In December 2022, we received the dreaded Ofsted call and a full 2 day inspection was upon us. Naturally with so many topical issues being in the mainstream media, I had a feeling that our PSHE provision may be an area they wanted to dive into.

Being new to the role of Head of PSHE, I sat down to prepare diligently that evening and realised that actually, I had so many positive things to say about our curriculum and Life Lessons in particular that I didn’t need to feel so worried. I felt really confident that we had all bases covered.

Towards the end of the first day, Ofsted asked if they could speak with a group of students, in any year group, about their experiences of PSHE within the school. By this point, they knew nothing at all about our PSHE provision or what we do. I was glad they got to hear it first hand from the students! I selected at random a group of students for the inspectors to meet with. They asked them about how their thoughts and opinions had contributed to the design of our curriculum and how they could help inform teachers about what they learn in the classroom. Our students spoke about the termly student voice survey they complete and I informed the inspectors later how this information helps us request specific topics from Life Lessons and how we also use information given to us by Heads of Year and DSLs to ensure our PSHE content is meeting the specific needs of the students in our area.

By 5.30pm on the first day, the inspectors requested to observe 2 PSHE lessons the following day, as well as a meeting with me. They observed a Year 7 lesson on relationships and a Year 11 topical ‘in the news’ lesson on the Qatar World Cup. Both of these lessons had been designed by Life Lessons. During the observation, the Lead inspector spent the majority of the time speaking to students. He asked them about bullying, how it is dealt with in the school and if PSHE lessons help them to deal with bullying. They were able to confidently tell them about this, and our school procedures which had been easily edited into our templates from Life Lessons.

After the lessons, I met with the Lead Inspector alongside one of our Senior Leaders. The conversation was very much directed from us. He asked very few questions overall, and it was clear that he wanted me to talk about everything we do for PSHE whilst he recorded. If I could give any advice it would be to really confidently show off your subject here! It is your chance to show off all of the amazing things you do so ensure you go out of your way to tell them.

The questions he did ask are below alongside an overview of my answers:

‘Where is there repetition within the PSHE curriculum?’

I had spoken about Life lessons for lots of our conversation already by this point. I explained that the topic of relationships for example is covered on numerous occasions, in almost every year group but with a different focus each year that also ensures a level of age appropriateness and builds upon their previous learning. For example, in year 7 students learn about the different types of relationships, in year 8 they learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships, in year 9 they begin to look more into sexual relationships and consent, in year 10 they look at abusive relationships. We also have a ‘Life Lessons day’ each week for every year group as part of our form time. One form time a week, students watch a video from Life lessons on a particular topic, and then they have several questions that prompt discussion and debate. This also helps with the repetition element of the curriculum.

‘What quality assurance is there of PSHE lessons? How do you know you are giving them the appropriate information?’

A year ago we surveyed our parents to gather their thoughts about what ages they felt was appropriate for their child to learn about certain topics. With this information, alongside our professional opinions we designed where or where abouts certain topics should fall year to year. Once we then coupled this with Life Lessons and what they recommend, I felt like we covered every base. It is so reassuring to know that our content is derived from a team of experts, and that the ownership does not solely lie on myself or our teachers. Ofsted really valued this.

‘How are Parents involved in PSHE?’

After speaking about how our parents’ ideas contributed to our curriculum design, we spoke about our PSHE bulletins. These are sent home once per term in each year group and the key messages from the Life Lessons content we provide to children are also shared with parents. We feel again that this repetition helps the learning at home and helps to ensure we are keeping our parents up to date on topical issues.

‘How do you create an environment in which every child can feel comfortable in PSHE lessons?’

Each teacher is given training at the start of each year and the very first part of this is detailing how to create a safe learning environment in PSHE lessons. We also direct them to the guidance which is the first slide on every Life lessons slides pack which details how to create a safe learning environment. Other things we do in is allow students to sit where they would like, within reason in a PSHE classroom, challenge inappropriate behaviour at every level and explain why it’s a problem if not obvious, have an ‘ask it basket’ in every PSHE classroom so at any time students can write a question or concern (anonymous if they would like) and it can be answered subtly in class by the teacher or more directly if this is what the student would like.

He also briefly asked about our provision of PSHE in the 6th form. This is slightly different in our school than lower down the school and is delivered during form time only.

I was pleased after receiving our report in January that Ofsted commented that ‘a comprehensive and well-planned programme of personal, social and health education (PSHE) is in place. This ensures pupils learn about relationships and fundamental British values in an age-appropriate way. As a result, most pupils develop highly respectful and tolerant attitudes’.

To summarise:

  1. Show off your curriculum and what you do in PSHE. Talk about Life Lessons and how this can ensure your quality assurance, giving you chances to talk to experts and other professionals from other schools.
  2. Use the opportunity for inspectors to speak to the students. They will give the best insight. Get them ready beforehand so this is well prepared.
  3. Consider your PSHE learning environment. Is it safe? Are there procedures in place so that every child knows what they should do if they are unsure, uncomfortable or the victim in anything you may be teaching about. Be confident about these procedures when explaining to inspectors and remind your students of them regularly!

Hemel Hempstead School is a coeducational secondary school and sixth form located in the town of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England. It has approximately 1,259 pupils and has been a Life Lessons school since 2022.

Read our other Ofsted blogs: An Ofsted Audit: Are you Delivering Outstanding RSHE?