of staff with often minimal support or guidance in its delivery.

“This has led to PSE being regarded by staff and pupils alike as low status and something not to be taken seriously.

“I would conclude that what is a required is a radical rethink of how we understand PSE.”

But Jim Thewliss, General Secretary of School Leaders Scotland, said that although taking on board students’ opinions was vital, PSE in it current form had value.

He said: “If you’re looking at skills for life, things like relationship with alcohol are important to that, and it’d be negligent to avoid it.

“PSE certainly has a value to serve, but of course, it’s important that we learn about clients’ views.”

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: “The Education and Skills Committee is seeking to gain an overview of the main issues of PSE to inform their future work.

“John Swinney is due to appear before the committee on 8 March to discuss, amongst others, PSE.

“Schools are encouraged to develop the curriculum to suit their local context and meet the needs of children and young people.

“It is good practice for schools to consult with pupils and respond to their views appropriately.”