PSHE IS Compulsory

For those who don’t know, PSHE is compulsory. Now. Personal, social, health and economic education. Life skills.

It’s been compulsory in schools since September 2020. Schools that are not teaching PSHE currently are expected to be doing so by the start of the summer term 2021

From the government website,

“Relationships and sex education (RSE) and health education: The new curriculum will be compulsory from September 2020. Schools should start teaching from that date if they meet the statutory requirements. If they are not ready, or are unable to meet the requirements, they should begin teaching by at least the start of the summer term 2021.”

Within Relationships and Sex Education, pupils should be taught;

  • Mental wellbeing
  • Internet safety and harms
  • Physical health and fitness
  • Healthy eating
  • Drugs, alcohol and tobacco
  • Health and Prevention
  • Basic first aid
  • Changing adolescent body

For primary pupils, this includes work on

  • Families and people who care for me
  • Caring friendships
  • Respectful relationships
  • Online relationships
  • Being safe

For secondary schools, this includes looking at

  • Families
  • Respectful relationships, including friendships
  • Online and media
  • Being safe
  • Intimate and sexual relationships, including sexual health

It’s all here  –

MUST be taught, not ought to be.


How many people know this?

David Lammy MP was standing in for James O’Brien yesterday on LBC.

The morning’s programme naturally discussed the current situation in schools prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement that they will remain closed whilst the virus is so widespread, dangerous and virulent. (See our thoughts on the safe opening of schools here and here).

One of his callers, Philippa, said,

“PSHE lessons, that are being taught each week, should also very much embrace and include the mental health of the children.”

David Lammy responded by saying,

“Very, very good point Philippa. I think it’s really good. Let’s bring the wellbeing and the mental health context for these young people into the curriculum, particularly at this time. PSHE is an opportunity to do that. I’m really with you on that and I will take that back into parliament.”

David, and the rest of the population, should be aware that the current compulsory curriculum already has the “wellbeing and the mental health context for these young people” in the curriculum.

The mental health component of the curriculum says that primary pupils should know

  • that mental wellbeing is a normal part of daily life, in the same way as physical health.
  • that there is a normal range of emotions (e.g. happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, nervousness) and scale of emotions that all humans experience in relation to different experiences and situations.
  • how to recognise and talk about their emotions, including having a varied vocabulary of words to use when talking about their own and others’ feelings.
  • how to judge whether what they are feeling and how they are behaving is appropriate and proportionate.
  • the benefits of physical exercise, time outdoors, community participation, voluntary and service-based activity on mental wellbeing and happiness.
  • simple self-care techniques, including the importance of rest, time spent with friends and family and the benefits of hobbies and interests
  • isolation and loneliness can affect children and that it is very important for children to discuss their feelings with an adult and seek support.
  • that bullying (including cyberbullying) has a negative and often lasting impact on mental wellbeing.
  • where and how to seek support (including recognising the triggers for seeking support), including whom in school they should speak to if they are worried about their own or someone else’s mental wellbeing or ability to control their emotions (including issues arising online).
  • it is common for people to experience mental ill health. For many people who do, the problems can be resolved if the right support is made available, especially if accessed early enough.

The guidance continues to say “Schools should continue to develop knowledge on topics specified for primary as required and in addition cover the following content by the end of secondary:”

  • how to talk about their emotions accurately and sensitively, using appropriate vocabulary.
  • that happiness is linked to being connected to others.
  • how to recognise the early signs of mental wellbeing concerns.
  • common types of mental ill health (e.g. anxiety and depression).
  • how to critically evaluate when something they do or are involved in has a positive or negative effect on their own or others’ mental health.
  • the benefits and importance of physical exercise, time outdoors, community participation and voluntary and service-based activities on mental wellbeing and happiness.

With Covid so widespread in our country, what part of the compulsory curriculum for ALL children is more important than this right now?

Recognising a range of emotions, managing them and understanding that experiences and situations can make a difference to their feelings is vital to survive right now. Having the language and the time to talk about their anxieties, their fears, their grief is a necessity – particularly in this moment. Knowing that isolation is something that many of us are currently enduring – and it’s normal to feel this way – will be comforting to many. Providing techniques for managing poor mental health such as relaxation and meditation could save our children from necessary reactive intervention.

We’ve long argued for compulsory PSHE and are somewhat dismayed that even though it is now compulsory it’s still seen as remarkable or revolutionary if schools are actually fulfilling their statutory duty.

Just imagine how prepared our children and young people might have been if PSHE had been statutory for the last 30 years. That’s how long we’ve been calling for it to be made compulsory.

From our previous blogpost . . .

“Our gravest concern about children and young people being unable to attend school is far more about their physical, social and emotional than their academic learning. Children and young people are resilient and with the right learning in PSHE, these skills could be enhanced. Why is THIS not a priority? Haven’t these young people been through enough this year without thinking that their only escape from mundanity and isolation is to cram for an exam? It’s unfair and inhumane.”

We’re not blaming David Lammy for not knowing this. Our education mantra for decades has been about “driving up standards”, about high-stakes exams, levels, attainment, getting the grades to go to university, academic capability above all other learning. No wonder he, a capable and considerate man, doesn’t know that this vital part of learning is indeed in the curriculum.

We’d be delighted if Mr Lammy would take this back to parliament and ask the questions as to why this learning isn’t happening right now – as part of vital and necessary online learning offered to students, even if the schools remain closed.

Let’s stop failing our young people in this regard at least, and give them the opportunity to learn about their wellbeing and how they can manage their mental health before there are indeed life-long consequences for inactivity.


More on PSHE from 3Di.

Posts about PSHE and wellbeing (further links within this post)

PSHE review: 2013 (8 years ago!) 

3DI Response to the PSHE review (10 years ago!)

Select Committee on Life Skills: 3Di Summary

Ofsted “Not Yet Good Enough” Summary of PSHE in 2013

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Please leave a comment - and tell others about 3Di!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s