All schools will teach children about good physical and mental health under plans published by Education Secretary Damian Hinds
Health education will be made compulsory in all schools across the country from September 2020, and will include updates to Relationships Education (RE) in primary school and Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) for secondary school students.
Health education for primary and secondary school students will be updated to include teaching children how to build mental resilience and wellbeing, along with making sure children and young people learn how to recognise when they - and others - are struggling with mental health and how to respond, according to a press release from the Department for Education.
The health education guidance, which had not been updated in 18 years, will also include advice on how to stay safe on and offline and the importance of healthy relationships. In addition to teaching young people about mental health and healthy relationships, reforms to RSE include 'age appropriate' topics such as sexting, body image, LGBT+ issues, consent and harrassment and fertility.
All #schools will teach #children about good physical and #mentalhealth, how to stay safe on & offline, and the importance of healthy relationships under bold new plans published today by #Education Secretary @DamianHinds #RSE https://t.co/RT5RVmp20O pic.twitter.com/OHOeFYGTix— DfE (@educationgovuk) July 19, 2018
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said, “I want to make sure that our children are able to grow up to become happy and well-rounded individuals who know how to deal with the challenges of the modern world. Part of this is making sure they are informed about how to keep themselves safe and healthy and have good relationships with others.
“Many of today’s problems did not exist when we last gave schools guidance on how to teach Relationships and Sex Education 18 years ago. The action we’re taking is important to help support teachers and schools design a curriculum that will enrich their pupils in an age appropriate way.
“Good physical and mental health is also at the heart of ensuring young people are ready for the adult world. By making health education compulsory we are giving young people the tools they need to be ready to thrive when they leave school.”
Former government mental health champion Natasha Devon MBE, who visits an average of three schools per week all over the UK speaking to children about mental health and body image, told Happiful:
“I’m glad Damian Hinds appears to have recognised the importance of this issue. However, I’m deeply concerned that the guidance states that teachers must simply ‘talk to’ pupils about physical and mental health. This isn’t enough.
"Since 2010, the narrowing of the curriculum and exam-factory culture have made it much harder for children to be mentally and physically well at school. One if the key things I teach teenagers for example, is the importance of creativity and exercise for mental health. In the context of sport, art, music and drama being lost from the curriculum, however, there’s little opportunity for them to put this into practice at school.”
Natasha also expressed concern in how the new plan will be implemented. “I’m also worried this is another job on teachers’ already lengthy to do list. I hope there is sufficient funding behind the proposal to ensure school staff are adequately trained and that the extra work associated with taking on the responsibility for teaching mental health will be reflected in teachers’ pay packets.
I’d be interested to see if this proposal from the Department for Education runs alongside proposals from the Department of Health to ensure parents and society generally play their part in children’s wellbeing” she said.
“In summary, it’s either a promising start or a sticking plaster measure. Time will tell.”
The new guidance was developed in response to a national call for evidence earlier this year and will now be subject to a further 12-week consultation on the content and how the subjects are taught.
Last year, a petition by HeaducationUK, which is spearheaded by The Shaw Mind Foundation, called for mental health education to become compulsory in primary and secondary schools was signed by more than 100,000 people and was debated in Parliament. It was the first time in British history that a mental health charity had reached so many signatures on the government's website.