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How to Plan a PSHE Curriculum for Pupils With SEND (Guest Blog)

Guest Blog written by the PSHE Association

There are more opportunities than ever before for young people with special educational needs and disabilities to lead creative and fulfilling lives.  Learning experiences that support personal and social development will greatly support their capability to make the most of these opportunities.  PSHE (personal, social, health and economic) education is therefore vital, as it is the school curriculum subject dedicated to preparing pupils for life and the fulfilment of their potential.  The ‘PSHE Association Planning Framework for Pupils with SEND’ will support schools to get it right. 

Necessary knowledge, skills and understanding for pupils with SEND will be grounded in knowing how to look after themselves, how to access support and how to keep themselves and others safe. This includes the ability to recognise what a healthy relationship looks like, and that their bodies, and feelings, will change as they grow up.  It is also important to support pupils to recognise some of the complexities modern life – whether in relation to rules and laws, managing finances or knowing the etiquette of communicating online.  This will help ensure pupils are prepared for adulthood and understand the part they will play in the world.

Sadly, children and young people with SEND can be at increased risk regarding aspects of their health, wellbeing, safety and relationships, including vulnerability to abuse and exploitation – sexual or otherwise, online or offline. SEND young people also face barriers in maintaining personal and sexual relationships, meeting new people and avoiding social isolation.  Developing the communication skills, vocabulary, strategies and confidence to help identify and try to manage such challenges is therefore crucial, and it can’t be left to chance.

PSHE lessons provide an inclusive environment where pupils feel comfortable and safe to discuss issues they are worried or feel anxious about.

And when delivered by trained teachers in line with best practice, this ‘curriculum for life’ [i] provides benefits to academic attainment, as happy, safe children are in a better position to learn.

Factors for success:

  • Leading from the top: it is essential that all school leaders recognise the value and importance of PSHE education, and that PSHE subject leads are supported to plan and timetable a comprehensive PSHE curriculum.
  • Building on prior learning: A developmental spiral curriculum will build on, revisit and consolidate the knowledge, understanding and skills matching pupils’ needs.

Statutory Changes

The majority of the PSHE education curriculum is now statutory (and therefore compulsory) from September – though due to the Covid-19 pandemic, schools have a little more leeway to implement by early next year if struggling.

So special schools in England, alongside their mainstream counterparts, will be gearing up for the implementation of statutory Relationships Education (primary) Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) at secondary level and Health Education across key stages 1-4.

The statutory guidance emphasises the need for teaching of this content to be accessible and asks schools to be mindful of the preparation for adulthood outcomes set out in the SEND code of practice.  It also highlights that such factors “should be taken into consideration when designing and teaching these subjects.”

A PSHE Planning Framework

Teachers working with pupils with SEND are acutely aware of the relevance of respectful relationships, online relationships, being safe, mental wellbeing and the changing adolescent body for their pupils – but may wonder how best to approach this curriculum content.

The newly updated PSHE Association Planning Framework for Pupils with SEND is an essential planning tool to support planning of a comprehensive and bespoke PSHE programme. This free-to-access framework accompanies the 2020 edition of the PSHE Association Programme of Study for PSHE education and is fully aligned with the aforementioned statutory guidance on RSE, Relationships Education and Health Education.

The Planning Framework is mapped to this statutory guidance, and learning outcomes have been adapted appropriately in cases where statutory content may not be accessible for pupils with SEND.  The framework provides a comprehensive PSHE programme that integrates, but is not limited to, the new statutory content and includes aspects of PSHE education relating to careers education, economic wellbeing, personal safety and preparing for adulthood, which are all crucial to the learning and development of pupils with SEND.

It can be used flexibly and adapted in whichever way suits the unique needs of pupils in special school settings, as well as in mainstream. This is therefore an ideal tool to support the planning and assessment of PSHE education, which is both relevant and meaningful to pupils, whilst also enabling progress to be easily evidenced and monitored.

Below are extracts from the framework illustrating how learning outcomes are identified across six progressive stages:

Additional support

The framework forms part of the PSHE Association’s wider aims to increase the level of support available to teachers working with SEND pupils. Our SEND Hub is a dedicated area of our site which hosts the framework alongside FAQs and the Department for Education’s webinar on Relationships, Sex and Health education for pupils with SEND. We will be adding more material to this hub over the coming year, such as school case studies and more. So please visit us and get in touch with any questions at all – we’re very happy to help!


The PSHE Association is the national body for personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, a charity and membership organisation which supports a national network of over 45,000 practitioners with teaching resources, guidance, advice and training. www.pshe-association.org.uk


LGfL Resources and Support:

As schools prepare for statutory RSHE this September, click here to read DigiSafe's blog and find out where and how online safety fits in with the new curriculum and what you can do to prepare.

  1. Why not use our RSHE online safety quiz to assess pupils and promote helpful class discussions?
  2. Attend our ONLINE training covering the above guidance and legislation, introducing age-appropriate resources with time to map these to your existing curriculum. FREE for LGfL schools, find out more at safetraining.lgfl.net.
  3. Visit coronavirus.lgfl.net/safeguarding for targeted support during Covid for parents, pupils, DSLs and all staff, including guidance and support related to remote learning.


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