Tips and resources for new PSHE leads

Written by: Jenny Barksfield | Published:
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With relationships and sex education set to become statutory and the importance of PSHE in its entirety increasingly recognised, Jenny Barksfield offers those who are new to leading this vital subject some practical advice and tips to get you started

Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education is increasingly recognised for its role in preparing young people for life and work. As a result, there is a growing consensus for PSHE to have equal status on the curriculum with other, statutory, subjects.

This focus on PSHE education is timely – dealing as it does with so many pressing issues facing young people today, from mental health to online safety, body image to employability skills and economic wellbeing.

The government’s commitment to ensuring compulsory relationships and sex education (RSE) – a vital component of PSHE education – from 2019 is therefore welcome, alongside its commitment to exploring ways of raising the quality of PSHE in its entirety.

It is therefore the perfect time for teachers and schools to ensure they are on the right track with their PSHE education provision.

As such, here follows our advice for those of you who have been given responsibility for leading PSHE education.

There’s no need to go it alone

Taking on responsibility to lead PSHE in your school can be a daunting prospect. Hopefully this is a role you have wanted and prepared for, but it is equally likely that you’ve been asked to take on this responsibility, possibly even with a firm twist of your arm. But don’t panic! You’re not alone and there’s support available.

PSHE education doesn’t usually feature in teacher training, which is alarming considering those new to teaching are often given it as a responsibility. CPD and guidance are available however, though choosing can be a difficult task in itself. There are numerous providers and not all of them are good quality or good value. With resources, beware of subscription models that keep their terms in small print and can work out very costly over time. It is also important to note that resources can be engaging and attractive without necessarily being in line with best practice.

If your local authority offers training, a local “Healthy Schools” scheme, local network meetings or other support, then you’re in a fortunate position – use them or lose them. This may come under the umbrella of your local Public Health Directorate, so it is worth contacting them if you’re not sure whether local support exists.

We offer a range of training days at the PSHE Association, including our Understanding PSHE Education course for those new to the subject, and Leadership and Management in PSHE Education for those new to leading PSHE. Do look into the training available from other nationally respected providers, including the Sex Education Forum.

Our Quality Mark for PSHE education resources will help you find resources that meet principles of best practice and a number of PSHE teachers find Twitter and other social networks a handy way to learn and share practice.

The curriculum

Understand PSHE’s role in the curriculum – and ensure others “get it” too. Good PSHE education can have a transformative effect on young people’s lives (and maybe yours too), so it’s important first of all that you understand its scope and potential impact.

This both helps you understand the importance of your new role and helps you to make the case to colleagues, parents and pupils about the value of PSHE education.

To support you in this, see our Curriculum for Life report on the evidence for PSHE education’s impact on young people’s lives – from mental health to assisting academic achievement (see further information).

Also, think about the contribution your PSHE education programme is making to the school’s evidence for Ofsted or the Independent Schools Inspectorate in areas such as safeguarding, personal development, behaviour and welfare, SMSC development and so on. Making these links can help raise the subject’s profile and gain support for your role from senior leadership and others.

Make sure you are equipped to make the case to parents and governors (we have briefings to support you in this – see further information). Parents will want to know what their child will learn through PSHE and how it will help keep them healthy, safe and prepared for life beyond school. Pupils should understand why PSHE is important to them and you should ensure pupil voice is heard when evaluating your programme.

Review and development

Reviewing the current strengths of your school’s PSHE provision and areas for development will give you an overview of where you want to be, and the steps you will need to take to get there.

Staff and pupil surveys can help inform this, as can a subject review looking at all aspects of your provision – from leadership and management, to resourcing and teaching and learning.

It might also be useful to map where other curriculum subjects and areas of school life – such as assemblies and extra-curricular activities – can enhance your PSHE provision. It is important to remember though that what we’re talking about here is enhancing a planned developmental programme – this provision alone does not constitute a PSHE programme. It is almost impossible to provide an effective, planned, developmental, assessed PSHE education programme without dedicated timetabled curriculum time.

Once you have identified strengths and areas for development, you can create a development plan. The format will vary from school to school but ideally identify just two or three priorities for development with targets that are achievable, including one “quick win”, instead of having too many targets.

We have a number of resources on our website to support you in evaluating your current provision, mapping cross-curricular enhancement and development planning, as well as guidance on reviewing your school’s PSHE education and RSE policies.

Having a whole-school PSHE education policy allows you to clearly state the aim and purpose of PSHE education in your school, as well as how it is delivered.

It is also important that other, relevant school policies, such as safeguarding, behaviour, child protection and so on, reference PSHE education’s contribution to each area.


Plan in the right order with lesson plans last. When poorly planned, PSHE education can become a parade of scary topics – from online grooming one week to the dangers of drugs the next, without a coherent framework joining it all up and with little developmental learning.

Good PSHE education not only provides your pupils with knowledge on relevant issues but goes much further by giving them a range of transferable skills and attributes. These can be applied to various real-life situations, from staying safe online to understanding the importance of healthy lifestyles and succeeding in the workplace.

For example, PSHE education should develop confidence and communication skills that can be applied in various situations – from job interviews to saying “no” when faced with peer pressure to take drugs. It develops the resilience necessary to bounce back from exam disappointment or a relationship break-up.

The knowledge, skills and attributes developed in PSHE combine to equip pupils for numerous challenges. A practical example is first aid – where PSHE lessons can provide knowledge (e.g. on CPR), but also develop the confidence and awareness to put this knowledge into practice and step in when faced with a real-life medical emergency.

It might be tempting to take an interesting looking resource, activity or lesson plan as the starting point for planning – but this should never be the first step. Start with the programme of study and use this, together with your school and local data, to write a scheme of work tailored to your pupils’ needs, within which you identify the learning objectives and intended learning outcomes for each module/topic/series of lessons. From this you can then plan the individual lessons.

Read the PSHE Association’s Programme of Study for PSHE education – key stages 1 to 5, which outlines the knowledge base, essential skills and attributes you should set out to develop in your pupils and the topic areas through which these can be taught.

Furthermore, PSHE curriculum planning toolkits are also available for primary and secondary to help you tailor a PSHE programme suited to the needs of your students and community. And our PSHE Leads Starter Pack gives an overview of these and other resources to get you started.

We wish you the very best of luck in your new role – you’re doing an essential job.

  • Jenny Barksfield is deputy CEO and senior subject specialist at the PSHE Association, a national body for PSHE education. A charity and membership organisation, the association provides teachers and schools with resources, training and support to improve their PSHE provision. Visit

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