Are Ofsted and the ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) looking at PSHE from September 2021?

Are Ofsted and the ISI interested in PSHE?

From what we have gleaned from schools we work with, the answer to the above question is a resounding YES. We’ve had feedback from three schools who have had a Section 5 inspection (general inspection) in Autumn 21. Note these were NOT deep-dive inspections into PSHE.

All three settings have been pleased to share their experiences and top tips for preparing for an inspection which we have summarised in the article below. As the official inspection reports aren’t published and the schools have only received verbal feedback from inspectors so far, we can’t share their identities, but hopefully when the reports are out and the outcomes are as positive as we hope them to be, we may be able to do so with their permission.

Who did the inspectors want to talk to about PSHE?

In all three settings inspectors wanted to hear about PSHE from all the staff they came into contact with (regardless of role or subject specialism) and wanted to know how this contributed to pupils’ personal development. They also spoke to both SLT and the PSHE Subject Lead. They asked pupils about their PSHE, what they had learnt from it, and whether they felt it was a valuable subject. Pupils were also asked about their knowledge in certain topics (see below).

Ofsted PSHE file

What paperwork did the inspectors look at?

As stated in the revised inspection framework (Sept 2021), the inspectors were not expecting to see a fully embedded programme, given the disruption schools have faced. However, they did want to see the schools’ long-term curriculum plans for PSHE, written down, with a clear progression mapped from year to year. Even though the schools were only a few weeks into an updated PSHE prorgamme, inspectors asked what had been done from March 2021 and how statutory Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) had been introduced. In two of the settings, they also asked about the contribution of PSHE to pupils’ mental health after successive lockdowns. Inspectors saw sample lesson plans on specific topics (see below). As schools were using our PSHE resource library, they were able to quickly download the relevant materials for inspectors to see. They also wanted to look at sample resources that had been used from March 21- July 21 in two of the schools.

PSHE teacher with pupils

What PSHE themes were inspectors particularly interested in?

Not surprisingly given the current climate, inspectors were very keen to look at how the schools were teaching students about peer-on-peer abuse (physical and online), sexual harassment, sexual abuse and the Equality Act. They expected these themes to be introduced in Year 7 age-appropriately, with a visible pathway of progression to Y11. They asked pupils what the ‘protected characteristics’ were in the Equality Act and also had a focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Inspectors wanted to see terms such as peer-on-peer abuse, LGBTQ+ and all protected characteristics explicitly referenced in documentation, including the long-term curriculum plan. Bland language such as ‘diversity’ weren’t clear enough, but fortunately our teaching packs have a very specific focus, so the schools were able to provide the appropriate evidence and show the students were being taught this language and what it meant. Inspectors were also keen to explore how the statutory aspects of PSHE (Relationships, Sex Ed and Health) were being planned and delivered.

Inspectors asked about recall opportunities, much as they would with other curriculum subjects, where students can revisit and build on prior learning.

Were they looking for a bespoke PSHE curriculum?

You hear a lot about PSHE being bespoke these days, which can be confusing for schools as they are expected to teach the whole of statutory RSHE and yet offer a bespoke curriculum closely matched to pupil need. In all three schools the inspectors were pleased that pupils had been consulted using our ‘How Are You?’ survey and how this data fed into long-term curriculum planning. They rated highly that the curricula in all the settings adapted and responded to need, and to local, national and world issues. Nevertheless, the inspection teams also expected Subject Leads to know which aspects of the curriculum were statutory and ‘non- negotiable’.

Inspectors liked teaching resources that were flexible, editable and could be adapted at both individual and cohort level. So again, the schools were able to evidence this from our resource library as the packs offer plenty of material that can be pulled together to form bespoke lessons, programmes and offer much scope for differentiation. Two of the schools had been using a purchased 'lesson-a-week' PSHE scheme which was challenging to make suitable for the changing needs of their pupils. Inspectors feedback on these type of lesson plans were less favourable, so the schools were pleased they had switched to using our resource library at the start of the academic year. By doing so, they were able to show the inspection team greater versatility and could plan both reactive and preemptive PSHE.

Did the inspectors comment on how PSHE was delivered?

The schools’ PSHE delivery models ranged from tutor-led, timetabled lessons and drop-down days, or a combination of these. Inspectors favoured the timetabled slot or tutor delivery (where there was adequate time) and questioned the value of drop-down days unless they were being used as an enhancement. Schools also provided evidence of assemblies, visiting speakers and enrichment opportunities which evidenced a whole-school approach to PSHE. This was subsequently praised by the inspection teams.

What Top Tips would these Subject Leads give about preparing for inspection?

  1. Write everything down and make things explicit- although Subject Leads were interviewed there wasn’t always enough time to talk inspectors through the programme and explain in detail. Use our 40 inspection questions resource to evidence your file. (Sign up for a free account if you’re not already a subscriber and download from your dashboard once logged in).
  2. Ensure sure your staff and SLT are on-board and can talk about PSHE. This is particularly important if you are using tutor delivery. If necessary, give the staff a briefing sheet (or brief them in person) prior to the inspection.
  3. Make certain the curriculum plan uses specific language such as peer-on-peer abuse, upskirting, sexual harassment, LGBTQ+ etc. You could use our free audit tool to capture this information. Highlight which parts of the curriculum are statutory.
  4. Provide evidence that you have consulted with your pupils and this data is in part driving the curriculum plan. Use your own survey or our ‘How Are You?’ surveys which come with a library subscription, or can be purchased separately. Be wary of just using your school council for capturing pupil voice- can all pupils truly have their say through this mechanism?
  5. Check out your resources to ensure they are fit for purpose, are up-to-date, can be adapted/edited and are closely coupled to your pupils' needs. Don't be afraid to dump resources to find something that's more fitting.
  6. Give evidence of what has happened in PSHE prior to the inspection. Highlight what has already been covered and make obvious any changes that have been made since September 2021. Have evidence available to show how your PSHE programme supported pupils’ mental and emotional health when they returned from lockdown.
  7. Have a planning folder including everything you do. It doesn’t have to be immaculate - put in sticky tabs so inspectors find the documents you want them to see – include any staff training, assemblies, outside speakers, any reflection and feedback and especially your pupil voice data. Remember you may not have time to explain all of this in detail so highlight it in your planning file to show your PSHE in its best possible light.

If you want to discuss any aspect of PSHE, we at Chameleon PDE offer Subject Leads a free 1-2-1 Empower Hour with one of our experienced PSHE consultants. Simply email us to book a time. We also offer a comprehensive training programme with many FREE events. See here.