School leaders call for PSHE to be given statutory status alongside RSE

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

Following the decision to make relationships and sex education (RSE) a statutory subject, the government must also give PSHE similar status, school leaders have urged.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) is warning that PSHE and RSE do not enjoy the same status as other subjects.

After years of campaigning by a variety of organisations, the government earlier this year agreed to make RSE a statutory subject and work is currently underway on draft regulations and content guidelines, expected to be published in draft form next year.

Currently, RSE – which will be known as relationships education in primary schools – is scheduled to become statutory in September 2019. It is to be made part of the basic school curriculum.

Statutory status was given via the Children and Social Work Act, passed earlier this year.

This Act also gives the Department for Education (DfE) the power to make PSHE education statutory in its entirety pending a consultation.

The government has previously said that it wanted to agree the RSE content before then moving on to the issue of PSHE.

A DfE policy statement published earlier this year states: “We ... think it is important that we have the ability to make PSHE statutory as well, subject to the outcome of thorough consideration of the subject, and careful consideration of the fit between the content of relationships and RSE and what could be covered in the PSHE curriculum.”

However, the NAHT this week said that on this issue, “more progress is vital”.

The call came after research conducted by the union found that 91 per cent of its members believe that PSHE should be taught in regular timetabled lessons in their school.

However, at the same time, 49 per cent say that PSHE and RSE do not have the same status as other subjects. More than 90 per cent thought that they should.

The NAHT wants to see PSHE made statutory, for all pupils in all schools, to the same timescales as RSE.

Paul Whiteman, the NAHT general secretary, said: “We have long advocated statutory PSHE and age-appropriate RSE, for all pupils in all schools, to help prepare young people for the challenges they will encounter in their adult lives and the current challenges they face beyond the school gates.”

Sarah Hannafin, NAHT policy advisor, added: “It’s so important for young people of all ages to be taught about appropriate relationships and in our view, RSE is best fulfilled as part of statutory PSHE.

“The challenge now is ensuring these proposals meet their potential in a way that works best for schools, school leaders and teachers charged with implementing them. Schools want to teach this well and they need to be given access to the tools which enable them to deliver the high-quality learning experience that their pupils deserve.”

  • What will the relationships and sex education curriculum look like? SecEd, March 2017:
  • The DfE Policy Statement setting out their plans for statutory relationships education, RSE and PSHE is at


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