Curriculum guidance 

PSHE education is a school curriculum subject through which pupils develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to keep themselves healthy, safe and prepared for life and work. When delivered well, PSHE education has an impact on both academic and non-academic outcomes for pupils, particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged.

The majority of PSHE education became compulsory in all schools in September 2020 with the introduction of statutory Relationships Education at key stages 1 and 2, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) in key stages 3 and 4, and Health Education at from key stage 1 to 4. PSHE education was already a requirement in independent schools.

Statutory guidance outlines what schools must cover, but not all that they should cover as part of broader PSHE provision that also includes economic wellbeing and careers education. Our Programme of Study for PSHE education (key stages 1-5) will support you to provide a comprehensive programme that integrates, but is not limited to, this statutory content.


PSHE education is compulsory in independent schools, and the majority of the subject is now compulsory in all schools (including maintained, academies and free schools) from September 2020.

Relationships Education is now compulsory at key stages 1 and 2; Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) is compulsory in key stages 3 and 4, and Health Education at from key stage 1 to 4. Statutory guidance outlines what schools must cover, but not all that should cover as part of broader PSHE provision that also includes economic wellbeing and careers education. PSHE education was already a requirement in independent schools.

The Department for Education (DfE) considers PSHE education ‘an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education and says that the ‘All schools should teach PSHE’. Section 2.5 of the national curriculum also states that all state schools ‘should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), drawing on good practice'.

Our Programme of Study for PSHE education (key stages 1-5) will support you to provide a comprehensive programme that integrates, but is not limited to, this statutory content.


Under section 78 of the Education Act 2002 and the Academies Act 2010, schools must provide a ‘balanced and broadly-based curriculum’ which promotes ‘the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life’. PSHE education makes a major contribution to schools fulfilling this duty.

Schools also have duties in relation to promoting pupil wellbeing and pupil safeguarding (Children Act 2004) and community cohesion (Education Act 2006).

Statutory guidance on Keeping Children Safe in Education states that ‘Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure that children are taught about safeguarding, including online safety. Schools should consider this as part of providing a broad and balanced curriculum’ and that this may include covering relevant issues for schools through statutory RSE, Relationships Education and Health Education. Examples of relevant safeguarding issues may include: child sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse, sharing of sexual images, the impact of online pornography on pupils, the dangers of extremism and radicalisation, forced marriage, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation.

Relevant issues which may be covered in PSHE education include: child sexual exploitation and other forms of abuse, sharing of sexual images, the impact of online pornography on pupils, the dangers of extremism and radicalisation, forced marriage, honour-based violence and female genital mutilation.

The Equality Act 2010 places duties on schools to both address prejudice-based bullying and to help prevent it from happening, and in doing so to keep protected characteristic groups safe. PSHE education, with its focus on identity and equality, can help schools to fulfil this duty.

Maintained schools have further statutory duties to:

  • promote children and young people’s wellbeing (defined in the Children Act 2004 as 'the promotion of physical and mental health; emotional wellbeing; social and economic wellbeing; education, training and recreation; recognition of the contribution made by children to society; and protection from harm and neglect.')
  • promote community cohesion (Education and Inspections Act 2006; Education Act 2002).

Ofsted

Inspectors are more likely to focus on PSHE education following the introduction of the new Ofsted education inspection framework. PSHE provides evidence for key judgements, particularly ‘personal development’, and Ofsted will look at at how well a school is following new statutory Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education requirements.

Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said
”In the new inspection model, we are particularly interested in how schools contribute to the personal development of children. This area is now a judgement in its own right. This makes more space in inspection for discussing things like the PSHE lessons in which wider life issues can be explored."

And on the statutory requirements, Ms Spielman said:

“From the start of the summer term, if a school is failing to follow the new RSE guidance, inspectors will consider this in the personal development judgment and for any impact on leadership and management."

PSHE education also makes a unique contribution to safeguarding — helping schools to fulfil their statutory duty to teach pupils to keep themselves safe. See ‘Keeping children safe in education’ statutory guidance for schools and colleges on safeguarding.


Independent School Inspections (ISI)

Independent schools inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) are required to have schemes of work for PSHE education which reflect the aims and ethos of the school and that are ‘implemented effectively’. These have to be available via the school website or submitted to ISI prior to an inspection.


Schools should design their own PSHE education curriculum in a way that reflects the needs of their pupils and communities.

  • The PSHE Association Programme of Study for PSHE education for key stages 1 to 5 will help you to design a comprehensive programme that integrates, but is not limited to, statutory Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education.
  • Our PSHE education Programme Builders will allow you to create schemes of work tailored to your pupils’ needs.
  • We also have guidance for schools on developing PSHE education and RSE policies.

The Health Education and Relationships Education (primary) / Relationships and Sex Education (secondary) aspects of PSHE are compulsory in all schools from September 2020 (PSHE education was already compulsory in independent schools). The statutory guidance outlines what schools must cover — but not everything that school should cover — in PSHE education from that point.

It is vital that all schools continue to cover economic wellbeing and careers through PSHE education even though these aspects of the subject are not yet compulsory in maintained schools or academies.


PSHE education should have regular time on the curriculum like any other school subject.

As a rough guide, we suggest one hour per week of discrete PSHE education in key stages 1 to 4, with opportunities to enhance the learning through other subjects and events.

Discrete PSHE lessons are necessary as it is not possible to achieve continuity, progression and meaningful assessment from a cross-curricular approach.

The statutory Health Education, Relationships Education and RSE guidance also states that:

‘Schools should have the same high expectations of the quality of pupils’ work in these subjects as for other curriculum areas. A strong curriculum will build on the knowledge pupils have previously acquired, including in other subjects, with regular feedback provided on pupil progress.’

This would be very difficult to achieve without dedicated, discrete PSHE lessons.

Please also see our guidance on delivery models for PSHE education.


Children and young people need regular opportunities to reflect on and identify what they have learned and what they need to learn next. Teachers also need to gauge pupils’ progress and make informed improvements to their learning if required.

Assessment therefore has to be an integral part of the teaching and learning in PSHE education, as it is in all subjects.

PSHE education cannot however be assessed in the same way as most other subjects. It would be inappropriate for assessment in PSHE education to imply passing or failing for instance, as this might imply passing or failing ‘as a person’, given the subject’s personal nature. It is however, possible to recognise and evidence progress and attainment in PSHE education knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes.

We advocate a model of assessment that starts with carrying out an initial assessment activity for each new topic, module, or series of lessons. This gauges pupils’ starting point in terms of their existing knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs, and informs teachers’ planning. An end assessment then demonstrates the progress pupils have made since the baseline activity.


Our guide to ‘Handling sensitive issues’ outlines suggested approaches — including developing a safe learning environment, agreeing on clear ground rules and using techniques — to distance the learning.


Relationships Education/RSE education should always be taught as part of broader PSHE education. This allows pupils to develop the necessary skills, knowledge and personal attributes as part of a planned programme of regular lessons that also addresses related factors such as media literacy; drugs and alcohol; equality and prejudice; and health.

See our guidance on ‘Preparing for statutory RSE and relationships education within your PSHE curriculum’ and CPD training on getting ready for the new statutory requirements.