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What is PSHE?
is for Personal
S is for Social
H is for Health

E is for Economic

The definitions and explanations below were developed by the PSHE education Strategic Partners Group - a group comprising representatives of national government and non-government organisations concerned with PSHE education.

What is PSHE?

Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is a planned programme of learning opportunities and experiences that help children and young people grow and develop as individuals and as members of families and of social and economic communities.

Why is PSHE education provision important to schools?

PSHE education makes a major contribution to schools’ statutory responsibilities to:

  • promote children and young people’s wellbeing (Wellbeing is defined in the *Children Act 2004. See outline below)
  • achieve the whole curriculum aims
  • promote community cohesion

Why is PSHE education important to children and young people?

PSHE education equips children and young people with knowledge, understanding, attitudes and practical skills to live healthy, safe, productive, fulfilled, capable and responsible lives.

PSHE education encourages them to be enterprising and supports them in making effective transitions, positive learning and career choices and in managing their finances effectively.
It also enables children and young people to reflect on and clarify their own values and attitudes, and explore the complex and sometimes conflicting range of values and attitudes they encounter now and in the future.

The Children Act 2004 outlines statutory requirements for all those working with children and young adults. It promotes mental and physical health; social and economic wellbeing; emotional wellbeing; protection from neglect and harm education, training and recreation; and recognition of the contribution made by children to society.

Successful PSHE delivery in schools is a major contributor to this statutory requirement.


Even though PSHE is not statutory, it is worth noting that whole school (Section 5) Ofsted inspections take into account whether a school provides its pupils with a ‘broad and balanced curriculum that promotes their good behaviour and safety and their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’.

Ofsted recognises that PSHE education makes ‘an outstanding and sustained contribution to pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’ so when looking for evidence of SMSC it is likely to observe the PSHE provision in a school. Similarly, teaching about safety and relationships as part of PSHE education contributes to how schools approach safeguarding by equipping pupils with the skills to recognise when they and others are at risk and the skills, strategies and language they need to take appropriate action. PSHE education also provides schools with the ideal context in which to focus on Ofsted priorities such as preventing bullying, addressing homophobia and all forms of prejudice, including the use of prejudice-based language.

It is also important to note that if PSHE lessons are observed as part of a general school inspection that Ofsted will expect the same standards of teaching and learning as they would in any other subject. Poor PSHE education lessons can therefore affect a school’s overall judgment for quality of teaching.

PSHE in the new national curriculum (2014)

In September 2013, the DfE published a new National Curriculum that is taking effect in September 2014. (An overview of the National Curriculum is available on the gov.uk website.)

Whilst PSHE education remains a non-statutory subject, section 2.5 of the National Curriculum framework document states that:

‘All schools should make provision for personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE), drawing on good practice.
’Along with the National Curriculum framework, the DfE also published a guidance document on PSHE education, which states that the subject is:

‘An important and necessary part of all pupils’ education’

It goes on to note that:
‘Schools should seek to use PSHE education to build, where appropriate, on the statutory content already outlined in the national curriculum, the basic school curriculum and in statutory guidance on: drug education, financial education, sex and relationship education (SRE) and the importance of physical activity and diet for a healthy lifestyle.’

PSHE education as a means to fulfilling the statutory duties on schools

In spite of this flexibility, all schools have statutory duties to meet. As section 2.1 of the National Curriculum framework states:

‘Every state-funded school must offer a curriculum which is balanced and broadly based and which:

  • promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society
  • prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life’

These duties are set out in the 2002 Education Act and the 2010 Academies Act. Schools also have statutory responsibilities in relation to promoting pupil wellbeing and pupil safeguarding (Children Act 2004) and community cohesion (Education Act 2006). PSHE education plays an important part in fulfilling all of the responsibilities. [PSHE Association]