PSHE: Five tried and tested tips

Written by: Andrew Hedley | Published:
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PSHE equips students with an understanding of risk and with the knowledge and skills necessary to make safe and informed decisions. Head of PSHE Andrew Hedley shares five tried and tested tips to get the most from lessons

I am often surprised at how advanced students’ attitudes can be. Many, for example, are aware that smartphones can lead to cyber-bullying and a loss of sleep. However, this awareness does not necessarily mean they act accordingly. Students may know what to do, but do they act on that knowledge? Our job as teachers is to make sure they know how to.

Here are five things you can put into practice to improve your PSHE lessons and help students make informed choices about their health and wellbeing.


Discussion techniques

Ask-it-Basket: All PSHE lessons at my school use an anonymous question box or “ask-it-basket”, a technique I recommend to peers and colleagues. Ensure all the questions are looked at and discussed before the end of the lesson, partly so that the lesson is properly delivered but also so that any safeguarding disclosures are properly reviewed. This will also help you to keep up-to-date with what is going on in students’ rapidly changing digital world.

Washing Line: Set up a simple agree or disagree “washing line” where students fix cards to show their understanding and attitudes. You could pose a question (“Consent – have you got it?”) or a statement (“Social media is bad for your health”), for example. Groups can discuss, write a response and share their conclusions, while pegging their response to the washing line. This helps to balance individual viewpoints and focus everybody on the importance of objective debate. The activity can also be used as an introduction to a lesson or as a plenary.


Get up-to-speed on students’ perceptions of new cultural norms

Make sure you are aware of your students’ perceptions of new cultural norms. Factor them in and calibrate your lessons accordingly. This will help you to achieve the objectives you are setting out to attain. For example, students sharing images of themselves with partners is now more common – but young people are often unaware of the possible dangers, moreover the legal status of sharing what can be considered “indecent images of a child” if they are under the age of 18.

This is classed as creating/distributing/possessing an indecent image of a child. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP) website Thinkuknow provides helpful guidance, as well as the PSHE Association (see further information).

Students need to be given the opportunity to be taught the techniques to resist pressure to create and share such images.


Create a non-judgemental environment

Creating a comfortable, non-judgemental environment is key. Ground rules should be basic and not written on the walls – they should be understood implicitly.

Students using discriminatory language must not go unchallenged. However, at the same time, lessons should provide the space and a safe environment in which to learn from mistakes or be advised in order to correct ill-formed judgements.

Schools should also be environments in which students learn how to take responsibility for confronting attitudes. For example, I ask my students what sort of community they want to be part of and if the attitudes portrayed reflect the kind of community they say they would like to be part of.


Evaluate students’ learning

Run pre and post-lesson surveys to assess students’ attitudes and opinions. Mine, for example, consist of “agree” or “disagree” questions. I share the contrasting results with students at the end of the lesson. This reinforces the need for students to take responsibility for their own attitudes.

The findings can also be used as evidence for Ofsted, showing improvements to attitudes and opinions across individual lessons, terms and full school years.


Incorporate new resources

You can tailor your local PSHE programme to reflect the needs of your students. Use organisations and resources from professional sources which work in tandem with the curriculum to facilitate a broad and balanced approach at your school.

The PSHE Association provides teachers with a range of case studies to inform their teaching. I also use Rise Above for Schools lesson plans. They cover a broad range of relevant subjects which affect young people today – from puberty, FOMO (fear of missing out), bullying and cyber-bullying, body image in a digital world, exam stress, and forming positive relationships to smoking and alcohol.

Particularly effective elements of the programme include videos, optional extension activities and the opportunities to discuss sensitive topics in an open, informed way.

Non-specialists and those who may lack confidence when delivering PSHE lessons will benefit from the programme’s clarity and scope, as has been the case at my school.

  • Andrew Hedley is head of PSHE at Queen Elizabeth High School in Northumberland and has been teaching religious education, PSHE and sociology for more than 20 years.


Further information & resources


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