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National Curriculum

Personal wellbeing key stage 4 - Programme of study

Non-statutory content

Programme of study for key stage 4

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The programme of learning is made up of:

Importance of Personal wellbeing key stage 4

Personal wellbeing helps young people to embrace change, feel positive about who they are and enjoy healthy, safe, responsible and fulfilled lives. Through active learning opportunities students recognise and manage risk, take increasing responsibility for themselves, their choices and behaviours and make positive contributions to their families, schools and communities.

As students learn to recognise, develop and communicate their qualities, skills and attitudes, they build knowledge, confidence and self-esteem and make the most of their abilities. As they explore similarities and differences between people and discuss social and moral dilemmas, they learn to deal with challenges and accommodate diversity in all its forms. The world is full of complex and sometimes conflicting values. Personal wellbeing helps students explore this complexity and reflect on and clarify their own values and attitudes. They identify and articulate feelings and emotions, learn to manage new or difficult situations positively and form and maintain effective relationships with a wide range of people. Personal wellbeing makes a major contribution to the promotion of personal development.

Explanatory text

Personal wellbeing: The personal development of students is integral to the key stage 4 curriculum. This non-statutory programme of study for personal wellbeing is intended to support schools in developing coherent whole-school approaches to personal, social, health and economic wellbeing (PSHE). It provides a context for schools to fulfil their legal responsibilities to promote the wellbeing of students and provide sex and relationships and drugs education. It also provides schools with an opportunity to focus on delivery of the skills identified in the framework for Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL). The presentation and headings of this programme of study are the same as the programmes of study for other subjects to support cross-curricular planning.

The programme of study replaces the non-statutory framework for personal, social and health education. The content is based on the Every Child Matters outcomes and on the government’s guidance on sex and relationships education.

Personal development: Personal wellbeing makes a significant contribution to young people’s personal development and character. It creates a focus on the social and emotional aspects of effective learning, such as self-awareness, managing feelings, motivation, empathy and social skills. These five aspects of learning, identified within the SEAL framework, make an important contribution to personal wellbeing. Evidence of this, drawn from personal wellbeing provision, can contribute to schools’ self-evaluation forms.

Key concepts of Personal wellbeing key stage 4

There are a number of key concepts that underpin the study of personal wellbeing. Students need to understand these concepts in order to deepen and broaden their knowledge, skills and understanding.

1.1 Personal identities

  1. Understanding that identity is affected by a range of factors, including a positive sense of self.

  2. Recognising that the way in which personal qualities, attitudes, skills and achievements are evaluated affects confidence and self-esteem.

  3. Understanding that self-esteem can change with personal circumstances, such as those associated with family and friendships, achievement and employment.

1.2 Healthy lifestyles

  1. Recognising that healthy lifestyles, and the wellbeing of self and others, depend on information and making responsible choices.

  2. Understanding that our physical, mental, sexual and emotional health affect our ability to lead fulfilling lives and that there is help and support available when they are threatened.

  3. Dealing with growth and change as normal parts of growing up.

1.3 Risk

  1. Understanding risk in both positive and negative terms and understanding that individuals need to manage risk to themselves and others in a range of personal and social situations.

  2. Appreciating that pressure can be used positively or negatively to influence others in situations involving risk.

  3. Developing the confidence to try new ideas and face challenges safely, individually and in groups.

1.4 Relationships

  1. Understanding that relationships affect everything we do in our lives and that relationship skills have to be learnt and practised.

  2. Understanding that people have multiple roles and responsibilities in society and that making positive relationships and contributing to groups, teams and communities is important.

  3. Understanding that relationships can cause strong feelings and emotions.

1.5 Diversity

  1. Appreciating that, in our communities, there are similarities as well as differences between people of different race, religion, culture, ability or disability, gender, age or sexual orientation.

  2. Understanding that all forms of prejudice and discrimination must be challenged at every level in our lives.

Explanatory text

Personal identities: Understanding the factors that contribute to personal identities is essential if students are to accept and value themselves and develop confidence and self-esteem, maintain their mental/emotional health, make the most of their attributes and abilities, and celebrate achievements. Having a positive sense of personal identity helps students feel confident about roles and responsibilities and about making a positive contribution to society. Students should reflect on how a positive sense of personal identity relates to healthy lifestyles and relationships and consider in more depth its relationship with the concept of diversity. This links with citizenship and religious education, in particular when students consider diversity in local, national and global contexts.

Healthy lifestyles: A person’s ability to stay healthy is affected by physical, mental, emotional, social, environmental and economic circumstances. Students should learn that they need to make informed decisions about behaviours and consider the short- and long-term consequences of their actions on themselves and others. This becomes important at key stage 4, when young people have increasing autonomy and often have more challenging decisions to make about their lifestyles. Links with the concept of risk continue to be important. For example, students should understand the dangers of dependency or addiction, in relation to substances and gambling.

Risk: Risk is an important part of everyday life. Having the confidence to take risks is essential to enjoying and achieving in learning and life.

However, the ability to recognise, assess and manage risk is essential to physical safety and mental and emotional wellbeing. Students should develop their skills of managing risk. They learn to exercise positive pressure on others and support them in risky situations. It is increasingly important to make links with work on financial capability, enterprise and career choices addressed in economic wellbeing and financial capability.

Relationships: Understanding relationships and the skills associated with forming, maintaining and ending them is fundamental to personal wellbeing. At key stage 4 students explore this concept in more depth and consider how to exercise responsibility as they deal with the pressures and emotional challenges involved in a wider range of relationships that are becoming more complex.

Feelings and emotions: The National Healthy Schools Programme (emotional health and wellbeing theme) requires that ‘the school has clear, planned opportunities for students to understand and explore feelings using appropriate learning and teaching styles’. The SEAL programme, which develops students’ social skills and emotional resilience, can help schools cover the emotional health and wellbeing theme within the Healthy Schools Programme. The SEAL programme is used in many primary schools and is being introduced in secondary schools from September 2007.

Diversity: This concept links with both personal identities and relationships. When students consider their attitude and behaviour towards diversity, they should identify similarities as well as differences between people. Learning to empathise with others helps students accommodate difference in their lives and accept their responsibility to challenge prejudice and discrimination wherever it is encountered.

At key stage 4 students explore in more depth personal assumptions about people different from themselves and consider the power dynamics of prejudice.

Key processes of Personal wellbeing key stage 4

These are the essential skills and processes in personal wellbeing that students need to learn to make progress.

2.1 Critical reflection

Students should be able to:

  1. reflect critically on their own and others’ values and change their behaviour accordingly

  2. reflect on their own and others’ strengths and achievements, give and receive constructive praise and criticism, and learn from success and failure

  3. identify and use strategies for setting and meeting personal targets and challenges in order to increase motivation, reflect on their effectiveness and implement and monitor strategies for achieving goals

  4. reflect on feelings and identify positive ways of understanding, managing and expressing strong emotions and challenging behaviour, acting positively on them

  5. develop self-awareness by reflecting critically on their behaviour and its impact on others.

2.2 Decision-making and managing risk

Students should be able to:

  1. use knowledge and understanding to make informed choices about safety, health and wellbeing, evaluating personal choices and making changes if necessary

  2. find and evaluate information, advice and support from a variety of sources and be able to support others in doing so

  3. assess and manage risk in personal choices and situations, minimise harm in risky situations and demonstrate how to help others do so

  4. use strategies for resisting unhelpful peer influence and pressure, assessing when to use them and when and how to get help

  5. identify how managing feelings and emotions effectively supports decision-making and risk management.

2.3 Developing relationships and working with others

Students should be able to:

  1. use social skills to build and maintain a range of positive relationships, reflect upon what makes these successful and apply this to new situations

  2. use the social skill of negotiation within relationships, recognising their rights and responsibilities and that their actions have consequences

  3. work individually, together and in teams for specific purposes, making use of the social skills of communication, negotiation, assertiveness and collaboration

  4. demonstrate respect for and acceptance of the differences between people, and challenge offensive behaviour, prejudice and discrimination assertively and safely

  5. explore feelings and emotions related to changing relationships and develop skills to cope with loss and bereavement.

Explanatory text

Skills and processes: The SEAL skills have much in common with these key processes, and much of the language is similar. For example, the SEAL skills of self-awareness and managing feelings are important for critical reflection; motivation is an important dimension of decision-making; and empathy, social skills and managing feelings are required for developing relationships and working with others. Schools will wish to plan use of the SEAL materials and their teaching of the personal wellbeing programme of study so that students have a coherent learning experience.



Critical reflection: This involves thinking in depth about increasingly challenging issues, ideas and experiences, questioning assumptions and connecting learning with real-life plans, behaviour and experiences. For example, ‘How does what I have learnt impact on my values?’, ‘Is the basis for my assumptions valid?’, ‘How effective are my strategies for achieving my goals?’ and ‘How can I take responsibility for my behaviour and its impact on others?’. Critical reflection can help students develop self-awareness, enabling them to consider how they think and feel to choose their behaviour, plan their learning and build positive relationships.


Values: Exploring topical and real-life social and moral dilemmas provides the context for exploring complex and conflicting values. Reflecting on how this impacts on personal values and re-evaluating them is important at this stage.

Strengths and achievements: This links with learning for economic wellbeing and financial capability. Care should be taken to avoid repetition and ensure coherence. This could include understanding motivation, viewing errors as part of the normal learning process and responding positively to disappointment or failure.



Decision-making and managing risk: This involves finding and using accurate information, weighing up the options and identifying the risks and consequences of each of them in order to make an informed choice.

At key stage 4 students use these skills more independently as they consider choices and challenges in relation to health, personal safety, relationships, leisure and learning opportunities and patterns of change both in and outside the classroom. They reflect on and apply learning to situations in their own lives.



Developing relationships and working with others: Social and emotional aspects of learning are important for personal and social development and for challenging inappropriate behaviour safely. This includes the ability to actively listen, empathise and understand the consequences of aggressive, passive and assertive behaviour in relationships.

Negotiation: This could include using a range of strategies to solve problems and resolve conflicts, such as mediation.

Work individually, together and in teams: A willingness to empathise, live and work with people who are different from themselves is important at key stage 4 as students develop a wider range of personal relationships in different contexts. Links should be made with citizenship – taking informed and responsible action – and with the functional skill of English (speaking and listening).

Range and content of Personal wellbeing key stage 4

This section outlines the breadth of the subject on which teachers should draw when teaching the key concepts and key processes.

The study of personal wellbeing should include:

  1. the effect of diverse and conflicting values on individuals, families and communities and ways of responding to them

  2. how the media portrays young people, body image and health issues

  3. the characteristics of emotional and mental health, and the causes, symptoms and treatments of some mental and emotional health disorders

  4. the benefits and risks of health and lifestyle choices, including choices relating to sexual activity and substance use and misuse, and the short and long-term consequences for the health and mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals, families and communities

  5. where and how to obtain health information, how to recognise and follow health and safety procedures, ways of reducing risk and minimising harm in risky situations, how to find sources of emergency help and how to use basic and emergency first aid

  6. characteristics of positive relationships, and awareness of exploitation in relationships and of statutory and voluntary organisations that support relationships in crisis

  7. the roles and responsibilities of parents, carers, children and other family members

  8. parenting skills and qualities and their central importance to family life

  9. the impact of separation, divorce and bereavement on families and the need to adapt to changing circumstances

  10. the diversity of ethnic and cultural groups, the power of prejudice, bullying, discrimination and racism, and the need to take the initiative in challenging this and other offensive behaviours and in giving support to victims of abuse.

Explanatory text

Body image: This links with work on bullying.

Mental and emotional health disorders: This includes stress and depression, the link between eating disorders and self-image and the need to balance work, leisure and exercise.

Health and lifestyle choices: This includes choices about sunbathing, diet, the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, and sexual activity.

Sexual activity: This should include the social, emotional and economic impact of unintended pregnancy, issues of sexual exploitation and opportunities to review and build upon earlier learning about contraception, sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

Substance use and misuse: This should include benefits and risks of the use of alcohol and medicines as well as the risks associated with tobacco, volatile substances and illegal drugs.

Basic and emergency first aid: For example, the recovery position and resuscitation techniques. Organisations such as the Red Cross and St John Ambulance have information about first aid and dealing with emergency and risky situations.

Relationships: This should include a wide range of relationships, such as boy/girl, same sex, and people of different race, culture, ability, disability and age. Students should address the role and benefits of marriage and civil partnerships in stable relationships and family life, building on key stage 3 learning. An awareness of exploitation in relationships includes the use of mental and physical violence and other forms of abuse.

Organisations that support relationships: This includes those dealing with divorce and bereavement, forced marriage, and violence and abuse in families and relationships.

Children: This could include children as carers, children at risk and looked-after children.

The power of prejudice, bullying, discrimination and racism: Links should be made with the school’s anti-bullying policy, including homophobic bullying (eg by obtaining information from anti-bullying websites), compliance with the Race Relations Amendment Act and the requirement for schools to promote community/social cohesion.

Curriculum opportunities of Personal wellbeing key stage 4

During the key stage students should be offered the following opportunities that are integral to their learning and enhance their engagement with the concepts, processes and content of the subject.

The curriculum should provide opportunities for students to:

  1. make real choices and decisions based on accurate information obtained through their own research using a range of sources, including national and local/ward data, the internet, other media sources and visits and visitors to or from the wider community

  2. form opinions and express viewpoints confidently to a range of audiences

  3. meet and work with people from the wider community both in school and through external visits

  4. use case studies, simulations, scenarios and drama to explore personal and social issues and have time to reflect on them in relation to their own lives and behaviour

  5. take part in individual and group discussion to consider personal, social and moral dilemmas and the choices and decisions relating to them

  6. work as members of groups and teams for specific purposes, taking on different roles and responsibilities and identifying the range of skills and attributes needed for teamwork

  7. evaluate their own personal development and learning, set realistic targets and goals for future life choices and develop strategies for meeting them

  8. identify sources of help, support and accurate information and take responsibility for providing accurate information to others in a range of situations

  9. make links between personal wellbeing and work in other subjects and areas of the curriculum and out-of-school activities.

Explanatory text

The internet and other media sources: At key stage 4 students should take the initiative in researching, interpreting and using a wide range of sources of information to inform their decision-making. This includes critically evaluating media and other sources and validating information obtained via the internet. They should communicate safety messages relating to internet use.

Visits and visitors: Students should take responsibility for arranging visits and inviting visitors, and checking that the input from external contributors meets the planned learning objectives and is compatible with the school’s values and policies.

People from the wider community: For example, community health professionals and drug advisers.

Case studies, simulations, scenarios and drama: These could be used as distancing techniques. They allow issues that are very sensitive and that may impact on young people personally to be explored and discussed without reference to young people’s lives and family circumstances.

Social and moral dilemmas: Effective personal wellbeing teaching requires regular exploration of social and moral dilemmas that may relate to young people as they grow up. Students will need to revisit skills and ground rules to ensure work is carried out with sensitivity to those who may be affected by such issues.

Sources of help: These include local sources, such as GPs, community nurses and drug and alcohol services, as well as national organisations such as Relate, FPA, Brooke, RoSPA, Childline and ‘Talk to Frank’.

Links between personal wellbeing and work in other subjects and areas of the curriculum: There are many ways in which links can be made between work in personal wellbeing and other subjects and areas of the curriculum. Examples include linking work on sex and relationships, drugs, alcohol and tobacco with work in science; and linking diversity, prejudice and discrimination with work in citizenship, history and RE. It is important that links are planned and coordinated and that young people have time to reflect on the sum of their experiences in order to maximise their learning and its impact on their lives.

SEAL, and similar personal development frameworks, are designed to be used across the whole curriculum. While they have a particular contribution to make to personal wellbeing, their use should not be limited to these programmes of study, but should extend across all subjects and areas of the curriculum and across the school day.

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