Why PSHE education is key to ISI Framework 23

Sep 12, 2023 10:07:15 AM

As we start the academic year, a new inspection framework for the Independent sector comes into force. The Independent School Inspectorate’s (ISI) ‘Framework 23’ has pupil wellbeing taking a central role when identifying whether a school is meeting The Independent Schools Standards (the Standards). Here we explore the major part PSHE education will play, the implications for PSHE subject leads, and how our September 19th ‘Getting ready for inspection’ CPD can help.

When reporting on the changes, TES magazine stated: “The upshot of [the new framework] is that personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is now probably the single most important subject that schools teach when it comes to inspection outcomes, given that sections three and four will be influenced by quality PSHE and RSE provision.”

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 Framework 23 is good news for our subject and, more importantly, our pupils.


What has changed?

One of the main changes includes the move to one form of routine inspection (replacing the previous Education Quality Inspection and Regulatory Compliance Inspection). There will no longer be a single word summative judgement; instead, the report will be nuanced, explaining whether the school meets the relevant Standards, giving ‘recommended next steps’ where Standards have been met and ‘areas for action’ for where Standards have not been met. The report will also highlight strengths that inspectors have identified and pupil voice will receive increased focus when gathering evidence.

ISI’s evaluation of a school will centre around the school’s leadership, management and governance’s work to ‘actively promote the wellbeing of all pupils’. It is worth noting how wellbeing is defined as this informs the structure of the inspection report. ‘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

The ISI takes its lead from this definition of wellbeing, and inspection reports will contain the following sections:

  • Summary of findings
  • Section 1: Leadership, management and governance
  • Section 2: Pupils’ education, training and recreation
  • Section 3: Pupils’ physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing
  • Section 4: Pupils’ social and economic wellbeing and contribution to society
  • Safeguarding

There is increased focus on the school’s PSHE and RSE provision in the inspection framework. For example:

  • ‘Section 3: Pupils’ physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing’, highlights that PSHE education plans of work must be in place which: reflect the school’s aims and ethos; encourage mutual trust and respect for others, particularly those with protected characteristics; develop SMSC knowledge; and develop self-knowledge and self-esteem. The Framework also states that the school must have a policy in place so that ‘pupils receive either relationships education or relationships and sex education, as applicable, and health education’ in line with relevant legislation (such as that relating to statutory RSHE).
  • ‘Section 4: Pupils’ social and economic wellbeing and contribution to society’, states that pupils must receive social and economic education, which again reflects the ethos, protected characteristics and SMSC. This curriculum must also actively promote fundamental British values and provide careers guidance to those over 11 years old. These aspects of PSHE education are included in the PSHE Association’s Programme of Study for PSHE education, under core theme ‘Living in the Wider World’.
  • The ‘Safeguarding’ section of the framework states that leaders must ensure the school has effective arrangements, reviewed regularly, to ensure that pupils know how to stay safe while online.

Looking at these points, we can see why Farrer & Co. stated in their recent overview of the changes that: “The PSHE / RSE curriculum and delivery will… be of greater importance to inspectors, including how it is received and rated by pupils.”

See the updated ISI Inspection Framework and Inspection Handbook for further detail on all changes.


As the PSHE lead, what should you do?

The ISI make it clear that they are not looking for lots of documentation created purely for inspections, but that they will consider a range of sources of evidence. These include: 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.

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 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.

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. Greater emphasis in the new Framework is a validation for all the hard work that you do in planning and/or delivering this crucial subject.


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