With the introduction of statutory relationships and health education, many PSHE coordinators have been thrust into policy changes, curriculum writing and the joys of writing action plans.

But what do you need to create high-quality, inclusive PSHE provision in your school? Unsurprisingly, I’ve found a whole school approach is essential to implementing a high-quality PSHE curriculum.

Although, in the past, PSHE lessons have often been ‘one offs’ or a quick ten minutes in between lessons, 2019 DfE guidance advises that “core knowledge is broken down into units of manageable size and communicated clearly to pupils, in a carefully sequenced way, within a planned programme or lessons”.

It’s important, therefore, that you consider a spiral curriculum, which builds on both content knowledge and skills. This doesn’t mean you need to throw the baby out with the bath water, however.

Complete an audit with teachers and staff about what they think works for their individual year groups and any topics that might need to be swapped or moved to a different stage.

This allows your PSHE coordinator to ensure that there is a progression of learning, coverage of skills and content, and that transitions from EYFS and into Y7 are considered.

Considering the needs of the pupils and your local community is also important. Using a range of national and local data, such as Public Health England, the NHS and the National Child and Maternal Health Observatory (ChiMat), for example, you can create a bespoke curriculum to meet every child’s needs and ensure inclusion for every pupil.

Training for all

In my experience, many teachers lack confidence when teaching topics which may be sensitive in nature, and the worry that they will say something wrong or not know the answer can be an issue. This is where training is key.

Teachers may not have covered any PSHE education training in their initial teacher education courses or indeed had any in-service training, which makes it even more important to provide quality training for all staff.

I encourage my own student teachers to practise saying the scientific names for body parts if they find this difficult, although I do remind them that the supermarket or public spaces may not be the best time for this! Training should also include senior leaders and governors, so that decisions around provision can be made as a team.

High-quality training ensures consistency, understanding and an ability to question current practice. It also gives an opportunity for discussion, whereby the whole team can play a part in decision making and sharing of ideas. Decisions might include questions such as:

  • How will we carry out a consultation regarding RSE with families?
  • When will we introduce the teaching of scientific names for body parts?
  • How will we ensure that our curriculum is representative of all pupils and families within the school?
  • How can we include the community in our curriculum and incorporate the skills or work of others to enhance the curriculum?
  • Does the curriculum build on skills and knowledge in an age-appropriate way?

Inclusive PSHE

As teachers, inclusion is at the heart of everything we do, but it’s not always easy. The nature of PSHE lends itself well to creative teaching and learning, and needs to be viewed as more than just circle time.

Creating a safe space for discussion and debate is a key factor in high-quality PSHE provision. For some pupils, the classroom will be the only place that they experience varying perspectives on a range of life issues. Therefore, our teaching needs to be culturally responsive and inclusive for all.

Using picturebooks to explore a range of issues within PSHE can be an effective and inclusive tool. They allow for an element of distancing where pupils can discuss situations and scenarios without needing to apply them personally.

As primary teachers, we might not know what is really going on in a child’s life; distancing techniques and stories can often give the child something to relate to.

Picturebooks are also vital in ensuring that pupils can see themselves represented within stories, so making sure that stories have diverse main characters and families in them can support pupils’ feelings on inclusion.

Once, when I was observing a lesson, the teacher gave out some resources and worksheets to support her Y1 pupils. A girl sighed loudly and told me that she was never on the worksheets. When I asked her what she meant, she said all of the children on the worksheets had blonde or brown hair and white skin and didn’t look like her.

Pictures, and images in general, form a powerful tool for inclusion with classroom and school displays, giving an opportunity to celebrate diversity and inclusion. Taking a walk around your school with a critical eye can be a useful activity to assess the inclusivity of the pictures or images displayed.

Do your displays show diversity of ethnicities, homes, family structures? Although not intentional, the lack of representation on these worksheets affected the girl’s feeling of inclusion within the class and led me to challenge how inclusive my own practice was.

Watch your language

Your use of language can also play an important part in an inclusive curriculum.

For example, you might often use a phrase such as “let your mum and dad know about …”. However, part of relationships education is for pupils to recognise that families may look different to their own and this has to step beyond PSHE education into the language used across the whole curriculum.

Phrases such as these need to be adapted to become more inclusive and representative of the diversity of families and homes.

Creating an inclusive PSHE curriculum shouldn’t feel daunting and should definitely be a team effort. Thinking about what your pupils need to know, the skills they need to develop and the culturally responsive and inclusive tools you use to enable this will help you to create the very best PSHE provision in your school.


Victoria Pugh is a senior lecturer in primary PSHE and RSE at the University of Worcester. She is the series editor of Collins’ My Life PSHE scheme of work. Follow Victoria on Twitter at @victoriampugh.