What is SPHE?
Social, personal and health education provides particular opportunities to foster the personal development, health and well-being of the child and to help him/her to create and maintain supportive relationships and become an active and responsible citizen in society. Through an SPHE programme children can develop a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and skills that will inform their actions and decisions in these areas of their lives both now and in the future.
From a very early age the child’s social, personal and health development is influenced significantly by everyday experiences and interactions in the home. It is also affected by a number of other factors: religious and moral beliefs, the mores of society, the media, and the opinions of other people. All of these considerations and particularly the continuing influence of the family must be taken into account when developing and implementing a programme in SPHE in the school.
The school has a formative role to play in the child’s social, personal and health education. It can provide the environment, the approaches and the variety of learning experiences that will help children to understand themselves, to relate to others, and to establish and maintain healthy patterns of behaviour. It can also contribute to preparing the child for active and responsible citizenship in the widest sense and for being explicit about the values of a just and caring society.
The SPHE curriculum provides a consistent and comprehensive approach to specific aspects of the social, personal and health development of the child. It complements and supports work continuing in other subject areas and takes cognisance of the need for allocated time to address particular issues.
SPHE enables schools to build on existing good practice and to work with the home and the community in implementing a school-based programme. The involvement of parents in planning, reviewing and supporting such a programme will be crucial to its effectiveness. RegionalHeal th Authorities and various professionals within the community can also support the school by contributing to particular aspects of the programme. Since SPHE has a moral and spiritual dimension, its development is influenced significantly by the ethos and characteristic spirit of the school.
SPHE in a child-centred curriculum
SPHE fosters self-worth and selfconfidence and places a particular emphasis on developing a sense of personal responsibility for one’s own behaviour and actions. SPHE promotes self-awareness and understanding by helping children to name and manage their own feelings, to recognise and appreciate individual abilities, and to cope with change of various kinds. They can learn how to manage their own behaviour and to set and review personal goals within a safe and supportive environment. Such intrapersonal development will increase the child’s sense of self-efficacy and help him/her to be more in control of his/her own life.
SPHE helps children to establish supportive relationships, to enjoy the company of others, and to resolve conflicts in appropriate ways. While in school the child can learn to be fairminded and caring in his/her dealings with others and to be competent in operating in a variety of social situations. He/she can come to understand other people and the reasons why they act and behave in particular ways while also learning how to be more responsible in his/her relationships.
Health habits adopted in childhood will influence health and well-being both now and in the future. Developing health-promoting practices throughouthis/her time in school can encourage the child to take increasing control over his/her own health and help to establish and maintain healthy behaviour from an early age.
SPHE provides children with opportunities to become aware of the various influences on their lives. They can begin to become critical of information they receive and more discerning about information they choose to access. SPHE explores how children can learn from and with their peers and can assist in developing the skills and attitudes that children need in order to cope with pressure from their own age group.
In a constantly changing society it is imperative that children develop a sense of belonging—of understanding where they fit in. When they feel valued and know that individual opinions and concerns are taken into account, they are more likely to understand the idea of community based on caring and a shared sense of responsibility. Experiencing the democratic process in action at school and in the community can help children to develop an understanding of democracy and how it is practised in everyday life.
Through SPHE children can learn about their own rights and responsibilities and the rights and responsibilities of others. They can begin to realise the interdependent nature of the world in which they live and learn to appreciate the role that each individual has to play in the local, national, European and global community.
Learning to care for the environment and to protect it for future generations is intrinsic to any SPHE programme. Children can come to understand the role of each individual and of the community in this endeavour. This aspect of the curriculum is complemented by the work that is carried out in social, environmental and scientific education (SESE).
Children live in a diverse society, and this diversity requires the development of mutual understanding and a sense of respect for the dignity of every human being. The SPHE programme provides a context in which children can learn about various ethnic, social and cultural groups and can recognise and appreciate the contributions of these groups to society. As they acquire a deeper understanding of their own traditions and heritage, they are encouraged to act in ways that foster inclusiveness and to have regard for the heritage and perspectives of others. Through SPHE children can discover the role each person has to play in counteracting prejudice, discrimination and inequality as they may experience it in their own lives.
|United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990|
Article 29 (Extract)
State parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:
(a) the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential
(d) the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin
The key characteristics of the SPHE curriculum
The key characteristics of this curriculum are outlined below.
- SPHE is a lifelong process. SPHE begins before the child comes to school and will continue long after he/she has left school. The emphasis in the primary school is on providing a foundation in SPHE, that will inform the child’s actions and decisions and provide a basis for further development.
- SPHE is a shared responsibility. Parents, teachers, health professionals and members of the community all have a responsibility for the social, personal and health development of the child. Their contributions and involvement will be essential to the effective implementation of the SPHE programme in the school. The roles of each of these partners should be clear and understood by all.
- SPHE is a generic approach. Rather than treating topics in isolation SPHE aims to develop in the child a generic set of skills, attitudes, values and understanding relevant to a range of social, personal and health issues. This framework will be supported by specific information as required.
- SPHE is based on the needs of the child. It is essential in planning an SPHE programme, that priority is given to the needs of the child and cognisance taken of his/her environment. Appropriate adaptations should be made within the curriculum to suit individual requirements and individual school situations.
- SPHE is spiral in nature. Similar content is revisited at different stages throughout the child’s time in school. This provides opportunities to consolidate and build on previous learning and allows for issues and topics to be explored and treated in a manner appropriate to the children’s needs, abilities and levels of maturity.
- SPHE is developed in a combination of contexts for learning. SPHE is intrinsic to the learning and teaching that occurs both formally and informally in the school. To be effective it should be implemented in a combination of ways, through
- the context of a positive school climate and atmosphere
- discrete time
- integrated learning.
- SPHE requires children to be engaged in activity-based learning. Children need to be actively engaged in the learning process in order to be able to use what they have learned in a variety of situations. Through active learning children can make sense of what they have learned and take increasing ownership of and responsibility for their own learning.