Support for statutory PSHE education

Despite the importance of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and significant evidence of its impact, PSHE doesn’t have the same, statutory status as other school subjects, meaning that millions of pupils miss out.

As a result, there is huge public, professional and political support for making PSHE education statutory in order to address concerns about squeezed curriculum time and inconsistent provision. This includes from four Parliamentary select committees, the Children’s Commissioner, the Chief Medical Officer, the Association for Directors of Public Health, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, the Association of Independent Local Safeguarding Children Boards Chairs, two royal societies, five leading unions, six medical royal colleges, over 100 expert bodies (including the NSPCC, British Heart Foundation, Teenage Cancer Trust and Barndardo’s), 85% of business leaders, 88% of teachers, 92% of parents and 92% of young people.

Our landmark 'A curriculum for life' report brings together compelling evidence that high-quality PSHE education helps to keep children and young people safe, mentally and physically healthy and prepare them for life and work. An independent evidence review by Pro Bono Economics provides evidence that PSHE education supports academic success.

In 2017 the government committed to introducing compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE) in all secondary schools, and 'relationships education' in all primary schools. An additional commitment to the health education (mental and physical) aspect of PSHE education was announced in July 2018. These developments are considered by the PSHE Association and partners as 'major steps' towards raising the status and quality of PSHE education, and a testament to the strength of support for this campaign. 

There is growing cross-party consensus on the need for PSHE education that helps pupils meet the challenges and opportunities of an increasingly complex world. The landmark Commons Education Committee ‘Life Lessons’ report on PSHE education for example recommended statutory status for the subject. The Home Affairs Committee, Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Women and Equalities Committee and chairs of the Commons Health and Business, Innovation and Skills Committees came to the same conclusion.

Government commitments via the 2017 Children and Social Work Act were therefore welcome. The Act included commitment to compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE) in all secondary schools, compulsory ‘relationships education’ in all primary schools and a subsequent commitment in July 2018 to making the health (mental and physical) aspects of PSHE education compulsory.  The majority of PSHE education will therefore be statutory from 2020. Though statutory requirements don't yet include aspects of PSHE that concern economic wellbeing and preparing for the world of work, schools are expected to continue to cover these aspects through their PSHE curricula. 

For these measures to meet their significant potential in a way that works for all schools and all pupils, we and partners believe a number of key criteria need to be met: PSHE education must be taught regularly, as a whole subject (including RSE, mental health, physical health etc.), by trained teachers in all schools and to all pupils.

The PSHE Association’s five priorities for PSHE education are that it should be taught:
  • regularly
    – regular lessons on the timetable like other subjects
  • as a whole subject
    – from RSE to mental & physical health, online safety to job skills
  • by trained teachers
    – PSHE covered in teacher training and ongoing opportunities to learn
  • in all schools
    – all schools including academies , free schools and independent schools
  • to all pupils
    – from year 1 to finishing secondary school

The PSHE education Strategic Partners Group comprises representatives of national organisations with strategic responsibilities related to PSHE education. To inform legislation and guidance relating to PSHE education, including relationships and sex education, the group published a statement to communicate our shared position on a number of key areas we see as vital to successful implementation. The full statement can be read here and in summary the group agreed that:

  • PSHE education must be made a statutory curriculum subject in its entirety PSHE education is an effective and proven approach to teaching about a range of distinct, but linked, issues. As an established curriculum subject it has an existing, well evidenced, pedagogy.
  • RSE and relationships education must continue to be taught within PSHE education Relationships and sex education is a fundamental component of PSHE education, not a separate subject. It should be delivered within a comprehensive programme of PSHE education for reasons of effectiveness and implementation.
  • Schools and practitioners require training and support to implement changes effectively The effectiveness of PSHE education is, inevitably, affected by the quality of delivery. It is essential that any change to statutory status for PSHE and RSE comes with funding, resources and a strategy for teacher training and CPD. At the same time there is a lot of good practice, and it is a case of building on this and ensuring all schools have the same standards.

Signatories to this shared position statement include the British Heart Foundation and St John Ambulance (Every Child a Lifesaver coalition); Barnardo’s; NSPCC; Brook; Career Development Institute; Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition; Sex Education Forum; Economic, Business and Enterprise Association (EBEA); Economy; Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH); Mentor UK; National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT); National Education Union (NEU); PSHE Association; Young Enterprise (incorporating Young Money, formerly pfeg)

Over 120 leading organisations support the teaching of high-quality PSHE education in all schools