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Modern Families

About these free teaching plans for PSHE lessons

Modern Families is an interactive and informative two-part lesson plan for use in PSHE teaching for Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 pupils. It aims to help pupils make informed choices in their future relationships. The PSHE Association has awarded its prestigious quality mark to the resource, demonstrating that it meets the high teaching standards required by the rigorous approval process.

Prof. Anne Barlow and Dr Jan Ewing at Exeter Law School have devised the lesson plan in collaboration with the family law professionals’ member organisation, Resolution. The lesson plan draws on evidence from Prof. Barlow’s research which has shown the persistence of the ‘common-law marriage myth’. This is the mistaken belief that unmarried couples who live together for some time have a ‘common law marriage’ which gives them the same legal rights as married couples. It further draws on the research of Prof. Rebecca Probert exploring non-qualifying ceremonies; a marriage or other ceremony that has no effect under the law of England and Wales. The research has shown that the number entering such ceremonies is growing, with some participants wrongly believing themselves to be legally married. As with misconceptions about ‘common law marriage’, this risks leaving those who have such a ceremony financially vulnerable if their partner dies or the relationship ends.

While recognising that families come in all shapes and sizes, in helping to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions around ‘common law marriage’ and ‘non-qualifying ceremonies’, the teaching will help pupils make informed decisions about future relationships. Enabling pupils to make such informed decisions is a requirement of the RSE Statutory Guidance and the PSHE Association’s Programme of Study 2020. 

Both lessons have slides and a Teacher Guide to assist with preparation, and an infographic to reinforce learning from the lessons. Laminated A3 copies of the infographic for classroom walls are available free of charge by emailing