How will Ofsted inspect new RSE lessons?

The PSHE Association’s Bethan Miller gives her informed view of what Ofsted will look out for in RSE lessons
14th February 2020, 12:04am
How Will Ofsted Inspect The New Sex & Relationships Curriculum?


How will Ofsted inspect new RSE lessons?

Ofsted’s new inspection framework asks inspectors to make a judgement on students’ personal development and readiness for success in modern Britain. This judgement includes the extent to which schools support students to “know how to keep physically and mentally healthy” and to develop attributes such as resilience, confidence
and independence.

Chief inspector Amanda Spielman said in a speech last July that this new judgement “makes more space in inspection for discussing things like the PSHE lessons in which wider life issues can be explored”.

If we put this together with the fact that the relationships, sex and health education elements of the PSHE curriculum are becoming mandatory, what might Ofsted be looking for in your next inspection?

Curriculum decisions and outcomes

The Ofsted inspection handbook says that personal development is likely to be inadequate if a “significant minority of pupils do not receive a wide, rich set of experiences”. Therefore, personal development must be available to all, not just left to chance. The need for timetabled and regular PSHE lessons is clear.

Inspectors will also consider the new statutory curriculum requirements. From September, schools must provide the health education and relationships education (primary) or relationships and sex education (secondary) aspects of PSHE. According to the handbook, if a school fails to meet these obligations then “inspectors will consider this when reaching the personal development judgement”.

Schools won’t be judged on the impact of personal development on the lives of students, but on the intent, effectiveness and quality of provision in place to address it. It is, therefore, essential that teachers delivering these lessons are trained in PSHE education and have access to a well-planned curriculum, tailored to their pupils’ needs.

When developing your PSHE curriculum, consider what you want inspectors to see. What considerations did you have
when planning? What are your pupils’ needs and how have you adapted your programme to meet them? What CPD has your staff received? Consider putting together a single side of paper that highlights what you’re doing well. The PSHE Association’s Programme of Study for PSHE Education (Key Stages 1-5) and programme builders help you to plan your PSHE programme effectively.

Developing positive behaviour and attitudes

The curriculum should play a vital role in whole-school approaches to developing positive behaviour and attitudes. Preventative PSHE that teaches acceptance, respect and empathy (and strategies to respond appropriately to bullying and discrimination) is necessary, alongside an effective behaviour policy. To be “outstanding” in this area, schools must show that students have high levels of respect for others, are supportive
of one another’s wellbeing and demonstrate self-control. PSHE helps pupils to know how they can support others, manage their own behaviour and get help - for themselves or friends - when necessary.

Quality of education

With its focus on “intent, implementation and impact”, Ofsted wants to know what schools aim to do for their pupils (and why); how well they’re delivering; and what that means for pupils. This could apply to PSHE as follows:

* Intent
Schools should offer a coherently planned curriculum that equips pupils for the real world. You need to ask: “How can we ensure that our PSHE curriculum is planned to meet our pupils’ needs? How do we know what these needs are? What relevant data have we got? What baseline assessments can we do?”

* Implementation
A well-implemented curriculum builds on earlier learning. This makes regular, timetabled lessons a necessity. Squeezing PSHE into drop-down days, or hasty form periods, is no substitute. There should be a suitably trained PSHE lead in place, and anyone teaching the subject should understand PSHE pedagogy. Leads are responsible for supporting teachers and providing appropriate professional development. The PSHE Association offers a range of CPD days for various levels.

* Impact
Schools need to show Ofsted that pupils at all stages are prepared for life now and for their next steps, whether that’s moving to secondary school, higher education, employment or training. PSHE contributes to all of this while also supporting academic performance.

Leadership and management

School leaders are responsible for meeting statutory regulations, including the new relationships education, RSE and health education requirements for PSHE education.

Ofsted’s guidance on inspecting safeguarding makes it clear that the responsibilities placed on governing bodies, trustees, registered providers, proprietors and management committees include “making sure that children and learners are taught how to recognise risk and know where to go for help when they need it”.

And inspectors should consider evidence that “as part of the curriculum, children and learners are supported to understand what constitutes a healthy relationship both online and offline, and to recognise risk, for example risks associated with criminal and sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, substance misuse, gang activity, radicalisation and extremism, and are aware of the support available to them”.

Where can this be achieved effectively for all pupils if not in the PSHE classroom?

There is a clear need for proactively equipping pupils for some of the most complex decisions they’ll have to make, not simply responding when safeguarding issues arise. Schools need leaders who understand PSHE’s value to children’s and young people’s lives and how to ensure best practice design and delivery.

Seize the opportunity

Preparing for Ofsted can be daunting. As educators, we have all been there, hoping that we’ve done all we can.

That said, this new inspection framework provides an opportunity for those of us involved in PSHE education to showcase its contribution to our schools’ outcomes. Greater emphasis on personal development - combined with the statutory changes - should encourage schools, and school leaders, to optimise this vital subject.  

Bethan Miller is one the PSHE Association’s subject specialists. The PSHE Association is the national body for PSHE education, a membership association and charity dedicated to raising PSHE standards nationally. For information, visit

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