New guidance supporting schools how to teach pupils about mental health has been launched by the Department for Education.
Education secretary Damian Hinds said the guidance will mean that from September 2020 all children in England will learn in schools how to look after their mental wellbeing with a focus on the link between physical and mental health.
Compulsory health education comes alongside the introduction of compulsory relationships education for primary-age pupils and relationships and sex education (RSE) for secondary-age pupils.
According to the government, making health education universal – and updating sex education guidance for the first time since 2000 – will ensure pupils are prepared for the opportunities and challenges of an “ever more complex” world, both online and offline.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: "Growing up and adolescence are hard enough, but the internet and social media add new pressures that just weren’t there even one generation ago. So many things about the way people interact have changed, and this new world, seamless between online and offline, can be difficult to navigate. Almost twenty years on from the last time guidance on sex education was updated, there is a lot to catch up on.
"Although sex education is only mandatory to teach at secondary, it must be grounded in a firm understanding and valuing of positive relationships, and respect for others, from primary age. In turn positive relationships are connected with good mental health, which itself is linked with physical wellbeing. So it is appropriate to make health education universal alongside relationships and sex education," he added.
Primary school children will be taught:
- How mental wellbeing is a normal part of daily life.
- Why simple self-care – like getting enough sleep and spending time outdoors and with friends – is important.
- Content on nutrition.
- The importance of staying active.
- Recognising the early signs of physical illness.
- How mental and physical health are linked.
- Age-appropriate online safety.
- The importance of respect for others even when posting anonymously.
- The risks of talking to people on the internet that they don’t know in real life.
Secondary school age children will build on everything learned at primary school, ensuring pupils can spot the signs of common mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression in themselves or others. Young people will learn how to discuss their emotions accurately and sensitively, about the impact of alcohol and drugs on physical and mental health, and how to access professional help.
Secondary pupils will also be taught online safety topics, including the serious risks of sharing private photos, the impact of viewing explicit or harmful content and how the internet can sometimes promote an unhealthy view of sex and relationships.
Schools will be able to decide how to deliver the new content and there will be supporting information to enable teachers to deliver the new content confidently and effectively. To ensure teachers are well-prepared ahead of the subjects becoming mandatory in 2020, there will be a £6m budget in 2019/20 for a school support package to cover training and resources.
Jonathan Baggaley, chief executive of the PHSE Association, said: "We strongly welcome this government commitment to compulsory education on health, RSE and relationships. Parents, teachers and young people have been crying out for more focus on PSHE education, so will be delighted that this core content will be guaranteed on the school curriculum. The PSHE Association looks forward to supporting all schools to make the most of this huge opportunity."
The guidance follows a call for evidence and consultation on the draft regulations which received more than 11,000 responses.
Damian Hinds concluded: "I’m very grateful to the many people who have fed into developing these new programmes, to equip youngsters better to deal with the world of today. It starts as it always did with the importance of friendship, kindness, taking turns; as well as learning about the pitfalls and dangers, including on the internet. It will help children learn how to look after themselves, physically and mentally, and the importance of getting away from the screen and the headphones. And it can help young people be resilient as they chart a course through an ever more complex world."