Evidence and research

This page brings together a range of evidence demonstrating the positive impact of teaching PSHE education.

We have gathered a wealth of evidence demonstrating that the knowledge, skills and attributes taught within PSHE education have a positive impact in a number of areas, including emotional wellbeing, academic attainment, and preparation for the world of work.

We showcase some of the strongest evidence here, including academic research, case studies and surveys so that members and supporters can make the case for better PSHE provision to head teachers, governors, parents, and policymakers at local and national levels.

The evidence showcased below underpins the core themes found within the Programme of Study for PSHE Education.


PSHE Association Research and Evidence Briefings

Our briefings are short but comprehensive summaries of evidence on key aspects of PSHE education. They are aimed at all members and supporters, to keep them informed of the latest evidence, and to help them persuade others of the positive impact of PSHE education.

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1. An overview of the case for PSHE education

This document brings together compelling evidence that PSHE – when taught well – helps keep children and young people safe, physically and emotionally healthy and prepared for life and work. The report highlights support for the subject from expert bodies, pupils, parents, teachers, business leaders and parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, and outlines key principles of effective practice.

2. The relationship between PSHE education, academic attainment and employability

This briefing brings together growing evidence to suggest that the skills and attributes acquired through PSHE education have a significant impact on pupils' academic achievement, employability and future life chances. It will help members and supporters to make a compelling argument to senior leaders, governors and others about the importance of the subject.

3. Key principles of effective prevention education

Produced by the PSHE Association in partnership with Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), this report outlines 11 key principles of effective practice in prevention education, based on a literature review of research into common elements of successful educational interventions, encompassing hundreds of programmes in the UK and abroad.

4. Social mobility case for statutory PSHE

This briefing shows PSHE education has significant potential to boost pupil's life chances, helping them to develop the character, resilience and skills they need to succeed academically and in the workplace and reducing barriers to learning, particularly for the most disadvantaged pupils.

5. PSHE Association case study series

In 2013 Ofsted found a strong correlation between schools judged ‘outstanding’ and those judged outstanding for their PSHE education provision (‘Not Yet Good Enough’ – Ofsted 2013). To better understand this relationship we visited 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.

6. PSHE education, pupil wellbeing and safety at school

This short evidence briefing outlines evidence to show that pupils who are positive about PSHE lessons by they receive at school are more likely to have positive relationships at school, as well as a strong feeling of belonging at school. The findings are based on analysis conducted by the University of Hertfordshire and the PSHE Association, using data from the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) research study which surveyed 5,335 English school children aged 11, 13 and 15 in 2014.

Government Briefings on PSHE

PSHE education supports a wide range of government initiatives in addressing key societal issues. Here we feature briefings and reports from stakeholders across a multitude of governmental departments which testify to the impact of effective PSHE education on pupil attainment and positive outcomes. These briefings can be used to make the case for PSHE within your school and the wider school community.

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1. PSHE education: a review of impact and effective practice

Published by the Department for Education in March 2015, this review is an overview of research into the impact of PSHE education. It outlines the positive impact of PSHE education on pupils' physical and emotional wellbeing, readiness to learn, and a range of health outcomes including smoking, drinking, diet and exercise. It also demonstrates that PSHE education can have a positive impact on pupils academic and career success through developing key personal and social skills.

2. PSHE education: A mapping study of the prevalent models of delivery and their effectiveness

This Department for Education briefing evaluates a variety of delivery strategies across a wide range of schools in England, providing analysis of teaching methods which constitute effective practice within PSHE.

3. Not yet good enough: Personal, Social, Health and Economic education in schools

Ofsted survey report from 2013 evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education in England. This report is based on evidence from inspections of PSHE education carried out between January 2012 and July 2012 in 50 maintained schools and on evidence from an online survey of 178 young people conducted between October and November 2012.

4. Home Office: Drug Strategy

The Home Office Drug Strategy report 2017 sets out the government's plans to reduce the harms linked to drug misuse. Page 8-9 of the report recognises the need for PSHE education in reducing the demand for drugs by giving young people the confidence, resilience and risk management skills to resist risky behaviours and recover from set-backs.

5. Internet Safety Strategy – Green paper

This 2017 Green Paper on Internet Safety lays out the UK Government's plans for a collaborative, strategic approach to safety. Chapter 7 of the Paper identifies statutory PSHE education as a vital element in the strategic approach to ensuring young people stay safe online.

Wider Research

There is a substantial body of research into the effectiveness of the knowledge, skills and attributes that PSHE education develops, and the subject's place within a wider whole school approach. Key studies are listed below. They are aimed at people who are interested in reading more widely about, or conducting in-depth research into the effectiveness of PSHE education.

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1. Improving Social and Emotional Learning in Primary Schools

This report by the Education Endowment Foundation summarises pedagogically backed evidence for the teaching of social and emotional learning with the national curriculum. The report makes 6 recommendations on how to plan, implement and teach an SEL programme and reinforce learnt skills through a whole school ethos.

2. International technical guidance on sexuality education

This UNESCO report affirms relationships and sex education within a framework of human rights and gender equality. It promotes universal, structured learning about sex and relationships in a manner that is positive, affirming, and centered on the best interest of the young person.

3. Core SEL Competencies

CASEL identifies five core competencies that can be taught through social and emotional learning (SEL): self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. CASEL's 2017 Meta-Analysis, which analysed research projects involving more than 97,000 students, showed that pupils exposed to SEL programmes performed higher academically than their counterparts.

4. Cochrane Review: The impact of health education within Health Promoting Schools

PSHE education should be delivered as part of a whole-school approach aimed at supporting pupils’ health, wellbeing and development. sometimes referred to as a Health Promoting School. The Cochrane Review of Health Promoting Schools examines evidence from a number of studies, finding a significant impact on physical activity, body mass index, fruit and vegetable intake, smoking, and bullying. You can read a blog by author Dr Beki Langford hosted here.

5. Digital Romance

In 2017, Brook and CEOP published this report exploring the role of digital technology in young people's love lives and romantic relationships. Whilst highlighting the many positive impacts digital technology can have on intimate relationships, the report outlines the need for online safety education to protect young people from potential harms.

6. Public Health England Briefing: The link between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment

This briefing published by Public Health England is aimed at headteachers, governors, teachers and other education practitioners. It outlines evidence showing that promoting pupil health and wellbeing as part of a whole-school approach can also have a positive impact on educational outcomes. The document also identifies how strategies to improve pupil health and wellbeing link with the Ofsted inspection framework.

7. Courage to talk

Childline's annual review for 2017-2018 investigates the reasons why children and young people contact mental health services. This report underpins the necessity for mental health and emotional wellbeing lessons within PSHE to ensure that young people are aware of the support available for them.

8. Good Policy and Practice in Health Education

This collaborative report from the UNODC, UNESCO and the WHO sets out the fundamental responsibility the education sector has to protect children and young people from substance use by ensuring the core curriculum includes learning about the risks associated with substance use and facilitates the development of students’ personal and social skills relevant to health-seeking behaviours.

9. Financial education in secondary schools in England

The Money Advice Service have published the findings from their 2018 survey which quantify the level, scale and type of financial education being delivered across secondary schools and colleges in England. These findings can be used to determine the support schools need in ensuring all children and young people receive a meaningful financial education. The Money Advice Service's Children & Young People and Financial Capability analysis reports explore these needs in further detail.

10. Police in Schools Evidence Review

This evidence review from the UCL Jill Dando Institute for Security and Crime Science summarises existing research into police involvement in schools. Findings include that police activity, wherever experienced, can be considered an important part of the education and legal socialisation of young people. This review partly informed our Police in the Classroom Handbook.

11. Sweet! 2

The Sweet! 2 report by Healthwatch Essex provides an in-depth analysis of health trends within North East Essex. The report found that improved health and wellbeing education led to improved educational attainment which bettered young people’s prospects of escaping poverty and the associated factors of poor health and wellbeing.