Curriculum guidance 

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

Our Programme of Study for PSHE education (key stages 1-5) aims to develop skills and attributes such as resilience, self-esteem, risk-management, teamworking and critical thinking in the context of three core themes: health and wellbeing, relationships and living in the wider world (including economic wellbeing and aspects of careers education).

The national curriculum also states that ‘all schools should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), drawing on good practice'. PSHE education contributes to schools' statutory duties outlined in the Education Act 2002 and the Academies Act 2010 to provide a balanced and broadly-based curriculum and is essential to Ofsted judgements in relation to personal development, behaviour, welfare and safeguarding. The relationships and health aspects of PSHE education will be compulsory in all schools from 2020.

In June 2019, the Department for Education launched the final statutory guidance to accompany introduction of compulsory health education, relationships education and relationships and sex education (RSE) in 2020.

PSHE education helps pupils to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to manage life’s challenges and make the most of life’s opportunities.

There is evidence to show that PSHE education can address teenage pregnancy, substance misuse, unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity, emotional health and other key issues. An effective PSHE programme can also tackle barriers to learning, raise aspirations, and improve the life chances of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils.

Our Evidence and Research section unites the growing evidence for PSHE education’s impact on these areas.

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

All schools are currently expected to provided PSHE education on the curriculum and this expectation will be strengthened from 2020 when the Health Education and Relationships Education (primary) / Relationships and Sex Education (secondary) aspects become compulsory in all schools.

Until then, PSHE education remains a non-statutory subject on the school curriculum in maintained schools and academies, though section 2.5 of the national curriculum states that all state schools ‘should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), drawing on good practice'. The Department for Education (DfE) consider PSHE education ‘an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education and the vast majority of schools have some kind of PSHE provision. PSHE education is compulsory in independent schools.

From 2020, the majority of PSHE education will be compulsory in all schools.

Under the 2017 Children and Social Work Act, the government has committed to compulsory ‘Relationships Education’ in all primary schools; compulsory ‘Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)’ in all secondary schools; and compulsory ‘Health Education’ from key stage 1–4.

Final statutory guidance on these aspects of PSHE was published in June 2019 and our ‘We’ve got it covered’ guide shows how the PSHE education Programme of Study covers, and goes beyond, this statutory, guidance (which just outlines minimum statutory requirements). Though not yet statutory, it is vital that schools continue to cover economic wellbeing and careers aspects of PSHE education.

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). Paragraph 41 of statutory guidance on Keeping Children Safe in Education, the Department for Education states that 'schools should consider how children may be taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities. This may include covering relevant issues through PSHE…'

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 also places duties on schools not just to address prejudice-based bullying but also to help to prevent it 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).

Relationships and sex education (RSE) should always be delivered as part of a planned, developmental PSHE education programme. The Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) aspect of PSHE education will be compulsory in all secondary schools from 2020, and 'Relationships Education' compulsory in all primary schools.

Statutory guidance for Relationships, RSE and Health education was published in June 2019 and will replace existing statutory SRE guidance from 2000. This new guidance outlines what schools must cover – though not everything that schools should cover – in PSHE from 2020, and schools are beginning to update their provision accordingly. Schools are encouraged to adopt the new curriculum early from September 2019.

In the meantime the status of RSE differs across types of schools as follows:

How does PSHE education contribute to Ofsted inspections?

The new Ofsted education inspection framework is in effect from September 2019. There is more scope for PSHE education to be a focus of inspections under this new framework in providing evidence for key judgements, particularly ‘personal development’.

Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said that ”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."

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.

The 2013 Ofsted PSHE report highlights the relationship between a school’s PSHE provision and overall effectiveness, noting ’a close correlation between the grades that the schools in the survey were awarded for overall effectiveness in their last section 5 inspection and their grade for PSHE education’. Our case study series explores this relationship in greater detail.

We provide training on preparing for Ofsted and ISI inspections through your school’s PSHE provision.

How does PSHE education contribute to independent school inspections?.

Independent schools inspected by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) are required to have schemes of work for PSHE 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. We have produced a number of documents to help schools to plan their PSHE education curriculum, including:

The Health Education and Relationships Education (primary) / Relationships and Sex Education (secondary) aspects of PSHE will be compulsory in all school from 2020 (PSHE education is currently only compulsory in independent schools). The 2019 statutory guidance outlines what must be covered – but not everything that should be covered – in PSHE education from that point.

Our ‘We’ve got it covered’ guide shows how the PSHE education Programme of Study covers, and goes beyond, this statutory guidance. And though not yet compulsory in maintained schools or academies, it is vital that all schools continue to cover economic wellbeing and careers through PSHE education (read our guide on how PSHE education supports economic wellbeing and careers).

Also see the statutory Department for Education SRE guidance from 2000.

PSHE Association Programme of Study for PSHE education (key stages 1–5)

This Programme of Study for PSHE education is the most common approach to structuring PSHE education in schools and is regularly signposted to by the Department for Education. It covers three core learning themes: ‘health and wellbeing’, ‘relationships’ and ‘living in the wider world’ (which explores economic wellbeing and careers). It also demonstrates how schools can plan their PSHE programme in a way that fulfils their statutory responsibility to support pupils’ spiritual, moral, cultural, mental (SMSC) development while preparing them for life’s challenges and opportunities.

Also see our ‘We’ve got it covered’ guide, which shows how the PSHE education Programme of Study covers, and goes beyond, statutory guidance for Health Education, Relationships Education and RSE.

PSHE education should be treated and timetabled in the same way as any other subject. As a rough guide, we suggest one hour per week of discrete PSHE education in key stages 1 to 4, as part of a whole school, approach with opportunities to enhance the learning through other subjects and events.

PSHE education should be taught in discrete lessons. While many subjects contribute to pupils’ personal and social development – just as all subjects contribute to pupils’ literacy – there are a number of fundamental problems with attempting to integrate PSHE into other subjects on the curriculum at the expense of discrete lessons.

It is not possible to achieve continuity, progression and meaningful assessment from a cross-curricular approach. PSHE learning objectives and outcomes can be lost as other subject objectives and outcomes become prioritised.

The 2019 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.

To be successful independent learners, children and young people need regular opportunities to reflect on and identify what they have learned, what needs to be learned next and what they need to do to continue their learning. Teachers also need to be clear about the progress and achievements of the pupils they teach, and how their learning might be improved.

To enable this to happen, assessment has to be an integral part of the teaching and learning in all subjects, including PSHE education. However, the personal nature of PSHE education means that it cannot be assessed in the same way as most other subjects and it would be inappropriate for assessment in PSHE education to imply passing or failing ‘as a person’. It is however possible to recognise and evidence progress and attainment in the knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes PSHE strives to develop.

The model of assessment we advocate is that for each new topic, module, or series of lessons, an initial activity is carried out that gauges pupils’ starting point in terms of their existing knowledge, skills, attitudes and beliefs.  This is used to inform the teacher’s planning for that module. Then, at the end of the topic, module, or lesson an activity is carried out which allows pupils to demonstrate the progress they’ve made since doing the baseline activity. For example, pupils do a ‘mind-map’ of everything they know, think or believe and questions they have about the new topic, then at the end of the module they take a different coloured pen and revisit their original mind-map, adding to it, correcting previous misconceptions, answering their original questions and so on. This will demonstrate the progress they have made and can also be used to measure attainment against a set of success criteria identified by the teacher. 

You can find more information on assessment in our planning toolkits; we also recommend our CPD training day on assessing learning and progression in PSHE.

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 way pupils can 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.