The relationship between outstanding schools and outstanding PSHE education

Our case study series seeks to explain the  2013/14 Ofsted PSHE report which found that schools judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted were also likely to have outstanding PSHE education programmes.

These case studies (listed at the bottom of the page) are based on visits to ten ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ schools that have committed both curriculum time and resources to the provision of high quality PSHE education and believed that this had made a significant contribution to their successful Ofsted judgement.

Taken as a whole the series reveals some common elements of good practice, summarised here and available in greater detail in our Case study key findings document,  we hope you find them useful:

  • A discrete, developmental and responsive PSHE education programme at the centre of the school curriculum, providing  opportunities to teach concepts, knowledge, language, strategies and skills that enrich the wider curriculum.
  • PSHE education managed by an experienced, central co-ordinator with a genuine passion for the subject in their school. This co-ordinator should be supported by a ‘whole school’ commitment to PSHE education, and be part of a single data-driven system under which pupil personal development and pastoral care are provided.
  • A senior leadership committed to monitoring the quality of PSHE teaching with the same rigour and expectations as other subjects. This also helps to ensure that any PSHE lessons observed during an Ofsted inspection can contribute positively to the overall judgment.
  • Active involvement from members of the senior leadership team in teaching PSHE. Senior leadership team members’ involvement  - for example through heads of years teaching certain modules -  raises the profile and status of the subject with staff and pupils.
  • PSHE education built around clear learning objectives and expected learning outcomes. Robust teacher, pupil and peer assessment allows schools to demonstrate pupils’ immediate learning from a single lesson and their progress over time. Schools should gather data to focus, evaluate and evidence the impact of the school’s PSHE provision. This ‘data rich’ environment also provides a strong evidence base for Ofsted inspections.
  • PSHE education treated with the same regard as other subjects on the school’s curriculum. PSHE should be given appropriate curriculum time and a developmental scheme of work, have lessons observed and ensure that pupils’ work and progression is subject to scrutiny.
  • Clear learning objectives which differentiate PSHE education where it is ‘blended’ with other subjects.  Some secondary schools ‘blend’ PSHE education, citizenship and RE whilst others separate them out as discrete timetabled subjects. Regardless of the model there should be clear learning objectives and outcomes for each element.
  • Scope for flexibility and creativity to change the direction of lessons in response to pupil need.  This flexibility should take place within a wider framework ensuring that pupils would return to the planned learning at a later date.
  • Recognition by schools that PSHE education helps to develop transferable skills that support academic success and success in life beyond school.  Schools should recognise PSHE education’s role in developing interpersonal skills such as listening, questioning, team-working and risk identification and its impact on pupils’ academic achievement, behaviour and success beyond school, including employability.
  • A single ‘unifying framework’ or philosophy that focuses the entire school’s curriculum, making it clear to staff how the content and pedagogy of PSHE education contributes to this ethos.
  • External visitors used within the context of a planned PSHE programme. Carefully selected external visitors can be used to enrich learning, provide expert input and act as role models with pre and post learning  offered through the regular planned PSHE programme.
  • Active involvement of governing bodies. As part of their scrutiny of the curriculum, governing bodies should be provided with reports of pupils’ progress in PSHE and intended developments in the subject. Strong links with the student council should also be encouraged.

We will be showcasing two of these case studies per week, covering a wide range of schools including a primary school using PSHE to support pupils with special educational needs and disabilities, and a secondary school which has moved from needing improvement to 'good' in just 12 months, with the help of their PSHE programme.

We would like to express our appreciation for the time and effort these schools offered to help us gather this data.  It was a genuine privilege to witness colleagues’ commitment to the personal and social development of their pupils and to the importance of PSHE education in their school's curriculum.  

Nick Boddington, PSHE Association Subject Specialist


Case studies

We provide training, guidance and one-to-one advice to PSHE Association members to help teachers improve their PSHE programme and evidence this to Ofsted. You can sign up to our forthcoming course on preparing for the new Ofsted inspections framework here.


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