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Compulsory relationship education will include focus on mental health

All children will be taught about mental health as part of the compulsory relationship education, the education secretary has announced.

Damian Hinds revealed that all pupils will study compulsory health education as well as new reformed relationships education in primary school and relationships and sex education in secondary school.

They will also learn about good physical and mental health, how to stay safe online and offline and about the importance of healthy relationships.

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,” he added.

The guidance – which was last updated in 2000 – will become compulsory in all schools across the country from September 2020.

Pupils will be taught about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle, what determines their physical health and how to build mental resilience and wellbeing. It will also make sure children and young people learn how to recognise when they and others are struggling with mental health and how to respond.

The proposals, which follow the publication of the Childhood Obesity Plan and the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper, will ensure that the importance of good physical and mental health are an integral part of the updated subjects.

Under the updated guidance, teachers will talk to primary school pupils in an age appropriate way about the features of healthy friendships, family relationships and other relationships they are likely to encounter. At secondary school, teachers will build on the foundation of relationships education in primary and, at the appropriate time, extend teaching to include intimate relationships as well.

At both primary and secondary, pupils will learn about:

  • Staying safe online
  • How to use technology safely, responsibly and respectfully
  • How to keep personal information private
  • How to navigate the virtual world, challenge harmful content and balance online and offline worlds
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Consent
  • Physical health and fitness
  • Prevention of health problems.
  • Confidence, resilience, self-respect and self-control
  • LGBT issues.

It will now be subject to a further 12-week consultation on the content and how the subjects are taught.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said: “We welcome the proposed guidance, and its focus on the issues Barnardo’s has campaigned for such as consent, healthy relationships and staying safe online. We are pleased to see emotional, reproductive and mental health included as requested by our young service users.

“It is vital teachers have quality resources and proper training so they can deliver sensitive subjects that are age-appropriate and answer any questions children have confidently. Schools must communicate regularly with parents to help them feel comfortable about what their children are being taught,” he added.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, added: “Councils called for sex and relationship education (SRE) to be made compulsory in all secondary schools, and were pleased when the Government announced this would happen last year.

“As we warned at the time, the lack of compulsory SRE in secondary academies and free schools is storing up problems for later on in life, creating a ticking sexual health time bomb, as we are seeing in those who have recently left school.

“The draft guidance set out today will help address this and also enable pupils to improve their physical health and mental wellbeing. But we would like to see government go further and give councils and schools the funding to offer independent mental health counselling so pupils have access to support as and when they need it,” she concluded.

 

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