WH&Y authors: Professor Fiona Brooks

Citation: Chester KL, Klemera E, Magnusson J, Spencer NH, Brooks FM. The role of school-based health education in adolescent spiritual moral, social and cultural development. Health Education Journal. 2019;78(5):582-594. 



Background: The broad nature of young people’s development is internationally acknowledged, which includes physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social elements. In England, schools have a legal obligation to promote spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development. It has been suggested that personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, a broad form of school-based health education, may contribute to building SMSC development in young people.

Objective: To examine the association between PSHE education in schools and outcomes of an SMSC nature.

Method: The study drew on data collected as part of the 2014 World Health Organization Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study for England. Data were collected from young people aged 11, 13 and 15 years, using anonymous self-completed surveys administered during school lessons. The analysis drew on responses from 3,731 young people. Multilevel modelling was used to examine the association between PSHE education and variables of an SMSC nature, while controlling for demographic variables.

Results: Overall, the majority of young people who reported receiving PSHE education were positive about the benefits of this school-based health education. Positive perceptions of PSHE education were significantly associated with increased spirituality among young people, reduced engagement in both fighting and bullying perpetration and increased general self-efficacy.

Conclusion: This paper highlights the important role that health education in a school context may have for young people’s broader development, and contributes to the national evidence base advocating for compulsory PSHE education in schools.

About The Authors


WH&Y Chief Investigator Professor Fiona Brooks passed away on 13 January 2023, after a short ill...