While it is true that PSHE education is non-statutory, it’s important to remember that a balanced PSHE education is an essential provision to safeguarding and student safety. You can’t have one without the other.
“All schools should make provision for PSHE education, drawing on good practice.”
However, even the most confident subject teacher can sometimes have doubts about the effectiveness of their PSHE lessons. How can you be sure that your PSHE lessons are equipping your students with the tools they need for life?
The PSHE Spiral
An effective PSHE education is built around a spiral. As time moves on and you travel further down the spiral, old themes should be revisited, broadened, and given further depth. If you throw the metaphorical kitchen sink of your curriculum at your students as quickly as you can, desperate to get it “out of the way”, you make it difficult for them to develop an in-depth understanding.
PSHE and wellbeing education is crucial, as it helps to lay the groundwork that will dictate how children act and react in their future relationships, their future health, and, ultimately, their happiness. Don’t teach one-off lessons; re-contextualise previously taught lessons to be age-appropriate.
Great lessons follow the PSHE Magic Formula: lessons should be Transferable, Relevant, Measurable, and Flexible.
Transferable skills. Everybody talks about them nowadays. It’s not just employers that want to see them, either – students want to know why they are being taught something. It’s no longer good enough to tell them to just get on with it; we have to give context and meaning to our teaching.
PSHE is the ultimate transferable subject, as students will apply the lessons they learn here to a plethora of situations throughout their life. Because of this, these lessons have to be as relevant as possible to their personal needs.
It’s essential to consider the area and environment that you teach in. What if, for example, there’s a spike in local knife crime? You could ignore it or label it as an irrelevant factor, or you could take the idea and run with it. You could contact the local police and ask them to give your class a lecture on knife crime, which, in turn, could help your students to make better decisions in both the near and distant future.
You may have been planning to teach your students about university budgeting, but what if your students are going to take on apprenticeships? You need the content to be relevant to the class. When building your programme of study, consider gathering feedback from your class(es). You could ask them what they want to learn about, or hand out questionnaires in lessons.
By applying their feedback to your lesson structure, you’re ensuring that it doesn’t exist in a vacuum – you imbue your lessons with tangible purpose that your students can apply to their everyday lives. This also gives students ownership of their own learning.
There are no attainment targets for PSHE education. However, student assessment is still a powerful tool. Instead of assessing student progress, advice from the PSHE Association states that you should consider assessing students’ starting point in PSHE education – their current worldly views and opinions.
Baseline assessments can inform your lesson curriculum and give you a clear picture of your pupils’ progress throughout the school year. Do they have a deep understanding of their societal rights and responsibilities? What about their career options?
Surveys also enable you to tailor subject content to fill in the blanks in their prior experiences, rather than just going in blind.
Primary school PSHE teaching – and, to a certain extent, secondary school – has to be flexible and adapt to the ever-changing needs of the class. For example, what if a student experiences loss and bereavement in Year 1, but your programme of study hasn’t accounted for this until Year 3?
Again, this comes back to the issue of relevancy. An inflexible curriculum doesn’t address the immediate needs of your students. Be prepared to drop your plans and delve into the unknown. Create loose plans for a variety of unexpected events, and you’ll always be prepared for the unexpected.
Revisiting The Spiral
Let’s revisit and recontextualise the concept of the PSHE Spiral. See what I did there?
People learn through repetition. Children need effective classroom teaching, but this should also be supported outside of lessons with consistent pastoral care.
To that end, the most effective way to care for your students outside of lesson time is to provide them with all of the information they need in a format that they can always keep to hand.
Reinforce the PSHE spiral with fully customisable student planner pages. School planners are the ideal place to include all of the support and information that students may need, both in school and in later life.
If you want more information about creating a PSHE curriculum, the PSHE Association has an DfE-approved programme of study.