What does the new Ofsted framework mean for PSHE education?

With its emphasis on ‘personal development’, and reports of PSHE being the focus of “deep dives” in recent inspections, it’s clear that PSHE education will play a key role in providing evidence under the new framework.

This new framework emphasises the need for high quality provision through a broad and rich curriculum, and aims to support the future success of all individuals, with a focus on supporting those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Personal Development judgement requires evidence that schools have worked to prepare young people for the next step in their education and their later employment. It’s hard to envisage how a school could do this well without a comprehensive and thoroughly planned PSHE education programme.

Beyond Personal Development, a well-considered and comprehensive PSHE programme can contribute to all four judgement areas, as well as being essential to safeguarding.


Acing Personal Development with PSHE education

"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."

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman, July 2019 speech

By calling for evidence of broader development, Ofsted’s new framework emphasises the need to think of the pupil as more than a set of academic results. It stresses schools’ responsibility to prepare pupils for success in their ongoing education or career, and for life in modern Britain.

But what does this broader development look like? It’s clear from the framework that simply knowing the facts regarding the wider world is not enough. Resilience, confidence and independence are highlighted as attributes that should be developed in our pupils.

It’s unlikely that Personal Development would be judged ‘Outstanding’ unless provision is being delivered effectively and consistently to all pupils. Therefore, the need for lessons to be timetabled and regular is clear.

The framework is also clear that if a “significant minority do not receive a wide, rich set of experiences” then a school is likely to receive a judgement of “Inadequate” for this area. So, it’s not enough to leave Personal Development to chance by relying on extra-curricular activities, and doing so might mean the most disadvantaged pupils miss out.

The framework acknowledges that a wide range of factors affect pupils, such as home life and their communities. Schools will not be judged on the results of personal development in the lives of students, but on the intent, effectiveness and quality of the provision in place to address it. As such, it is absolutely essential that teachers delivering lessons are confident, trained in PSHE education and have access to a well-planned curriculum, tailored to their pupils’ needs.

As you develop your PSHE curriculum, consider what you would want an inspector to see. What considerations did you have when planning? What are the needs of your pupils and how have you adapted your programme to meet these needs? What CPD has your staff received to make them competent and confident practitioners? Consider putting together a single side of paper that quickly highlights what you’re doing well.

See our Programme of Study for PSHE education (key stages 1 – 5) and toolkits for primary and secondary schools to help you plan the development of your PSHE programme effectively and safely.


Developing Positive Behaviour and Attitudes

The importance of the curriculum shouldn’t be overlooked in the whole-school approach to developing positive behaviour and attitudes. For example, inspectors are likely to look for evidence that bullying, peer-on-peer abuse and discrimination are not tolerated in schools.

Preventative PSHE education that teaches acceptance, tolerance and empathy — as well as strategies to respond appropriately to bullying, prejudice and discrimination — plays an important part alongside an effective behaviour and sanctions policy.

To be considered ‘Outstanding’ in terms of behaviour and attitudes, schools need to show that their students have high levels of respect for each other, are supportive of one another’s wellbeing and can demonstrate high levels of self-control.

PSHE education helps our pupils to know how they can support each other, manage their own behaviour and get help for themselves or their friends when they need it.


Quality of Education

With its focus on the “3Is” — Intent, Implementation and Impact — Ofsted will want to know what schools aim to do for their pupils and why; how well they’re actually delivering it; and what that all means for the pupils involved. This reflects the step towards looking at a schools’ provision, not just the end result. Here is an idea of how this could apply to your PSHE provision:

  • Intent:
    Ofsted expects to see a coherently planned curriculum that equips young people for the real world. PSHE ensures wider development of our pupils, so plays a key part, but we need to ask ourselves: ‘How can we make sure our PSHE curriculum is planned to meet our own pupils’ needs?’, ‘How do we know what these needs are?’, ‘What data have we got?’, ‘What baseline assessments can we do?’.

  • Implementation:
    An approach in which earlier knowledge and skills are revisited is highlighted as a vital feature of a well implemented curriculum. Therefore, regular, planned lessons are necessary. Approaches such as squeezing PSHE into sporadic drop-down days, using circle time as a knee jerk reaction to incidents, or hasty form periods are no substitute.
    Even the best intentions cannot be realised without effective implementation and delivery by teachers who feel confident and qualified to teach PSHE education. As PSHE can do harm if not taught well, this calls for a suitably trained PSHE Lead and teachers who have good knowledge of the areas they are teaching and of PSHE pedagogy. This means that leaders are responsible for supporting teachers and providing appropriate professional development (See our range of CPD days and training available).

  • Impact:
    The aim of all of this is to have a positive impact on our pupils. Schools need to show Ofsted that young people at all stages of their education are prepared for life now and also for their next steps, whether that’s moving up to secondary school, or into further education, employment or training. PSHE education not only contributes to these areas but is also linked to improved academic performance, particularly for the most disadvantaged.

Leadership and Management

It is schools leaders’ responsibility to ensure that statutory regulations are met, including the new Relationships Education, RSE and Health Education requirements for PSHE education.

Ofsted’s guidance on inspecting safeguarding makes clear that the responsibilities placed on governing bodies, boards of trustees, registered providers, proprietors and management committees include:

“making sure that children and learners are taught how to recognise risk and know where to go for help when they need it”

And that inspectors should consider evidence that:

“as part of the curriculum, children and learners are supported to understand what constitutes a healthy relationship both online and offline, and to recognise risk, for example risks associated with criminal and sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, substance misuse, gang activity, radicalisation and extremism, and are aware of the support available to them”

Where else will this be effectively achieved for all pupils if not in the PSHE classroom?

There is a clear need for a proactive approach to preparing pupils — not just responding when safeguarding issues arise, but instead equipping all pupils for some of the most complex decisions they will have to make. Schools need leaders who support PSHE education, with an understanding of its value and role in children and young people’s lives, as well as knowing what best practice looks like in order to encourage it.


Final Thoughts

Preparing for Ofsted can be a daunting process, and changes to the framework may add to the feeling of uncertainty. As educators, we have all been there, hoping that we’ve done all that we can. That said, this new framework does provide an opportunity for those of us involved in PSHE education to really showcase its contribution to the school’s outcomes. Greater emphasis on aspects such as personal development — combined with the statutory changes — should encourage schools, and school leaders, to optimise this vital subject.

There are actions you can take now to make sure that you are prepared and we’re here to help you every step of the way through our training days, including specific training on preparing for Ofsted, and our range of resources, guidance and practical tools.

Good luck!


Share this post

Leave a comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.