Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is the school subject through which children and young people acquire the knowledge, understanding and skills they need to manage their lives, now and in the future. PSHE education develops the qualities and attributes pupils need to thrive as individuals, family members and members of society.
In 2013, Ofsted found a strong correlation between outstanding PSHE education and outstanding schools. High quality PSHE education helps schools to fulfil their statutory duties and provides robust evidence for Ofsted judgements, especially in regard to safeguarding, personal development, behaviour and welfare but also in leadership and management and the requirement to provide a broad, balanced curriculum. In addition, a Department for Education (DfE) review of PSHE education provision in 2015 found a range of positive outcomes for schools including improved attitudes to health, improved ability to deal with personal difficulties and improved behaviour.
In 2017, the Government announced its intention to make relationships education (at primary) and ‘relationships and sex education’ (at secondary level), statutory in all schools, including academies and free schools, through the Children and Social Work Act. Relationships and sex education (RSE) is an integral part of PSHE education and should always be taught as part of a broader PSHE programme. The Act also gives Government the ‘power’ to make PSHE education statutory in its entirety following a period of consultation. Changes would take effect from September 2019, though schools will be expected to prepare in advance.
PSHE education provides opportunities for pupils to develop essential skills and attributes to keep themselves healthy and safe and to thrive in life and work. These include resilience, managing peer pressure; empathy, communication and negotiation, team-working, adaptability, risk management and personal, interpersonal and social effectiveness. Pupils develop these skills and attributes while learning about areas of PSHE such as:
- Relationships: developing and maintaining positive and healthy relationships of all kinds, including friendships; recognising and dealing with unhealthy relationships (including bullying); understanding how to communicate effectively and confidently within relationships. Relationships and Sex education forms a core aspect of a broader PSHE programme
- Health: healthy lifestyles; healthy eating and exercise; mental and emotional health and wellbeing; drug, alcohol and tobacco education
- Risk: assessing and managing risks and opportunities such as making independent choices and recognising and responding to peer pressure; personal safety on and offline, including on social media Promotes independence and responsibility, preparing children and young people for future roles as parents, employees and leaders.
- Economic wellbeing: budgeting, saving, pressures and influences on spending and risks associated with gambling and other financial choices.
- Career choices: including enterprise skills, different career pathways
- Employability: key skills needed to succeed in the workplace (communication skills for example); preparation for the world of work
Effective PSHE education supports the development of physically, emotionally and socially healthy young people, equipped to live healthy, safe, productive and responsible lives and to keep themselves and others safe. It supports the development of essential employability skills for the 21st Century, encouraging positive career choices, and good behaviour. It reduces or removes barriers to learning, such as bullying, low self-esteem, unhealthy, or risky behaviours. Indeed there is strong evidence to suggest that the focus of PSHE education on health, wellbeing and key life skills has the potential to significantly support and enhance pupils’ academic attainment
While PSHE education is currently a non-statutory subject (see introduction above), section 2.5 of the National Curriculum framework states that: /p>
‘All schools should make provision for PSHE, drawing on good practice.’
Along with the National Curriculum framework, the DfE also published guidance on PSHE education , which states that the subject is ‘an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education’ and that:
‘Schools should seek to use PSHE education to build, where appropriate, on the statutory content already outlined in the national curriculum, the basic school curriculum and in statutory guidance on: drug education, financial education, sex and relationship education (SRE) and the importance of physical activity and diet for a healthy lifestyle.’
The 2017 Children and Social Work Act includes legislation that makes relationships and sex education (RSE) statutory in all secondary schools, and ‘relationships education’ in all primary schools. The Act also gives the Government power to make PSHE education statutory in its entirety, pending the results of a consultation.The Government plans to introduce statutory RSE and ‘relationships education’ – and potentially the whole of PSHE education – from September 2019. The Government will begin a period of engagement, followed by public consultation, to determine regulations and guidance regarding RSE (and ‘relationships education’) and the status and content of PSHE education more broadly.
The National Governance Association (NGA) position statement on PSHE education, including RSE as of October 2017 is: “The NGA thinks that Personal, Social and Health Education including (age appropriate) Relationships and Sex Education should be statutory in all schools.”
‘Every state-funded school must offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which:
- promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils
- prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life’
These duties are set out in the 2002 Education Act ( the 2010 Academies Act also refers to the broad and balanced curriculum). Schools also have statutory responsibilities in relation to promoting pupil wellbeing and pupil safeguarding ( Children Act 2004 ) and community cohesion ( Education Act 2006). The Equality Act 2010 places duties on schools to help to reduce prejudice-based bullying and in doing so to ensure all pupils regardless of their age, sex, disability, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, are kept safe. PSHE education plays an important part in fulfilling these responsibilities.
All schools and academies have responsibilities relating to the safety of children in their care. Paragraph 68 of the statutory safeguarding guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education , clearly states that safeguarding extends to curriculum approaches such as PSHE education:
‘Governing bodies and proprietors should ensure children are taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities, as part of providing a broad and balanced curriculum. This may include covering relevant issues through PSHE education….”
As outlined in Schedule 4 of the School Information (England) Regulations 2012 , there is a requirement for schools to publish details of their curriculum online. In January 2014, the DfE updated its timeline of mandatory information for schools , making it clear that a school’s PSHE curriculum should be published under this requirement.
The PSHE Association non-statutory programme of study for PSHE education is regularly highlighted by the Department for Education for schools to consult when planning their PSHE provision. ‘Relationships’ is one of the three core themes of this programme of study, and the Association makes the case that RSE should always be delivered within broader PSHE education to be effective, as there is a lot of crossover between other areas of PSHE – such as aspects of mental health, online safety and developing the interpersonal skills necessary for successful careers.
Until the aforementioned changes are implemented in September 2019, only those elements of RSE contained in the science national curriculum are statutory in state maintained primary schools, though these schools must have an RSE policy and this policy must state the school’s decision not to cover additional elements. State maintained secondary schools must cover aspects of RSE relating to HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, but have no statutory obligation to cover the relationships aspect.
RSE is not compulsory in academies and free schools but if it is taught, then the school must have ‘due regard’ to the Secretary of State’s Sex and Relationship Education Guidance (DFEE, 2000) which strongly recommends a broader programme of RSE as part of PSHE education. The content of this broader programme is decided by each school or academy and constructed within the governing body’s RSE policy.
Primary and secondary state maintained schools should however have an up-to-date SRE policy, available for inspection and to parents/carers on request. This is the responsibility of the governing board. Academies don’t have to have an RSE policy but it is advisable. Free schools must have an up-to-date RSE policy, drawn up by the governing board, available to parents and for inspection. The PSHE Association has developed guidance on drafting your sex and relationships education policy which is available here .
In any school that provides SRE, parents have the right to withdraw their children from all or part of SRE (excluding withdrawal from sex education within the science national curriculum), but from 2019 the Government proposes that this right of withdrawal won’t apply to the relationships aspect of RSE. The DfE has formally recognised good practice guidance from the PSHE Association, Brook and the Sex Education Forum, which sets out schools’ responsibilities on RSE which vary between primary and secondary schools and between maintained schools and academies/free schools.
PSHE education has a key role in relation to Ofsted success. Ofsted has identified that outstanding schools almost always have outstanding PSHE education , and that in the Common Inspection Framework, particularly in relation to personal development, behaviour and welfare; spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development; and safeguarding. Evidence gathered through assessment of learning in PSHE education plays a major part in demonstrating the impact of a PSHE curriculum that is matched to the needs of pupils.
SA comprehensive programme of PSHE education contributes to schools’ statutory policies for:
- Early Years Foundation Stage
- Special Education Needs
- Sex education
- School behaviour
- Health and safety
- Safeguarding/Child protection procedures
In addition, it is strongly recommended that schools have a policy for drug education and incident management which makes reference to PSHE education.
The PSHE Association provides a Programme of Study for PSHE education which is freely available to all schools and which is signposted by the government for schools to use. This covers Key Stages 1 – 5 and is based on three core themes:
- Health and wellbeing
- Living in the wider world
Guidance for schools on developing their PSHE education policy is available here . PSHE Association members can download free our scheme of work planning toolkits for primary and secondary, which support PSHE Leads to design schemes of work tailored to the needs of their schools.
- How does our school ensure its PSHE education is relevant and is meeting the needs of our pupils?
- How is learning in PSHE education assessed?
- How could learning in PSHE education provide evidence to support our school in any future inspection – especially of safeguarding?’
- Is PSHE education in our school taught by a teacher who is trained and comfortable in their role?
- Is it inclusive of difference, including other cultures, ethnicity, disability, faith, age, sexual orientation and gender identity?
- Does it take a developmental approach and is it relevant to pupils, depending on their age and maturity?
- Is the head teacher and senior leadership team supportive of PSHE education and the PSHE education Lead?
- Is PSHE education provision evaluated and monitored?