Increased focus on PSHE in British Schools Overseas

Nov 1, 2023 2:17:29 PM

The Standards for British Schools Overseas were updated in August 2023, replacing the 2016 version. These standards, broadly comparable with the Independent School Standards, have pupil wellbeing taking a central role. Here we explore the role PSHE education plays in BSO inspection, the implications for PSHE subject leads, and how our resources and training can help.

To become accredited as a British School Overseas (BSO), your school must arrange an inspection by an approved inspectorate (Education Development Trust, Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) or Penta International) and show to the inspectorate that the school meets the BSO standards.


Where does PSHE education come in?

There is increased focus on the school’s PSHE and RSE provision in the inspection framework, for example, in Part 1: Quality of Education. This standard highlights that PSHE education policies and schemes of work must be in place which:

  • reflect the school’s aims and ethos
  • encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics as set out in the Equality Act 2010
  • take into account the ages, aptitudes and needs of all pupils, including those pupils with special educational needs
  • do not undermine the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs
  • this standard states that all pupils should receive well planned lessons, that include assessment, effective teaching methods, activities and management of class time, that allow them to make progress and effectively prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of life in British society.
  • Schools with pupils under the age of 5 should ensure they have access to a programme which is appropriate to their educational needs in relation to personal, social, emotional and physical development and communication and language skills. Schools with pupils over the age of 16, should ensure they have access to a programme of activities which is appropriate to their needs.
  • This standard also states that pupils receiving secondary education should have access to accurate, up-to-date careers guidance.


A new addition to the ‘Quality of Education’ standard is the inclusion of Relationships and Sex Education in the curriculum:

  • pupils under 11 years old should receive relationships education
  • pupils over 11 years old should receive relationships and sex education (although parents can withdraw them from sex education lessons)
  • Schools should consult with parents, publish their RSE policy on their website and make this available to anyone who wishes to access it.
  • The intent behind this is to mirror the requirement in England for this subject to be taught, however, the standards do not link to the English statutory guidance - recognising different countries will take different approaches.


PSHE education provision is also referenced in:

  • Part 2: Spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development of pupils – schools should promote pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the fundamental British values; enable pupils to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence; distinguish right from wrong; understand how they can contribute positively to society; and encourage respect for themselves and others.
  • Part 6: Provision of information – schools should provide information about the PSHE education curriculum and policies, including relationships and sex education, to parents of pupils and parents of prospective pupils and, on request, to the school’s inspectorate.
  • Part 8: Quality of leadership in and management of schools – school leaders should actively promote the well-being of pupils. It is worth noting that ‘wellbeing’ is defined by section 10(2) of the Children Act 2004:
    - Pupils’ physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing
    - Protection of pupils from harm and neglect
    - Pupils’ education, training and recreation
    - Pupils’ contribution to society
    - Pupils’ social and economic wellbeing

Additional links to PSHE education are made with reference to boarding schools. For example, Part C, Standard 7 sets out the expectation that boarders be supported and educated to understand their health needs, including how to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle and to make informed decisions about their own health. And Part D, Standard 8 states that schools should ensure that the welfare of pupils is promoted and that they are safeguarded from potentially harmful and inappropriate online material.


As the PSHE lead, what should you do?

The updated BSO Standards make clear that, during an inspection, schools should provide evidence to their inspectorate that each standard has been met. Where there is a conflict between the standards and the host country laws, the laws of the host country take precedence.

Evidence that might be sought during inspections includes: discussions with leaders; discussions with pupils; reviewing curriculum plans; reviewing pupil work; considering records of parent consultation about the school’s RSE policy; looking for evidence of staff training; and, examining evidence of how the curriculum meets the needs of pupils with SEND.

So, good first steps are to check your RSE policy is up-to-date, ensure the PSHE education information on your website is accurate, and consider your PSHE education vision statement. Does it reflect your school’s ethos and what you are aiming for your pupils to achieve?

Next, focus on what your pupils need – use pupil voice to find out what they want from their curriculum. Support your staff by ensuring they have access to training (including our new ‘Ready for BSO Inspections?’ training course) so they feel confident in their delivery and remember to engage parents regularly. Use our Subject Review Tool to gauge your school’s PSHE education provision across key areas, identifying strengths and next steps. Being clear on the current picture and your next steps will be invaluable when discussing the curriculum with an inspector.

PSHE teachers and leads have long been aware that PSHE education is the glue that connects so many different aspects of our pupils’ lives, and to see this recognition in the Standards is good news for our subject and, more importantly, our pupils. High quality PSHE education enables pupils to make the most of opportunities and effectively manage challenges that they face, both now and in the future, in order to thrive.