Two girls share a warm embrace outside a school

This blog not only covers the questions you need to ask but the questions Ofsted may need the answers to. The status of RSHE has gathered pace in a post-pandemic world and has, understandably, risen exponentially within education. It has a clear and dedicated part to play in students’ lives and takes a lead role in a school inspection. Ofsted may not assign a dedicated grade for your RSHE provision but it will certainly be considered when determining the outcomes for both personal development and the leadership and management within your school.

Take a look at Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework (EIF) and the accompanying Inspection Handbook. RSHE’s whole-school impact is clearly evident and its execution and impact can also be used to support the judgment of your overall quality of education. So the question is: are you delivering outstanding RSHE? 


1. Is your curriculum designed to support outstanding RSHE provision?

You have no doubt, used the statutory guidance and PSHE descriptors to create the building blocks of a curriculum that is engaging, ambitious and compliant but what next? As with any other school curriculum plan, you need to be able to communicate the clear intent, implementation and impact ensuring that teachers and students can articulate what is taught, when and why? Sequencing within a spiral curriculum, like the Life Lessons curriculum plan, helps to create a cohesive narrative across year groups with knowledge building up over time, in increasing complexity. Ofsted have been known to address this head-on with: how do you ensure that students’ knowledge is revisited for the different topics you teach? And how have you sequenced your curriculum?

Have you communicated your whole school PSHE curriculum with your parents in some form? For example, parental letters, information evenings and/or the school website? Have you adapted the curriculum for your students and incorporated support and differentiation strategies where possible? Does it take into account the different needs and abilities of students, including those with special educational needs and disabilities?

The term ‘age-appropriate’ is used throughout Ofsted’s guidance. It is expected that you have tailored the content to the developmental stage and needs of the students, taking into account their individual backgrounds and experiences. Alongside this, it needs to encourage active student participation, critical thinking and provide opportunities for students to discuss and reflect on their learning.

Are you able to articulate how the curriculum teaches the protected characteristics? Students’ understanding of these characteristics and how equality and diversity are promoted across the school will form part of the evidence that inspectors use to evaluate the school’s personal development plan.

Finally, RSHE is an ever-developing subject. Is your curriculum reviewed regularly and updated to ensure it remains relevant and reflects any changes in society? Have you sought (and acted upon) feedback from staff, parents and students as well as any Ofsted feedback?


2. Is your school RSHE policy fit for purpose?

Inspectors will ask questions about the Personal Development Programme (PDP) being delivered and before they step foot in the building, the school website is their first point of call. You will need to check that your RSHE policy is current, complete and accessible online. For some effective guidance on writing the policy, see the NEU or the PSHE association’s resources.

The policy should provide information about the school’s decisions regarding when and how certain content is covered. Engaging and consulting with parents is a priority and allows the opportunity to feedback, contribute, ask questions and share concerns. It is then for the school to decide the next best steps and what reasonable decisions are to be made. Schools should also ensure that, when they engage parents, they provide examples of the resources they plan to use, for example presentations or class textbooks. For help sharing the benefits of effective RSHE with parents, see the sex education forum’s recent research document which can easily be incorporated into your own literature or website.


3. Have you ensured that teachers are trained and knowledgeable with regards to delivering RSHE?

Only 58% of teachers surveyed believe they have sufficient training to teach RSE effectively (safelives, Dec 2022). What training and support have you put in place to ensure that RSHE teachers are knowledgeable, stay current with the latest research and are confident in the subject matter they are teaching? Ofsted need evidence that leaders are training RSHE staff and the resources provided are both effective and fit-for-purpose. You want to create an environment for outstanding teaching and learning. This becomes easier with trained, supported, confident colleagues delivering well-planned, engaging lessons.


4. Have you actively created a safe space/positive learning environment within lessons?

In class, creating a safe space for students is vital. For the success of your lessons and for achieving the gains you planned for. This is not something to gloss over, this needs to be planned into the curriculum and needs structure, time and dedicated resources to implement. When executed effectively, this creates the perfect environment for outstanding teaching and learning. Teaching about healthy, respectful relationships needs ground rules which encourage an inclusive environment where healthy, respectful relationships can be modelled, practiced and ultimately, grow. See Life Lessons’ tips for creating that safe space here.


5. Do you help students develop their own skills and knowledge by creating opportunities for them to engage in informed and respectful discussions?

How are you engaging all students? What interventions can you put in place for students reluctant to engage? Do you assess the diverse needs of students and respond appropriately to them?

Encouraging active student participation is easier said than done. In the end it comes down to knowing your class, knowing what the barriers are, and planning to overcome them. From working with students with SEND and/or SEMH to considering the ability of your students and learning styles, it’s about the support, differentiation and interventions you can put in place so all students can access the curriculum. If you can tailor lessons to the developmental stage and needs of the students, taking into account their individual backgrounds and experiences, you will encourage independent learning and encourage students to take responsibility for their own progress. As students develop their skills and share in explorative discussions, always be aware of potential safeguarding concerns and ensure you are familiar with the safeguarding policy in your school and the guidance within Keeping Children Safe in Education 2022.


6. Have you incorporated adequate assessment?

With RSHE becoming more of a priority, there is an expectation that assessment is embedded and progress monitored. The RSHE assessment guidance is set out within three paragraphs in the statutory RSHE document (DfE, Relationships Education, Sex and Relationships Education and Health Education, 2019, p43):

‘Schools should have the same high expectations of the quality of pupils’ work in these subjects as for other curriculum areas. A strong curriculum will build on the knowledge pupils have previously acquired, including in other subjects, with regular feedback provided on pupil progress.’

‘Teaching should be assessed and assessments used to identify where pupils need extra support or intervention… for example, tests, written assignments or self-evaluations, to capture progress.’

Whether you are incorporating self-assessment, peer review or teacher assessment: Is it frequent? Is it high-quality? And are you using the data to shape your teaching and impact progress?


7. Do you provide opportunities for student feedback and allow students to influence RSHE content?

Sec-Ed’s research summary reveals that only 35% of the young people rated their RSE as “good” or “very good.” Are you listening to your students? Relationships, Sex and Health Education, like any curriculum, needs to be continuously evaluated and improved. Have you built in opportunities for students to feedback on the curriculum and is it achieving the impact you expected? Can your RSHE content be adapted to the needs of the students whilst also fulfilling the statutory content?

We are close to the three-year review of the RSHE curriculum so changes may be afoot. However, there is no doubt that RSHE remains a core element to the success of a school and a rigorous curriculum, relevant content, outstanding teaching & learning and a process of review ensures that leaders, teachers and students get the best from your RSHE provision.


Useful links:

Check out our other Ofsted blogs: Response to Ofsted Report on Sexual Harassment in Schools

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