What is the role of personal and social development, or PSHE, in delivering national outcomes for children and young people? Marilyn Tew, chair of NSCoPSE discusses

Education minister Lord Adonis has said that personal, social and health education is ‘key to the effectiveness of schools in meeting all the national outcomes for children, and that ‘without effective PSHE, a school’s ability to demonstrate how they are contributing to the Every Child matters agenda, addressing pupil well-being and supporting personal development is compromised’.

Developmental process
Personal and social education is a developmental process that includes:

  • knowing, understanding and appreciating oneself
  • acknowledging responsibility for your own sense of self-worth and wellbeing
  • recognising the contribution and impact you have, socially and environmentally in wider communities and society as a whole with all its current diversity.

The approach favoured by both the DCSF and Ofsted is having a dedicated team who teach a weekly lesson in the same way that other curriculum areas are structured rather than the condensed ‘drop down’ or ‘super learning’ days favoured by some secondary schools. The weekly curriculum time can be supplemented by more exciting days off timetable with a focus on careers, enterprise, health or whatever else. However, the use of specialists and a weekly curriculum slot upholds the status of PSHE in the eyes of both staff and students and supports a progressive and developmental curriculum. Ofsted report that when there is a specialist team of teachers, the overall achievement of PSHE is good or better.

Tutors also have a valuable role to play in provision that addresses pupils’ personal and social development. This role is best separated from the one of subject specialist, however.
Some secondary schools still require tutors to deliver the PSHE curriculum. NSCoPSE’s position is that it is not fair on either the pupils or the teaching staff to continue working in this way. Life experience is not synonymous with the knowledge, understanding, values, attitudes and skills needed to explore controversial and sensitive issues with pupils. In the same way as the more traditional subjects require specialist knowledge and approaches, so too PSHE has its own specialist pedagogy and content.

Programmes of study
The advent of the new secondary curriculum framework in September 2008, brought with it changes in previous thinking about PSHE. Two programmes of study (personal wellbeing and economic wellbeing and financial capability) now combine to make up PSHE Education, a wider agenda than the previous PSHE, which includes careers and financial education. Both of the new programmes of study contain statutory elements, relating to sex education, careers education and work related learning. Both also contribute to the achievement of the curriculum aims for all young people to become:

  • successful learners who enjoy learning and make progress
  • confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives
  • responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society.

Addressing PSHE Education requires a coherent, progressive curriculum which develops the concepts, key processes and the full range and content for all pupils. It should be developed in response to pupils’ needs and be delivered by effective teaching and learning strategies, combined with thorough monitoring and assessment.

Addressing ECM
The Children Act in 2004 made it clear that children’s serviceswere to address the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda. Consequently, schools need to show that they are addressing this agenda when they prepare their self-evaluation form (SEF). Ofsted inspectors use the SEF to focus an inspection. It is important therefore to provide evidence of how PSHE Education is making a contribution to the curriculum aims and supporting learning and development. Below we show some of the ways NSCoPSE has noted that a school may celebrate (and evidence) their provision for personal and social development through section 4 of the SEF.


NSCoPSE is the professional organisation for advisers, inspectors and consultants with responsibility for all aspects of personal and social education, including health education and citizenship.It provides a national forum for those with the responsibility for supporting, monitoring and evaluating personal and social education.

Making sure every child does matter through PSHE
The experience of NSCoPSE members has combined to produce a list of key drivers that go a long way to secure effective PSD. We offer them to RAU readers as a way of ensuring that PSHE Education in their school addresses the Every Child Matters agenda. They are:

  • student participation
  • a needs-based curriculum provisions
  • student emotional health and wellbeing
  • schools reflecting the community they serve
  • partnership working
  • inter-disciplinary working
  • evidence-based practice, impact and effectiveness
  • curriculum creativity.

Key messages
In summary, I present a synopsis of the ways a school can approach PSHE Education to ensure its relevance to the Every Child Matters agenda.

  • Step back regularly from the details of school life to develop a bigger vision for the school’s PSD provision.
  • Create a school environment that is welcoming, values the individual and promotes positive learning in all aspects of its work.
  • Ensure all students receive a planned programme for PSD, which has an impact on their attitudes, values and skills, and includes opportunities to analyse, reflect, speculate, discuss and argue constructively about their understanding of issues.
  • Deliver aspects of the planned provision using specialists.
  • Actively manage all elements of PSD provision within a whole-school approach through developing a culture, vocabulary and skills for regular reflection and honest feedback.
  • Involve students in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the school’s work.
  • Ensure all staff model appropriate behaviour and understand the contribution they make to the PSD of students regardless of the role they have in school.
  • Make explicit and active the continuum of support from the planned curriculum to specialist provision for the welfare and wellbeing of staff and students.
  • Develop effective partnerships to support the PSD of all members of the school community.
  • Use local data and information so that community aims and priorities are reflected in the school’s provision.
  • Assess student progress and achievement in PSD.
  • Have up-to-date policies in place: developed through wide consultation; implemented, monitored and evaluated for impact.
  • Provide high-quality CPD opportunities in aspects of PSHE as an entitlement for all staff.
  • Involve staff and students in the school’s self-evaluation processes to provide evidence for inclusion in the SEF.

4b. To what extent do learners feel safe and adopt safe practices?

What school does Impact/outcomes
Negotiated ‘ground rule’/keys to cooperation established and displayed all PSHE rooms Safe learning environment in which pupils can discuss all in and share ideas
Named person as ‘first point of contact’ for all persons Pupils feel safe to contact for advice/support
‘Drop in’/school nurse provision Pupils can access and talk in confidence to trained staff
PSHE curriculum dealing with sensitive issues Pupils have opportunities to explore issues among themselves in safe learning environment
Survey on bullying: when and where Flash points identified and minimised
Bullying incident log Number of incidents reduced. Behaviour improved
Peer support/buddying intiatives Additional support offers alternative contact point
Interviews with minority ethnic/vulnerable/at risk pupils Meeting individual needs – sharing and using data to change practice
Uses data from case studies of effective liaison and intervention

Raised self-confidence of pupils. Issues resolved swiftly

Repertoire of responses established

Pupils regularly involved in risk assessment through planned learning opportunities

Gains in knowledge and understanding of risk

Knowledge transferred to new learning contexts

4c. How much do learners enjoy their education?

What school does Impact/outcomes
Monitors attendance Improved attendance rates
Celebrations of success linked to behaviour policy

Pupils keen to achieve as well as they can

Raised self-confidence through public recognition

Pupil feedback via evaluation/surveys Improved attitude to work
Pupil tracking More consistency in learning experiences across the school
Assessment data used to focus learning

Improved results (SATs/GCSE)

Improved planning for learning outcomes

Progress over time

Formative assessment processes in place  
Promotes positive relationships between all people in the school

Calm orderly nature of the school

Playtimes/lunchtimes pleasant and relaxed

Good staff-pupil; pupil-pupil relationships

Creates positive learning environment Pupils often do not want to stop working. Buzz in lessons-school in vibrant
Parental surveys/parents evenings Information gleaned acted upon
Offers range of extra-curricular activities School is lively, active place with many pupils engaged in and enjoying the activities
Opportunities to work in twos, in groups and teams Sense of self-worth, contribution and working together fostered. Pupils can select their groups and work productively

Thanks to Kay Lord and Marion Waddington for their briefing paper on Ofsted and PSHE.