PSHE education is a school subject through which pupils develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to keep themselves healthy and safe, and prepare for life and work in modern Britain. Evidence shows that well-delivered PSHE programmes have an impact on both academic and non-academic outcomes for pupils.
Schools, in partnership with parents, have a vital role in preparing children and young people to negotiate the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly complex world. Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is the school subject that deals with real life issues affecting our children, families and communities. It’s concerned with the social, health and economic realities of their lives, experiences and attitudes. It supports pupils to be healthy (mentally and physically); safe (online and offline) and equipped to thrive in their relationships and careers. PSHE education helps all children and young people — the highest achievers as well as the vulnerable and excluded — to achieve their fullest potential.
- Contributes to physical and mental health and wellbeing, encouraging individual responsibility for health.
- Contributes to the safety and protection of our children and young people, from staying safe online to understanding risks associated with drugs and alcohol.
- Promotes independence, resilience and responsibility — preparing children and young people for future roles as parents, employees and leaders.
- Supports employability by developing the personal and social skills demanded by commerce and industry.
- Supports pupils to be critical consumers of information, and develops the skills to identify misleading news or views on social media and elsewhere.
In summary, PSHE education provides opportunities to learn about :
- Relationships: including developing and maintaining positive relationships and dealing with negative relationships. This may include learning about bullying, consent, how to communicate effectively, inappropriate behaviour in relationships and, at a later stage, topics such as sexual coercion and grooming.
- Developing independence, resilience and responsibility: including preparing children and young people to face life’s challenges and make the most of life’s opportunities.
- Health: including healthy lifestyles, healthy eating and exercise; mental and emotional health; drug, alcohol and tobacco education; emergency life-saving skills.
- Managing risk: including understanding personal safety and online safety; financial choices and risks; appreciating the value of taking risks in certain situations (e.g. entrepreneurial risks).
- Economic wellbeing: including the role of money, influences on our use of money, gambling, careers education
- Employability skills: including learning about enterprise, business and finance. Developing the skills and attributes to succeed at work, including communication skills and confidence.
The knowledge, skills and attributes developed through PSHE education combine to equip pupils for numerous challenges.First aid provides a good example of this in practice. Pupils can learn the practical steps (e.g. CPR) in PSHE lessons, but also develop the confidence and awareness to put this knowledge into practice and step in when faced with a real-life medical emergency.
See the PSHE Association Programme of Study for PSHE education (KS1-5) for an overview of what PSHE can cover
On the contrary, high quality PSHE education has a positive impact on academic attainment. It effectively addresses issues which can make it difficult for young people to engage in learning such as those concerning mental health and emotional wellbeing, bullying, poor physical health, relationship issues and substance misuse. Therefore, PSHE education complements rather than compromises core academic learning in schools.
A major evidence review by Pro Bono Economics in 2017 found that PSHE supported academic attainment by both removing barriers to learning and supporting pupils with the skills necessary to succeed.
There is strong evidence that PSHE education:
- Supports children and young people's safety and protection — online and offline
- Supports mental and physical health and wellbeing, encouraging individual responsibility for staying fit and healthy and developing essential emergency life-saving skills
- Supports academic attainment by addressing barriers that prevent children and young people from learning
- Reduces the risks of drug and alcohol misuse and addictive behaviours
- Improves employability and chances of career success by developing the personal and social skills demanded by commerce and industry, such as communication skills, personal responsibility and confidence.
See the PSHE Association Curriculum for Life report for an overview of evidence on the impact of PSHE in relation to a range of these life outcomes
The Department for Education (DfE) have stated their expectation that all schools should teach PSHE education (including in the introduction to the National Curriculum document), but the subject is not mandatory. As a result, time allocated to teaching PSHE has been under threat and Ofsted has expressed concerns regarding the uniform quality of delivery in some schools, despite an established link between schools judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted and those with high quality PSHE education.
The DfE has recognised this issue, and in response to widespread support for higher status, announced the intention to make key aspects of PSHE education mandatory in all schools from 2020.
Therefore, relationships and sex education (RSE) will be mandatory in all secondary schools, and ‘relationships education’ in all primary schools.’ ‘Health education’ (covering aspects of both mental and physical health) will be made mandatory in state-funded schools in line with existing requirements in independent schools. A consultation on the accompanying guidance is open until November 2018.
Though not yet mandatory, schools are encouraged to continue to teach the remaining aspects of PSHE education — including economic wellbeing and preparation for further education and careers — to complement what is covered in other areas of the curriculum.
Yes — like other subjects, when planned well, PSHE education gradually builds key concepts and skills through topics that are relevant to children and young people’s age and stage of development. For example:
- Learning the importance of the safe use of medicines and chemicals in the home early in primary school gradually leads to learning about the risks associated with alcohol and drug misuse later on.
- Learning the skills of fairness and turn-taking with toys gradually builds to developing the skills of negotiation and assertiveness.
- Learning that as we physically grow we have new opportunities and that those opportunities bring new responsibilities. This underpins work on understanding puberty and eventually, becoming a parent.
- Learning to work cooperatively and to respect one another underpins learning that enables young people to understand and manage a wide range of different types of relationships, and understand the concept of consent
- Understanding the roles of different people in our community and how they help us underpins subsequent careers education and choices.
- Understanding the concepts of ‘borrowing and returning’ and ‘recognising that our actions have consequences’ underpins learning about the consequences and management of debt when combined with developing numeracy skills.
The personal, social, health and economic development of our children is achieved through partnership between school and the family. To support your children, you could:
- Go to information events for parents about the school’s approach to PSHE related issues such as online safety, relationships and sex education and drugs.
- Talk with your children about the issues explored in PSHE education.
If your child does not have timetabled lessons for PSHE education, you could discuss this with the school or governing body and perhaps share this briefing; or suggest they visit the PSHE Association website to find out more about the importance of PSHE education and how we can support the school to provide the best possible PSHE for its pupils.
If you have any concerns about PSHE education or are worried about your child, do speak to their teacher.
Schools have an obligation to publish curriculum details on their websites, so this should give you an overview of what’s covered in PSHE education. There is, however, no prescription about the level of detail required, so you may wish to contact the school directly for further details of their PSHE provision and related policies.
The PSHE Association is the national body for PSHE education, supporting a national network of schools and practitioners to deliver high quality PSHE through dedicated resources, training and other support.