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Planning Your PSHE Curriculum

Wondering where to start with planning your PSHE curriculum? Lucy Marcovitch, PSHE consultant and expert, explores some key considerations for long and medium-term PSHE planning.

Posted on Saturday 26th February 2022

If you’re reading this, you have probably been given responsibility for planning your school’s PSHE curriculum, and are wondering how and where to begin. The enormity of the task can feel overwhelming!

This blog looks at considerations for long and medium-term planning of a progressive, spiral programme from Y1 to Y6 if you’ve never done it before. Hopefully it will help you feel clearer about the process, and more confident in what you’re aiming to achieve.

1. Consider the big picture before you start

Every school is different, so begin by thinking about what your school and pupils need from a PSHE curriculum: what do you want it to achieve? Start with the school’s aims and ethos: where and how can these be embedded? If it is a faith school, are there specific aspects that you will need to give particular consideration to, such as sex education content? What kind of local community does the school serve, and what are the local health and wellbeing priorities there? For example, it may be in an area where there are higher than average levels of obesity, or there are county lines concerns with older children, in which case you may want to prioritise physical health and wellbeing, drugs education and personal safety skills.

Related to this, what are the skills, knowledge and attributes that your pupils need, and when do these particularly need to be addressed? Certain needs may be relevant to different year groups – for example, families in year 1, maintaining friendships in year 4, or transition and change in year 6.

Beginning with these considerations will help you be clear of your curriculum ‘intent’, and enable you to start to formulate your curriculum design. However, also remember that PSHE is a ‘living’ and always-evolving subject – it needs to be relevant to children’s lives now as well as into the future, and flexible enough to withstand changes or movement in planning to maintain that relevance. This can be particularly true of aspects like digital literacy, with children independently accessing online content at an ever-younger age.

2. Decide on your overall aims and objectives

Having considered your priorities in a general sense, next decide on how and where you will address these through a formal PSHE programme. One way to do this is by a thematic or topic-based grouping, where you could use the PSHE programme of study’s core themes as a starting point. Here’s an example of what that could look like:


You can feel confident these top-level themes will cover the statutory requirements for RHE, as well as going beyond these to cover the more citizenship and careers-related opportunities within core theme 3.

3. Make a long-term plan

Once you feel confident of your themes and/or topics, you will need to decide where these will happen for each year group – some of the key considerations you identified in stage 1 above will help inform your thinking.

How you decide your whole-school plan will also depend on other things – termly topics which might be complementary, whole-school initiatives such as awareness months, weeks or days, identified needs within different year groups, or other considerations particular to your setting. You might choose to have the same PSHE topic happening across the whole school, or you might want to stagger the topics. Here’s what both those options could look like:

Whole School Approach

Note: in this model, ‘Keeping myself safe’ is used to underpin other topics as it is a theme that runs throughout.

Staggered Topics Approach

Note: in this model, the topics which are considered most appropriate for the year groups have been chosen, which means that not every topic is covered in every year group, or aspects of some topics may be covered under others.

4. Create a spiral curriculum (medium term plan)

Once you have decided on your topics and themes, and where and when these will happen, you need to decide on the more specific content to include, and how that content will progressively develop as children move through school. This will ensure a ‘spiral’ curriculum – one that introduces and explores topics in an age-appropriate and developmental way, building on and reinforcing what has been learned at each stage, and taking it to the next level.

One example of this is teaching about consent as part of your ‘Healthy happy friendships’ topic: at year 1 this might be teaching children about the importance of not doing or taking something when someone has asked them not to, teaching how to ask someone else to stop doing something they don’t want them to, or how to ask for help if that request isn’t met. It might then develop into teaching children how to recognise the signs that someone feels uncomfortable about somebody else’s actions (including non-verbal cues), and how to recognise their own feelings of discomfort. By year six you might use the word ‘consent’ and discuss it in relation to a wider range of situations and personal boundaries, including when friendships become closer. If you are including a sex education programme in school (which is not statutory at primary), you would then want to include the importance of mutual consent before a couple have sex.

This stage will take more time – what you will probably find is that there is a lot of overlap in some topics, but rather than being rigid and deciding that, for example, teaching digital literacy will be within the ‘Keeping myself safe’ topic only, try to be more flexible and see it as coming into other topics where it’s relevant, such as Healthy, happy friendships, and where links to and from different topics can be made.

Here is an example of how a ‘Growing and changing’ topic might progress from Y1 to Y6:

The PSHE programme of study can be further used to identify the key learning opportunities suitable for each year group, and as a starting point to develop learning objectives for the next level of individual lesson planning.

If you are using a commercial PSHE lesson programme, it should contain guidance such as a programme development map or topic progession grids, so you can see where learning develops throughout the programme, and where this matches to your own curriculum.

Further Reading

Thank you very much to Lucy Marcovitch for writing this blog second blog in the six part series for us.

Lucy is a writer and educator with over 25 years experience in education. She began her teaching career in Leeds primary schools, then moved into resource writing and development. She spent 10 years as the National Curriculum advisor for PSHE education, which included participating in two National curriculum reviews, and developing the first national guidance, training and assessment resources for the subject. Her consultancy work includes developing and writing classroom resources and guidance materials, and educator training and guidance for a variety of charities and commercial clients including the BBC, Teach First, Hopscotch Consulting and Discovery Education. She is a part-time lecturer on the Childhood, Youth and Education studies BA at Coventry University.

Lucy Marcovitch