Compulsory health and relationships education – a new era for PSHE

Posted On: 
26th February 2019

The Department for Education published new statutory guidance this week to accompany introduction of compulsory health education, relationships education and relationships and sex education (RSE) in 2020.

"We strongly welcome this government commitment to compulsory education on mental and physical health, RSE and relationships. Parents, teachers and young people have been crying out for more focus on PSHE education, so will be delighted that this core content will be guaranteed on the school curriculum" - PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley
  • From 2020, all schools must provide PSHE education that covers health and relationships/RSE
  • The PSHE Association welcomes publication of new government guidance to help schools deliver this core PSHE content and raise standards
  • The Association calls curriculum changes a ‘huge boost’ for children, young people and its national membership of PSHE teachers
  • ​Economic wellbeing and careers education remain vital aspects of PSHE, though not yet compulsory

The government announced compulsory health education last year along with relationships education in all primary schools and ‘relationships and sex education’ (RSE) in all secondary schools. The statutory guidance covers a range of issues relating to physical and mental health, wellbeing, safeguarding and healthy relationships.

PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) education is the vehicle through which schools deliver health, relationships, RSE, economic wellbeing and careers education on the curriculum. Schools are now encouraged to begin updating their PSHE provision in order to be ready for 2020.

PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley said:

“We strongly welcome this government commitment to compulsory education on mental and physical health, RSE and relationships. Parents, teachers and young people have been crying out for more focus on PSHE education, so will be delighted that this core content will be guaranteed on the school curriculum. The PSHE Association looks forward to supporting all schools to make the most of this huge opportunity. We're busy updating our member resources and training to reflect the new statutory guidance.

91% of school leaders surveyed by NAHT last year believe PSHE should be taught in regular timetabled lessons, these changes should give them more confidence to prioritise a subject that has up-to-now been vulnerable to being squeezed from the curriculum in many schools. Of course training and support are key to making these changes a success, and we look forward to details of steps the DfE will take to ensure anyone delivering PSHE is equipped to do so safely and effectively.

Parents will also support schools dedicating time to teaching about health, relationships and staying safe; a 2016 YouGov survey of over 1000 parents found that 92% want government to ensure all pupils are given PSHE lessons about staying safe. Parents are also increasingly concerned about young people’s mental health and the complexity of life online, so will value schools offering more support in such areas.

While a great step forward, these changes only outline what will be compulsory, not all that is necessary to prepare children and young people for the modern world. Careers education and economic wellbeing are most commonly delivered through PSHE and, though not compulsory, are certainly necessary. It’s vital therefore that schools cover all three PSHE strands – health, relationships and economic wellbeing/careers – coherently, to ensure everyone leaves school with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in a challenging world.”