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Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE)


Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education. All schools should teach PSHE, drawing on good practice. Sex and relationship education (SRE) is an important part of PSHE education and is statutory in maintained secondary schools. Information from the DfE on the topic can be found here.


The national curriculum 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.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.


Teaching PSHE education can be a daunting prospect for a beginning teacher. Talking about issues such as mental health, well-being and sex education can take us well out of our comfort zone. It can also be very rewarding and an opportunity to build relationships with students that we wouldn't otherwise get the chance to forge.


PSHE education gives pupils the knowledge, skills, and attributes they need to keep themselves healthy and safe and to prepare them for life and work in modern Britain. Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education is a school subject through which pupils develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to manage their lives, now and in the future. These skills and attributes help pupils to stay healthy, safe and prepare them for life and work in modern Britain. When taught well, PSHE education helps pupils to achieve their academic potential, and leave school equipped with skills they will need throughout later life.


PSHE covers many topic areas such as drug and alcohol education, relationships and sex education, economic well-being, personal safety, healthy eating and mental health & emotional well-being. In many schools, all teachers are expected to teach PSHE and depending on the setup in the individual school, this may be teaching your own tutor group or it could be a timetable lesson with a mixed class. It is vital that these lessons are treated with the same seriousness and dedication as your "normal" subject. Your lessons should be well planned and delivered as if it were your own subject.


According to the PSHE Association:


"The national curriculum states that ‘all schools should make provision for personal, social, and health education (PSHE)."

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.


Who are the PSHE Association?

The PSHE Association is the national body for Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education. They aim to improve standards of PSHE provision in local authority schools and other school groups, such as academy chains, across the country. They can advise schools in developing their own PSHE curriculum.


The "Personal" in PSHE Education

PSHE is all about what is "personal" and this can be the most daunting element of PSHE (outside of Sex & Relationship Education) for a new teacher! The aim of this element is to make even the most sensitive issues appropriate to the students you are teaching at that moment. The secondary school years are a crucial development period for our young people in terms of their physical, emotional, mental and sexual selves. It is a time where changes in the brain affect reasoning and thinking. Puberty kicks in, there are growth spurts and sexual maturation. Teaching PSHE Education give you the privileged position of being there to guide and support young people through this transformation. You will need to prepare yourself for awkward questions. You will also need to become comfortable with answering these awkward questions. Creating a "safe" environment for your students to be able to ask these questions is also key. It may also be worth remembering that some students may also try to "test" the new teacher - especially if you are fortunate enough to look rather young in years! By keeping a poker face and being open to awkward, even embarrassing questions is key. It is also important to set clear boundaries in relation to what is and what isn't appropriate to ask. PSHE education also supports students to develop intra-personal skills and attributes requires to be resilient when facing challenges and opportunities in life. Including the skills of active listening, empathy, communication skills, team work, negotiation skills and strategies for coping with pressure.


The "Social" in PSHE Education

This element is fundamentally about relationships. Relationships with family, friends and peers can influence health and wellbeing throughout life in both positive and negative ways. PSHE Education can support students to develop attitudes, understanding and skills to help them with this.


The "Health" in PSHE Education

This is a holistic view of health including physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual and societal health. All aspects of health and related to each other. Sexual well-being for example depends on physical and emotional well-being as well as the social skills for building healthy relationships. Spend some time exploring your own understanding of the term "health". PSHE Education should encourage students to appreciate that "health" is more than just being free from disease/illness or something related to what they eat.


The "Economic" in PSHE Education

Economic well-being and financial capability was added to the National Curriculum in 2013 and covers elements of personal finance education. It looks at the links between economic well-being and emotional well-being, sexual health and relationships. Money issues and financial difficulties can be key stress factors for many adults and this can put pressure on relationships and emotional well-being. The skills and attributes that young people need to manage decision related to money and budgeting are often similar to those needed in other life decisions. Pupils are encouraged to understand where money comes from and how to manage it effectively.


What is sex and relationship education (SRE)?

SRE is lifelong learning about physical, moral and emotional development. It is

about the understanding of the importance of marriage for family life, stable and

loving relationships, respect, love and care. It is also about the teaching of sex,

sexuality, and sexual health. It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or

sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching.


It has three main elements; attitudes and values, personal and social skills & knowledge and understanding.


Attitudes and values

  • learning the importance of values and individual conscience and moral considerations;

  • learning the value of family life, marriage, and stable and loving relationships for the nurture of children;

  • learning the value of respect, love and care;

  • exploring, considering and understanding moral dilemmas; and

  • developing critical thinking as part of decision-making.


Personal and social skills

  • learning to manage emotions and relationships confidently and sensitively;

  • developing self-respect and empathy for others;

  • learning to make choices based on an understanding of difference and with an

  • absence of prejudice;

  • developing an appreciation of the consequences of choices made;

  • managing conflict; and

  • learning how to recognise and avoid exploitation and abuse.

Knowledge and understanding

  • learning and understanding physical development at appropriate stages;

  • understanding human sexuality, reproduction, sexual health, emotions and relationships;

  • learning about contraception and the range of local and national sexual health advice, contraception and support services;

  • learning the reasons for delaying sexual activity, and the benefits to be gained from such delay; and

  • the avoidance of unplanned pregnancy.

What pupils should learn at primary school

In relationships education at primary school, pupils will learn about things like the “characteristics of healthy family life” and that other people’s families “sometimes look different” from theirs.


The subject will also cover how to recognise if relationships are making them feel unhappy and unsafe, and how to seek help if needed. Other elements include the importance of respecting others, even when they are different, and the rules and principles for keeping safe online.


One change since the draft guidance was put out last year is the inclusion of content on how to “report concerns or abuse” and the “vocabulary and confidence needed to do so”.


Health education at primary school will cover physical health content like basic first aid, diet and nutrition, drugs and alcohol, puberty and the need for exercise and good quality sleep, alongside teaching about mental health issues too.


For example, the subject will cover the “range and scale” of human emotions and how to talk about them. Pupils should also learn the benefits of exercise and time outdoors, as well as “community participation, voluntary and service-based activity”, along with “simple self-care techniques” like the importance of rest.


The impact of bullying, including cyberbullying, will be discussed, and schools will also be expected to teach pupils about the benefits of rationing time spent online.


Teaching about menstruation has also been added since the draft guidance was published last year, as has a line requiring schools to teach “the facts and science relating to immunisation and vaccination”.


What pupils should learn at secondary

When pupils move on to secondary school, relationships and sex education will get more detailed. Pupils will learn about “different types” of relationships, the legal status of marriage, the roles and responsibilities of parents and how to determine whether other children, adults or sources of information are trustworthy.


There will be content on how stereotypes can be damaging, on criminal behaviour in relationships such as violence or coercion and what constitutes sexual harassment and sexual violence and “why they are always unacceptable”.


Pupils will also be taught about their rights and responsibilities online, and how sexually explicit material like pornography presents a “distorted picture of sexual behaviours”. The content will also cover sexual consent, exploitation, abuse, grooming, coercion, harassment, rape and domestic abuse. Content on forced marriage, honour based violence and female genital mutilation has also been added since the guidance was in draft form.


There is also content on reproductive health and fertility, managing sexual pressure, the range and efficacy of contraception, STIs and the facts around pregnancy, including miscarriage


Pupils should also be taught there are “choices in relation to pregnancy”, using “medically and legally accurate, impartial information on all options, including keeping the baby, adoption, abortion and where to get further help”.


In late secondary education, pupils will learn the “benefits of regular self-examination and screening”.


Health education will move on to cover common types of mental health issues, the unrealistic expectations for body images shown online, the science relating to blood, organ and stem cell donation and the risks associated with alcohol, drugs and tobacco consumption.


Personal hygiene and dental health will also be covered, and teaching of basic first aid will become more advanced than at primary school, to include CPR and other life-saving skills.


Setting & Maintaining Boundaries

It is important to be clear with your students about the issue of confidentiality and the disclosure of sensitive information. One of the most common ground rules suggested by young people is that "whatever is said/shared in this room should stay in this room". Whilst there is nothing wrong with the sentiment of this statement, it is important that you refer back to Safeguarding Legislation and that you are clear that there could be occasions where you are obliged to share information. Always follow your school's policies on safeguarding and confidentiality and ensure that pupils understand the policies on disclosure of confidential information. Follow up any concerns outside of the lesson if necessary.


Establishing clear ground rules alone is not enough. PSHE Education is by its very nature "personal" and you will discuss sensitive issues with your students. It is, however, a curriculum subject and not a therapeutic intervention. Teachers can signpost to specialist agencies and support within the lesson, making it clear who they can talk to in school. It's also important that you as the teacher do not share overly personal or sensitive information about yourself or your own life. You must respect professional boundaries within the lesson. It is also a good idea to have an anonymous question box for students to be able to leave questions at the end of a lesson which can be followed up in subsequent lessons.


PSHE Association Principles of Effective PSHE Education


The PSHE Association has developed the following evidence-based principles of good practice in PSHE education:


  1. Start where children and young people are: find out what they already know, understand, are able to do and are able to say. For maximum impact involve them in the planning of your PSHE education programme.

  2. Plan a ‘spiral programme’ which introduces new and more challenging learning, while building on what has gone before, which reflects and meets the personal developmental needs of the children and young people.

  3. Take a positive approach which does not attempt to induce shock or guilt but focuses on what children and young people can do to keep themselves and others healthy and safe and to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

  4. Offer a wide variety of teaching and learning styles within PSHE education, with an emphasis on interactive learning and the teacher as facilitator.

  5. Provide information which is realistic and relevant and which reinforces positive social norms.

  6. Encourage young people to reflect on their learning and the progress they have made, and to transfer what they have learned to say and to do from one school subject to another, and from school to their lives in the wider community.

  7. Recognise that the PSHE education programme is just one part of what a school can do to help a child to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and understanding they need to fulfil their potential. Link the PSHE education programme to other whole school approaches, to pastoral support, and provide a setting where the responsible choice becomes the easy choice. Encourage staff, families and the wider community to get involved.

  8. Embed PSHE education within other efforts to ensure children and young people have positive relationships with adults, feel valued and where those who are most vulnerable are identified and supported.

  9. Provide opportunities for children and young people to make real decisions about their lives, to take part in activities which simulate adult choices and where they can demonstrate their ability to take responsibility for their decisions.

  10. Provide a safe and supportive learning environment where children and young people can develop the confidence to ask questions, challenge the information they are offered, draw on their own experience, express their views and opinions and put what they have learned into practice in their own lives.

Resources and websites


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