Skip to content ↓

Cotham School


PSHEE & Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) at Cotham School 


The Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHEE) programme is taught by specialist teachers as a core timetabled subject. Starting in Year 9 and continuing into KS4, all students will study towards a Level 2 qualification in ‘Personal Wellbeing’ (Gateway Qualifications). This replaces the ‘Preparation for Working Life’ Level 2 qualification which has its last examination in 2019. The qualification is gained through continuous assessment and students will study the following units: Healthy Lifestyles; Sex and Relationships; Body Image; Eating Disorders; Drugs and Substance Misuse; Understanding Stress; Equality and Diversity; Understanding Risk; Beliefs and Values; Self-esteem and identity.

Students in Years 7,9,10 and 11 receive two lessons a fortnight.  Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) is an integral part of this course and will become statutory for all students from September 2020. The resources used and topics taught are regularly reviewed to ensure that information is accurate and pertinent to students’ needs and age. Cotham already has a comprehensive RSE curriculum, taught within the existing PSHE curriculum which can be viewed on the school website.

Our SRE (Sex Education and Relationships) policy states that:

  • Sex education is an entitlement for all students at Cotham. This is in recognition of the importance of encouraging the development of responsible sexual attitudes and behaviour as students move to adulthood
  • The moral framework will reflect the overall ethos of the school and show respect for diversity of cultures and beliefs within the whole school community. The delivery is factual and balanced with opportunity for questions and discussion
  • Sexual relationships will be presented in the context of human relationships such as parenthood and families, acknowledging the individual differences within family make-up

The programme seeks to promote values common to all faiths and societies with respect for human life and  dignity”

This policy is currently under review to reflect RSE’s new statutory status. Details of the new framework for Relationships and Sex Education can be found on the Department of Education’s website.

The new RSE and Health curriculum requires schools to teach lessons on the following topics: 

  • Families
  • Respectful relationships, including friendships
  • Online and media
  • Being Safe
  • Intimate and sexual relationships including sexual health**
  • Mental Wellbeing
  • Internet safety and harms
  • Physical Health and Fitness
  • Healthy Eating
  • Drugs, Alcohol and tobacco
  • Health and prevention
  • Basic First Aid
  • Changing Adolescent Body

**Parents have the right to remove their children ONLY from those lessons which come under the heading ‘Intimate and sexual relationships including sexual health’. If students wish to attend these lessons without the consent of their parents, they are able to do so during the three terms prior to their sixteenth birthday. If a parent wishes to withdraw their children from ‘Intimate and Sexual Relationships including sexual health’ lessons then this intention needs to be expressed in writing, and also needs to be approved by the Headteacher. 

Schools have a responsibility to provide age appropriate lessons and to inform parents about what is taught and when. The current PSHE curriculum is published on the school website. ‘Intimate and sexual relationships’ content will be covered in year 10 (terms 1 and 2)

Bristol Healthy Schools Award for Oustanding PSHE 2018 

We’re really excited to announce that we have passed the Personal, Social, Health and Economics Education (PSHE) Badge badge of the Healthy Schools Awards! We are the first secondary school in the city to pass this new award.

The Healthy Schools Team felt that "this was a very strong submission and it is clear that Cotham is committed to outstanding PSHE. The fact that the school has timetabled, regular lessons for all year groups means that pupils have access to a wide range of health and wellbeing topics, have opportunity to have their voice heard and can make meaningful and informed decisions about their own health and wellbeing. Since the programme of study follows the PSHE Association’s ‘best practice’ guidance we are also clear that what is taught is high quality and meets the needs of young people today.  The fact that pupil’s in Key Stage 4 are entered in for a qualification also sends a strong message to pupil’s that this is a subject that has worth and is important while more officially rewarding their progress. We can see that the school is also committed to PSHE teacher’s own CPD as staff have been able to attend multiple training courses and networks year on year which has no doubt ensured excellence in their teaching. Lastly, we can see that the subject is regularly monitored internally and that when students have asked for certain topics to be taught, the PSHE team have responded well.”   

Ben Saunders, Asst head of Faculty Humanities.

Drug Education 

Drug alcohol and tobacco education is statutory in as far as it is included in National Curriculum Science. However the National Drugs Strategy places expectations on schools which require a broader interpretation than is possible in Science. All schools are now required as part of this strategy to have a programme of drug alcohol and tobacco education and a policy for the management of drug related incidents.

At Cotham students study drug education throughout Key Stage 3 and 4. In Year 9 they study the content that is specified in the AQA GCSE course.

Key Stage 3

  • Alcohol: what is alcohol made from?; % strength of alcohol; units and healthy allowances for adults; increased and high risk drinking and related health issues; social problems of alcohol, including drink driving, underage drinking and alcoholism; attitudes towards drinking, social drinking and peer pressure.
  • Smoking: Toxic chemicals found in cigarettes; health risks associated with smoking, including Shisha; second hand and third hand smoke and it’s potential effect on young children; cigarette litter and how it can be tackled; how government and businesses can try to cut down the number of smokers and prevent young people starting to smoke.
  • Other Drugs: Drug classifications and what they mean; legality and illegality; potential dangers of legal drugs, including painkillers, solvents, steroids; the potential health risks of illegal drugs; the potential dangers of New Psychoactive Substances (‘legal highs’) including NOS and cannibinoids.
  • Drug education at Cotham complies with the desired outcomes of the Drug Education forum which states that drug education should ensure that:
  • The risk factors associated with drug misuse are reduced, and the protective factors enhanced.
  • Students have sufficient time and the appropriate atmosphere of enquiry to explore the issues of drug use, societal values in relation to drugs, and to develop their attitudes towards drug use.
  • Students choose to abstain from drug use, or delay the onset of their first use, or where they are using reduce the harms associated with use.

Key Stage 4

  • Many issues raised at KS3 are revisited. KS4 focuses on the links between drug use and mental illness, particularly with reference to emotional wellbeing and the world of work.


The non-statutory framework for Personal, Social, Health Economic Education provides opportunities for children and young people to learn about keeping safe; and who to ask for help if their safety is threatened. As part of developing a healthy, safer lifestyle students should be taught, for example:

to recognise and manage risks in different situations and then decide how to behave responsibly; health and safety in the workplace, recognising hazards and hazard signs; fire safety; keeping safe on the streets; E Safety;

to judge what kind of physical contact is acceptable and unacceptable; consent in sexual relationships; pressure within relationships; ‘sexting’ and the sending of explicit material via text, email or social sites.

to recognise when pressure from others (including people they know) threatens their personal safety and well-being and develop effective ways of resisting pressure, including knowing when and where to get help; drug safety; CPR training (yr 11); ‘Play Your Part’ Day (yr 8).

to use assertiveness techniques to resist unhelpful pressure.

See Appendix 2 for more details.

Careers and IAG in PSHEE Lessons 

In PSHEE lessons, students will:

  • access the impartial careers information, advice and guidance that they need, including support with work experience placements.
  • explain key ideas about careers and career development, including the different types of skills and training offered by employers (appraisal, mentoring, shadowing etc).
  • understand how work is changing and how this impacts on people’s satisfaction with their working lives, including the impact of new technologies and work/life balance.
  • understand the organisation and structure of different types of businesses.
  • be aware of what job and labour market information is and what it can do for them.
  • recognise and stand up to discrimination that is damaging to them and those around them
  • be aware of the laws relating to young people permitted hours and how to minimise health and safety risks to them and those around them.
  • understand how to manage their money.
  • prepare and present themselves well at interview.
  • present CV and letter of application for a job.

Appendix 1 - How PSHEE lessons contribute to the self harm agenda 

Year 7

  • Self-esteem and the link between positive self-esteem/self-confidence and success both academically and socially.
  • Arguments: causes of conflict between parents and children and assertive ways to express themselves.
  • The causes and impact of bullying and the roles of bystanders (including cyberbullying).
  • ‘Healthy Body Healthy Mind’: what is mental health; how can you keep your mind and body healthy?
  • Drug Education: the effects of smoking, solvents, cannabis and alcohol on both physical and mental health.
  • The importance of getting enough sleep; sleep and its effects on the body and brain.
  • ‘Positive parenting’: what makes a happy family? What skills to parents need to ensure their children grow up with positive self image?
  • Adult relationships – what physical and mental consequences might there be from starting a sexual relationship too early (including teenage pregnancy)?
  • Hormones and their effect on the body and brain during puberty.

Year 8

  • Stereotypes – positive and negative stereotypes and how they are related to homophobia, sexism, racism and disablism.
  • Homophobic bullying: causes and impact on identity and self-esteem (from both the bully and victims perspective).
  • Sexism: how are boys and girls treated differently? Are there different expectations of how boys and girls should behave? How does the media, clothing and toy manufacturers stereotype girls and boys – does this have an impact of self-image and the choices boys and girls make in the future?
  • How can the global nature of the internet promote positive images of disabled people/tackle racial and national stereotypes etc.
  • Racism: how should Bristol recognise its role in the Slave Trade? Building positive images of black contribution to local history.
  • Racist bullying – how cultural differences can be understood.
  • Recognising potentially abusive behaviour in relationships.
  • Self Harm: how is it linked to emotional health; how to people self harm/why do they do it? What can be done to help people who self harm?
  • Body Image: how do magazines, pop videos etc promote an unrealistic idea of body perfection; the effect of airbrushing in photographs; links to self esteem and confidence.

Year 9

  • Drug Education: the effect of drugs (including alcohol) on mental health and wellbeing.
  • Risk factors associated with drug taking, including mental health (with particular reference to Cannabis and legal highs)
  • Reasons why people are attracted to certain types of drugs; stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens; understanding the causes of addiction and its potential effects.


  • Understanding the importance of consent and respect in a healthy relationship. Ownership of own body (including FGM, sexual assault/rape)
  • Understanding power relations in relationships and how an imbalance of power can lead to abuse. Understanding healthy behaviours, pressures in relationships.
  • The importance of safe sexual behaviour, including contraception, and the pressures surrounding sex (eg how to deal with someone who refuses to use a condom).
  • Signposting organisations that can help young people deal with sex and relationship issues.
  • Positive parenting: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; how can parents help the emotional and physical development of their children? What responsibilities do parents have towards their children?

Year 10/11

  • Stress: its causes, effects and ways to deal with stress. Understanding the link between physical and emotional wellbeing.
  • Prejudice and discrimination and its potential physical and emotional effects in society and the workplace, including sexism, racism, homophobia and disablism.
  • Self concept; what factors affect self concept?; recognising the physical, intellectual, emotional and social aspects of wellbeing (PIES) and applying them to real life situations. Recognising how a healthy balance of PIES can affect how a person responds to expected and unexpected life events (link to developing emotional resilience).
  • Different types of legal adult relationships (marriage, cohabitation, civil partnerships) and how they might contribute to personal wellbeing.
  • The role of different charities and organisations dealing with mental health or relationships (eg ‘Mind’, ‘Relate’).
  • Recognising the importance of financial wellbeing: the benefits of earning your own money; the importance of budgeting for the future and avoiding debt. The link between money and emotional wellbeing.
  • The link between PIES and the world of work; building positive professional relationships; recognising personal worth and achievements (writing a CV, applying for jobs).
  • The potential effects of drug use or alcohol on a person’s worklife.
  • How technology such as smartphones and email has improved people’s work and social lives; how new technologies can affect people’s PIES negatively.

Appendix 2 - How PSHEE contributes towards safeguarding at Cotham 

Year 7

Students consider what factors can lead to arguments between children and their parents. Students then are then encouraged to look at the situation from the parental point of view.

Students have lessons on self esteem and what effect low and high self esteem can have on their achievement, happiness and outlook, Then, as a class they produce a mural highlighting things that make them feel good about themselves.

Students look at a case study of a boy who was bullied and committed suicide as a result. Focus is on the reasons why the boy was bullied and, in particular, the role of bystanders and issues surrounding homophobic bullying.

Students consider the effect of hormones on the body when puberty occurs. Changes in the body and brain are covered; students come up with techniques on how to cope with hormonal changes.

Students consider a case study of a teenage mother who decides to keep her baby. They discuss and consider what challenges such a person would face, and how she could have avoided getting pregnant.

Students think about hazards that might be encountered in and out of school. Focus in particular on keeping expensive technology safe; tips on how to avoid being mugged for your phone; tagging expensive equipment through the ‘immobilise’ site.

Safety issues surrounding legal and illegal drugs, with a particular focus on alcohol, smoking and solvents studying scenarios that are high medium or low risk.

Year 8

Students discuss and complete work based on a film ‘Fit’ produced by Stonewall which focuses on homophobic bullying. Issues include the use of ‘gay’ as a derogatory term; stereotypical views of what boys and girls are expected to be like; issues surrounding ‘coming out’; challenging homophobic attitudes by studying high profile gay people.

Students work together to produce project work based around politics by setting up a political party and producing a manifesto aimed at attracting the votes of young people. Lessons will also focus on how politics can address issues relevant to young people and consider the skills that might be needed to participate in politics and highlight issues that are important.

Year 9

Students study different issues surrounding alcohol and its usage. Students understand about the relative strength of different alcoholic drinks; alcohol units and ‘safe’ alcohol consumption for adults; dangers of ‘pre-loading’ and overdosing; assessing safe and unsafe alcohol scenarios; drink driving and how to prevent it; issues surrounding underage drinking and alcohol addiction.

Students are taught about the health dangers of illegal drugs. Students research 3 illegal drugs and feedback their findings to the rest of the class. Students also should understand that drugs have positive qualities and that they are only ‘bad’ if they are misused. Lessons also cover drugs law and students should understand that there are different classifications that carry different potential penalties.

Students look at examples of legal drugs (including legal highs) and produce written work summarising the potential risks to health.

In SRE students have lessons on contraception (including emergency contraception) and respectful adult relationships. They are taught about how to recognise healthy and unhealthy relationships which leads on to issues surrounding child exploitation, coercive relationships, including such topics as forced marriage and domestic abuse. Students are taught about condoms in particular (their advantages and disadvantages; their history; moral issues surrounding the use of condoms).

Year 10

SRE covers the following:

Parental relationships: responsibilities and qualities needed to be successful parents, understanding ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’.

Marriage: students discuss the importance, or otherwise, of marriage, including good and bad reasons for getting married. Students should also understand the difference between arranged and forced marriage.

Consent: using a resource pack ‘Only Yes means Yes’ students should understand issues surrounding consent and appropriate and non appropriate behaviour in terms of sexual consent. Students consider how pressure can be applied in relationships and that rape and sexual assault is most commonly committed by people who are known to or in a relationship with the victim (acquaintance rape accounts for 91% of rape cases).

Contraception: students research different methods of contraception and their advantages and disadvantages, using 4YP or Brook websites. They also research STIs, how they are passed on and their respective treatments.

Students consider the reasons why people embark on sexual relationships. They consider how respect can be shown in relationships and how people can be safe. Students are also shown materials produced by Ceop around the subject of ‘sexting’ and the sharing of inappropriate sexual images.

 For more detail, see CEIAG (Careers at Cotham)