Compare delivery models

Choosing the right way to deliver PSHE education can make all the difference.

Choose the most effective delivery model for your school

The most effective model of delivery for PSHE education is a sequenced, spiral programme that builds on prior learning as pupils progress through school. And like any other school curriculum subject it needs regular curriculum time – at least an hour a week ideally. Schools sometimes have to consider alternative models though, depending on circumstances. So we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each approach here.

  • Regular weekly timetabled lessons, plus additional opportunities across the curriculum and enrichment activities.


    • This approach guarantees continuity and progression. It allows teachers and young people to assess progress and measure the impact of the programme
    • Ofsted and statutory RSHE guidance stress the need for a carefully sequenced programme, that builds on prior learning. Only a planned programme of regular lessons can ensure effective sequencing takes place
    • Works well as part of a whole school approach
    • Greater ‘ownership’ of PSHE education by whole staff team
    • The subject has status and profile on the curriculum
    • More likely to be valued by teachers and young people
    • Time available to ensure comprehensive coverage and rigorous assessment
    • Possible to deliver PSHE education to the same standard and with the same rigour as other subjects
    • Picking up themes covered in PSHE education lessons through other subjects can reinforce the learning and provide additional context


    • Pressure on other subjects for curriculum time, as PSHE education lessons are timetabled. So it is important to make a strong case to senior leadership and colleagues, with supporting evidence, of why this model should be followed.

    Regular lessons on the curriculum can be supported by additional off-timetable ‘drop-down’ days and other enrichment activities, or themes can be picked up through other aspects of the curriculum. This can help to reinforce the learning. Do keep in mind though that additional activities may cause further timetabling pressures, and it is difficult to monitor and assess the effectiveness and impact of any elements of PSHE education delivered through other subjects. Also – any activities like this should only support timetabled lessons, not replace them.

  • Advantages

    • May avoid some timetabling difficulties as form time is already in place and staffed


    • Form time is primarily for administration and pastoral care, so it is difficult to create the learning environment that is necessary to deliver a curriculum subject to the same standard as any other.
    • Form time is rarely longer than twenty to thirty minutes and often as short as fifteen minutes, which is insufficient to deliver a curriculum subject.
    • Less likely to be viewed as a ‘lesson’ or taken seriously by teachers and young people
    • Nearly impossible to sequence content effectively.
    • Too easy to avoid teaching PSHE education at all if the teacher lacks confidence or motivation – the time can be filled with form administration, discussion and so on
    • Very hard for the PSHE Lead and school leadership team to monitor delivery.
  • Advantages

    • No necessity to timetable PSHE lessons
    • Some or all of the day can be delivered by external providers
    • Can provide a memorable experience for young people and raise awareness


    • Many pupils miss out as a result: these days tend to have higher rates of absenteeism and those absent might miss their entire provision for sex and relationships or drug education, for example, by missing that one day
    • One-off events can be memorable but the learning is very short-lived unless it is prepared for in lessons in the run-up to the event and embedded through subsequent lessons
    • It is almost impossible to ensure effective sequencing, continuity and progression over time with this model
    • Gives message that PSHE education does not warrant its own timetabled lesson and is likely to be taken less seriously by pupils and staff as a result.
    • Confuses raising awareness of an issue with deeper understanding
  • Advantages

    • If well managed, it is possible that this model provides adequate time to deliver a comprehensive programme
    • Tends to involve all staff, so potential for greater ‘ownership’ as part of a whole school approach
    • Most time slots on the timetable will only be replaced by PSHE education once a year (e.g. with a five period day, there will be 25 different time slots before the same period is ‘hit’ again), so more acceptable to other subject teachers as they don’t feel they are giving up a regular amount of their subject time to allow PSHE education to be timetabled


    • Less likely to result in effectively sequenced learning and progression
    • More difficult to evaluate progress, assess impact and provide evidence than regular weekly lessons
    • Gives a message that PSHE education does not warrant its own timetabled lesson. This is likely to make pupils and staff think it is of secondary concern.
    • Cumbersome to manage for the PSHE education Lead
    • Can feel disjointed and confusing for teachers and young people
  • Advantages

    • 'Something's better than nothing'
    • Can raise awareness of particular issues of concern


    • No opportunity for continuity, progression and effective sequencing (unless supported by timetable lessons in the run-up to the event and embedded through subsequent lessons)
    • Almost impossible to assess learning and evidence impact
    • Inadequate time to cover more than the most basic course content. Raises awareness but does not foster deeper understanding.
    • More likely to be repetitive year on year than developmental, or lead to a series of one-offs
    • Listening passively to a speaker does not allow pupils to develop the crucial skills, strategies and attributes that PSHE education aims to develop
  • Advantages

    • It does not require dedicated curriculum time for PSHE lessons
    • May increase ‘ownership’ of PSHE education by all staff and sense of responsibility for it as part of a whole school approach


    • Requires absolute commitment and ‘buy-in’ on the part of the school leadership team
    • Almost impossible to ensure PSHE education learning objectives are achieved as they tend to take second place to those of the ‘main’ subject
    • Tends to be tokenistic without any real sense that there is an equal focus on the PSHE education objectives and intended learning outcomes
    • Almost impossible to ensure continuity, effective sequencing progression
    • Almost impossible to assess progress
    • Young people find it very hard to draw the PSHE education learning together in a way that makes sense in relation to their own lives
    • In theory, English (especially literacy) could be taught purely through other subjects. But without a developmental programme of English lessons, the learning would be disjointed and each pupil’s progress would be impossible to assess over time. There wouldn’t be a context for teaching the theory, grammatical principles or rules of punctuation in a way that allowed young people to process and master them. The most effective way to teach English and other subjects is with a coherent programme, so the same principle applies to PSHE education.

We believe PSHE should never be taught in vertical tutor groups

Secondary schools sometimes attempt to deliver PSHE within ‘vertical tutor groups’, which contain a small number of young people from each year group.

What are vertical tutor groups used for?

Those who advocate vertical tutoring as a model for pastoral care believe it leads to tutor groups having much more of a ‘family feel’, providing opportunities for pupils to learn from and support each other. Tutors are better able to spend time with pupils at key points in their school life, such as transition to Year 7 and when choosing post-16 options. Vertical tutoring gives young people a chance to work and socialise with people of different ages, preparing them for the adult world and many schools feel that it improves behaviour, reduces bullying and provides relief from peer pressure.

Why don't they work for PSHE?

While there are compelling arguments in favour of vertical tutoring for pastoral tutoring, we would never advocate it as a model for PSHE education lessons.  Effective PSHE education is taught through a spiral programme, revisiting concepts and topic areas, each time extending knowledge, deepening understanding and developing skills.

To plan such a programme to be taught in groups of young people of different ages and stages would be practically impossible. Even if a teacher managed to plan a lesson or module that was appropriate for everyone in the group, what would happen next year when the current Year 11’s have gone and there is a new cohort of Year 7’s?

Effective PSHE education is also age and stage appropriate, taking the starting point and individual learning needs of young people into account. How in such a group could you ensure that the learning offered was relevant to such a diverse age range? This would be impossible to achieve in a ‘vertical group’ and in the case of some elements of PSHE education, such as relationships and sex education or drug education, could potentially do more harm than good.

We always advocate timetabled lessons

But if your school has vertical tutor groups and you can only deliver PSHE education during ‘form time’, then to ensure a safe, developmental programme, pupils should be allocated to different groups on that day, with pupils only from their year group. Form tutors then teach one of these single year PSHE education groups on that day, rather than their form group.