All pupils to be taught about health by 2020, says DfE

Teachers will be expected to teach pupils how to spot poor mental health as well as how to stay healthy

Hélène Mulholland

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All pupils must be taught about good physical and mental health from 2020 to help them “grow up happy and well-rounded”, education secretary Damian Hinds has said.

Mental resilience, developing confidence and recognising when they or others are struggling with poor mental health are among the subjects that pupils can expect to be taught as part of compulsory health education proposals.   

The benefits of a healthier lifestyle, and preventing ill-health, will also be included. The proposals for teaching age-related content around physical and mental health come alongside new reformed relationships education in primary school and relationships and sex education in secondary schools.

A long campaign for personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education to be made mandatory in its entirety has been spearheaded by the PSHE Association, which argued that this will be a far more effective and efficient route than committing to compulsory RSE alone.

PSHE 'won't become mandatory' 

But the proposals, due to be published today and subject to a 12-week consultation on how the content and the subjects are taught, appear to rule out making PSHE classes mandatory.

Announcing the plans, the DfE said that “good quality” education on wider social and economic issues will continue to be taught in schools across the country through PSHE “or other subjects”.  

The RSE updated guidance, trailed in the media earlier this week, follows the decision to make the subject compulsory in all of England's schools, amid concerns that the current advice was out-of-date and failed to address modern-day issues such as cyber-bullying, sexting and online safety.

Under the updated guidance, teachers will talk to primary school pupils in an age-appropriate way about the features of healthy friendships and family relationships, whilst secondary school teachers will build on this with a view to extending teaching to include intimate relationships at a later stage.

Staying safe online and the safe and responsible use of technology will be taught across primary and secondary schools.  

Mr 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.”

Materials will be available from September 2019, building on the existing best practice shared by high-performing schools, the DfE said.



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Hélène Mulholland

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