Key Stage 2 PSHE explained

Children whispering in boy's ear
What will your Key Stage 2 child be taught in PSHE classes? We explain the key things that they'll learn.
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Key Stage 2 is an important time of development for children. Between Years 3 and 6, they’ll grow physically and mentally. They become more mature, and many will begin to show signs of puberty.

This makes Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) an important learning area.

During Key Stage 2 PSHE, pupils learn about themselves as growing and changing individuals with their own experiences and ideas, and as members of wider communities.

They learn about the world and the communities within it.

They develop their sense of social justice and moral responsibility and begin to understand that their own choices and behaviour can affect local, national or global issues and political and social institutions.

As they face the changes of puberty and transfer to secondary school, they learn how to make more confident and informed choices about their health and environment, to take more responsibility for their own learning, and to resist bullying.

What happens in KS2 PSHE?

PSHE is a non-statutory subject in primary schools. This means that while schools are expected to teach it, there’s no prescribed curriculum, and they have flexibility in what they teach and when.

Many schools follow the suggested curriculum developed by the PSHE Association.

This covers three core themes: Health and Wellbeing, Relationships, and Living in the Wider World.

PSHE theme 1: Health and Wellbeing

This area builds on what children have learned in KS1. Children should have the opportunity to learn:

  • What positively and negatively affects their physical, mental and emotional health, how to make informed choices about them, and the basics of a ‘balanced lifestyle.’
  • The skills to make their own choices about food, including the benefits of a healthy diet.
  • To recognise how images in the media and online don’t always reflect reality, and can affect how people feel about themselves.
  • To reflect on and celebrate their achievements, recognise their strengths and areas for improvement, and set high aspirations and goals.
  • To understand good and not so good feelings, extend their vocabulary for talking about them, and recognise they might experience conflicting emotions, including how to manage them.
  • About change, including transitions between Key Stages and schools, loss, separation and divorce, and bereavement.
  • To differentiate between ‘risk,’ ‘danger,’ and ‘hazard,’ to predict and assess risks in different situations, and to manage them responsibly.
  • That increasing independence means increased responsibility to keep themselves and others safe.
  • How bacteria and viruses affect health, and how to reduce their spread.
  • How pressure to behave in unacceptable, unhealthy or risky ways can come from a variety of sources, including people they know and the media.
  • To recognise when they need help and how to ask for it, and to use basic techniques for resisting pressure to do something they think is wrong.
  • School rules about health and safety, basic emergency aid procedures, and how to get help.
  • What is meant by ‘habit’ and why habits can be hard to change.
  • About substances and drugs including alcohol, tobacco and energy drinks, and how they affect health and safety.
  • How bodies and emotions change approaching and during puberty.
  • About human reproduction.
  • About taking care of their body, including protecting it from unwanted contact, getting support if they have fears for themselves or others, and about female genital mutilation (FGM).
  • Strategies for keeping physically and emotionally safe including road safety, cycle safety (Bikeability), rail, water and fire safety, and online safety.
  • About the people who are responsible for helping them stay healthy and safe.
  • About the responsible and safe use of mobile phones.
  • How to manage requests for images of themselves or others, and what to do if things feel uncomfortable or inappropriate.

PSHE theme 2: Relationships

Pupils should learn:

  • To recognise and respond appropriately to a wider range of feelings in others.
  • That their actions affect both themselves and others.
  • To recognise different types of relationship, including acquaintances, friends and family.
  • What constitutes a positive, healthy relationship, and how to form and maintain them.
  • How a relationship can be unhealthy, and how to get support.
  • About civil partnerships and marriage, and how no one should be pressurised or forced into marriage; that forced marriage is a crime.
  • That two people who care love each other can be in a committed partnership without being married or in a civil partnership.
  • To judge what type of physical contact is acceptable or unacceptable, and how to respond.
  • The concept of keeping things confidential or secret, whether they agree to this, and when it’s right to break a confidence or share a secret.
  • To listen and respond respectfully to a wide range of people; to raise their own concerns; to consider other people’s feelings; and to respect and constructively challenge others’ views.
  • To work towards shared goals.
  • To resolve disputes and conflict through negotiation and compromise, and to give constructive feedback.
  • About the differences and similarities between people, including family, cultural, ethnic, racial and religious diversity, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability.
  • To recognise and challenge stereotypes.
  • The terms associated with sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • About the nature and consequences of discrimination, bullying, teasing and aggressive behaviour.
  • To recognise and manage ‘dares.’
  • To recognise bullying and abuse, including online and through social media.
  • To understand personal boundaries, identify what they are willing to share, and that we all have rights to privacy.

PSHE theme 3: Living in the Wider World

In KS2, this core PSHE area should cover:

  • Researching, discussing and debating topical issues, problems and events.
  • Why and how rules and laws are made and enforced, why different rules are needed in different situations, and how to make and challenge rules.
  • The basic human rights we all share, and that children have their own special rights; that these rights are there to protect everyone and take precedence over laws and family/community practices.
  • Why some cultural practices (e.g. FGM) are against British law and human rights.
  • The consequences of antisocial, aggressive and harmful behaviours such as bullying and discrimination, and strategies for getting support for themselves and others.
  • The different responsibilities, rights and duties that they have at home, at school, in the community and towards the environment, and to develop the skills to exercise these responsibilities.
  • Resolving differences by looking at alternatives, considering others’ points of view, making decisions and explaining choices.
  • Being part of a community, and recognising the roles of voluntary, community and pressure groups.
  • The range of national, regional, religious and ethnic identities in the UK, the lives of people living in other places, and people’s different values and customs.
  • The role money plays in life, including how to manage it, being a critical consumer, and developing an initial understanding of interest, loans, debt and tax.
  • How resources can be allocated in different ways, and that these economic choices affect individuals, communities and the sustainability of the environment across the world.
  • What is meant by enterprise, and early development of enterprise skills.
  • Exploring and critiquing how the media present information.
  • Critically examining what they see in social media, how this information can misrepresent and mislead, and why they need to be careful about what they forward to others.

How PSHE might be taught in primary school

In KS2, PSHE can be taught as a standalone subject (the PSHE Association advises one hour a week), but also through other subjects such as science and humanities, and through school activities like assemblies and sharing time.

Some example activities include:

A science lesson on puberty, where, with the teacher’s support, the pupils discuss what changes happen to the body and their emotions as they get older. They might draw up a table comparing how girls and boys change during puberty.

A lesson where pupils look at what makes a healthy lifestyle, focusing on activity, rest and food. They then work independently to produce a health booklet, including a personal contract stating what they could do to try to improve their own health and wellbeing.

A homework task to create a poster about bullying, following on from a drama session on bullying as part of the school's Anti-Bullying Week. The pupils develop poster-writing skills in small target groups but complete the task independently at home.

An assembly led by an NSPCC visitor where children learn about the ‘underwear rule,’ why some parts of the body should be kept private, and what to do if they feel uncomfortable about how someone else is treating their body. They finish by learning the Pantosaurus Song, which reinforces the underwear rule.

Do children have to take part in PSHE lessons?

Some parents have concerns about what is taught in KS2 PSHE – for example around puberty and sex, same-sex relationships, and religion.

The Department for Education currently states that parents can’t withdraw their children from the relationships part of PSHE, as it covers important concepts like friendship, bullying and how to stay safe.

From 2020, this will include compulsory teaching about the different types of families, including same-sex and other LBGT+ relationships.

You can withdraw your child from some or all sex education. The advice is to talk to the school about what is taught and when; you might ask to see any resources used, for example. If you still want to opt your child out, the headteacher must grant your request.

The exception is those parts of sex education that are compulsory under the science curriculum, including puberty and human reproduction.

Parents can also remove their children from religious education (RE) lessons, but from 2020, they won’t be able to opt out of religious education that falls within relationships education, such as the importance of respecting different beliefs.