PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) education is therefore vital, as it is the school curriculum subject dedicated to preparing pupils for life and the fulfilment of their potential. Our Planning Framework for Pupils with SEND can support schools in helping to get it right for their learners. A robust PSHE curriculum that provides a variety of learning experiences will ensure that all learners develop the capacity to make the most of these opportunities.

As with all children and young people, essential knowledge, skills and understanding will be grounded in knowing how to look after themselves, how to access support and how to keep themselves and others safe. This includes recognising what a healthy relationship looks like, and that their bodies, and feelings, will change as they grow up. It is also important to support pupils to recognise some of the complexities modern life – whether in relation to rules and laws, managing finances or knowing the etiquette of communicating online. This will help ensure pupils are prepared for adulthood and understand the part they will play in the world.

Regrettably, children and young people with SEND can be at increased risk regarding aspects of their health, wellbeing, safety and relationships, including heightened vulnerability to abuse and exploitation – sexual or otherwise, online or offline. They may also face barriers in maintaining their own personal and sexual relationships, meeting new people and avoiding social isolation. Developing the communication skills, vocabulary, strategies and confidence to help identify and try to manage such challenges is therefore crucial, and without planned and effective PSHE provision this may not happen.

PSHE lessons that are matched to the needs of the learners, provide an inclusive environment where they can feel comfortable and safe to discuss issues they are worried or feel anxious about.

And when delivered by trained teachers in line with best practice, this ‘curriculum for life’ contributes towards improved academic attainment, personal wellbeing and readiness for life in the modern world. 

Factors for success:

  • Leading from the top: it is essential that all school leaders recognise the value and importance of PSHE education, and that PSHE subject leads are supported to plan and timetable a comprehensive PSHE curriculum.
  • Building on prior learning: A developmental spiral curriculum will build on, revisit and consolidate the knowledge, understanding and skills matching pupils’ needs.

Statutory changes and Ofsted

The majority of the PSHE education curriculum is now statutory (and therefore compulsory) from September – though due to the Covid-19 pandemic, schools have a little more leeway to implement by early next year if struggling.

So special schools in England, alongside their mainstream counterparts, will be gearing up for the implementation of statutory Relationships Education (primary) Relationships and Sex education (RSE) at secondary level and Health Education across key stages 1-4.

The statutory guidance emphasises the need for teaching of this content to be accessible and asks schools to be mindful of the preparation for adulthood outcomes set out in the SEND code of practice. It also highlights that such factors “should be taken into consideration when designing and teaching these subjects.

In their interim guidance note to schools regarding ‘Methodology of visits and evidence collection’, Ofsted outline the importance of addressing any ‘identified and specific issues related to special educational needs, disabilities, health care, well-being issues for particular groups’, and that ‘Inspectors will be alert to any differences in how pupils with different needs or different characteristics are supported. This includes understanding how leaders have involved parents and carers and, as necessary, other professionals and specialist services in working out how best to support pupils with SEND.’

As well as this, in their new guidance on ‘Inspecting teaching of the protected characteristics in schools’, Ofsted have referenced (again) the requirements in the DfE statutory guidance, highlighting that schools should ‘make relationships education and/or RSE accessible for all pupils, including those with special educational needs and disabilities’. This includes the entitlement to learn about LGBT/protected characteristics: ‘[it is] important that all children leave school with an understanding of the world they are growing up in, having learned how to live alongside, and show respect for, a diverse range of people’. And this understanding will also pertain to their own lives — they or family/ friends may share a relevant protected characteristic (e.g. sexual orientation).

A PSHE planning framework

Teachers working with pupils with SEND are acutely aware of the relevance of respectful relationships, online relationships, being safe, mental wellbeing and the changing adolescent body for their pupils – but may wonder how best to approach this curriculum content.

The newly updated PSHE Association Planning Framework for Pupils with SEND is an essential planning tool to support planning of a comprehensive and bespoke PSHE programme. This free-to-access framework accompanies the 2020 edition of the PSHE Association Programme of Study for PSHE education and is fully aligned with the aforementioned statutory guidance on RSE, Relationships Education and Health Education.

The Planning Framework is mapped to this statutory guidance, and learning outcomes have been adapted appropriately in cases where statutory content may not be accessible for pupils with SEND. The framework provides a comprehensive PSHE programme that integrates, but is not limited to, the new statutory content and includes aspects of PSHE education relating to careers education, economic wellbeing, personal safety and preparing for adulthood, which are all crucial to the learning and development of pupils with SEND.

It can be used flexibly and adapted in whichever way suits the unique needs of pupils in special school settings, as well as in mainstream. This is therefore an ideal tool to support the planning and assessment of PSHE education, which is both relevant and meaningful to pupils, whilst also enabling progress to be easily evidenced and monitored.

Below are extracts from the framework illustrating how learning outcomes are identified across six progressive stages:

sample from KS1-2 section of PF

sample from KS1-2 section of PF

Additional support

The framework forms part of the PSHE Association’s wider aims to increase the level of support available to teachers working with SEND pupils. See our PSHE for pupils with SEND guidance page for content and updates on our work in this area. And feel free to get in touch with any burning questions — we’re very happy to help!