PSHE education: what it covers and why it works [New reference tool]

Mar 14, 2024 12:04:37 PM
There is compelling evidence that PSHE education — when taught well — helps keep children and young people safe, mentally and physically healthy, and prepared for life and work. Yet there’s sometimes a lack of understanding, or a misunderstanding, of what the PSHE education curriculum actually covers, and why.

We are therefore excited to launch PSHE education: what it covers and why it works. Available either as a downloadable PDF, or interactive webpage, it brings together the evidence base for the importance of PSHE, using prevalence statistics for various health and behaviour trends among children and young people, and impact evidence which shows how PSHE education can help keep young people happy, healthy and safe. This resource breaks the PSHE curriculum down into its three core themes; Health and Wellbeing; Relationships; and Living in the Wider World, carefully exploring the value and importance of each, and you will see which parts of each theme are covered in the DfE’s Statutory guidance for relationships, sex, and health education (RSHE).

We anticipate you using PSHE education: what it covers and why it works to develop your own professional expertise in the subject, and to help you explain the rationale behind PSHE education, and specific topic choices in your school’s curriculum. This may be particularly useful in conversation with colleagues, inspectors, or importantly, with parents and carers. It can be shared with anyone who is curious about what schools are doing, and can do, to support children and young people with the real-life challenges and opportunities they face, through the curriculum.

Using the resource to support engagement with parents

We know that parents are overwhelmingly supportive of PSHE education, and even more so when they fully understand its content and rationale. So effective communication with parents is crucial. PSHE education: what it covers and why it works will help you to discuss with parents what is taught, why it’s taught and how it’s taught; and schools can ensure a partnership with parents that supports the best possible PSHE education for their child.

 In recent surveys conducted with parents through YouGov[1], we found that, of the parents who wanted to be consulted more by their child’s school about statutory Relationships, Sex and Health Education, 31% wanted a better understanding of the rationale and evidence behind teaching different topics. This summary of the evidence base will help you share your rationale for each area of the curriculum and further explain your school’s approach to PSHE education.

Beyond informing

Schools who have attended our popular new Engaging with Parents training sessions have told us they feel their parent community are supportive of PSHE and the decisions the school has made about teaching the curriculum. However, a consensus arose that while schools felt they were good at giving parents information about the curriculum, they were keen to build a more reciprocal relationship with parents going forward.  

And of course, we know that deeper engagement with parents can have many benefits; with parents feeling more empowered to have conversations with their children about sensitive topics at home, schools getting further insights into the issues parents see their children experiencing, and, at its heart, children and young people being better safeguarded and supported across all aspects of their life.

We hope PSHE education – what it covers and why it works provides a valuable way forward for this engagement between schools and parents in the future.


Our new online CPD: 'Engaging with parents: Working together for effective PSHE education' takes place on 4 June (secondary) and 12 June (primary) and explores schools’ statutory duties to consult with parents, best practice for sharing resources, and tools and strategies that work for your parent community.


[1] All figures are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 4,317 adults, of whom 928 were parents of 5-18 year olds. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th - 20th October 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).