Focus on key skills in PSHE

12th August 2016 at 01:00
Instead of trying to cover every topic, help pupils to develop attributes that will serve them in life and work

While school budgets are tight and timetables packed, the imperative to prepare pupils for the modern world remains as strong as ever. This means that the new school year will be full of opportunities – as well as challenges – for teachers of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education.

Some major themes will no doubt relate to emotional wellbeing, with World Mental Health Day taking place on 10 October and the subject on teachers’ minds like never before.

Lessons in how to be safe online and offline are a huge priority for pupils, parents and PSHE leads alike. The Department for Education has also strengthened its Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance. Safer Internet Day is on 7 February and Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day is on 18 March.

Wide range of issues

Other key issues that our members are seeking support on as they plan for 2016-17 include healthy relationships, drugs and alcohol, careers and employability, and preventing extremism. With such a wide range of issues being explored and PSHE teachers and leads facing budget and timetable constraints, some schools may fear that they won’t be able to fit in everything they would want to cover in their PSHE curriculum.

This may be the year when teachers seek to focus less on a topic-based approach and more on developing the key skills and attributes that will serve children and young people in a wide range of different circumstances.

These traits – empathy, communication, critical thinking, foresight, resilience – are crucial to children and young people as they grow up, ensuring they make healthy decisions about drugs, alcohol, sex and much more. We also know that employers are crying out for these qualities, meaning that such lessons will equip pupils for both life and work.

The PSHE Association has sought to make this process easier for its members by creating a suite of resources that schools can use to plan their PSHE provision centred on key skills and attributes. This work, funded under the DfE’s character education grant programme, builds on the evidence base and provides guidance on building skills in the context of knowledge development.

We also emphasise the evidence that the development of key skills and attributes must take place in a clear values context, and there are explicit references to values throughout the pack – helping schools to contribute to the British values agenda, which will no doubt be prominent in the year ahead.

If we were to offer one piece of advice, it would be to avoid trying to cover every topic in the national news. Plan your programme to meet the needs of your pupils and community, and use the key topics you decide to cover to provide a knowledge context in which pupils can develop key skills and attributes.

Joe Hayman is chief executive of the PSHE Association

For our guide to PSHE resources for 2016-17, visit

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