DfE lays out plans for compulsory health lessons

Pupils will learn from primary school about internet trolling and the dangers of talking to strangers online

Caroline Henshaw

Health lessons will be compulsory in schools from 2020

Cyberbullying, what to do if a stranger contacts you online and the importance of sleep will be part of the primary curriculum from next year under plans announced by education secretary Damian Hinds.

Last year the Department for Education announced that it would make lessons on good physical and mental health compulsory in schools from 2020.

Secondary pupils will also be taught about sex and relationships under plans designed to make RSE more relevant to modern life.

Today's plans, which the DfE described as “bold”, follow a long process that included a three-month consultation, which drew more than 11,000 responses.


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At primary school, pupils will learn about mental wellbeing, nutrition and the importance of staying active and spending time outdoors.

Mental health education

Pupils will also be taught about: online safety, including the dangers of talking to strangers online; respecting others when posting online; and what to do if they come across discomfiting material.

Secondary pupils will be taught how to spot the signs of common mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, in themselves and others.

Online, they will cover the risks of sharing private photos, the dangers of explicit content and how the internet can promote a distorted view of sex and relationships.

“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,” said Mr Hinds.

“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.”

PSHE Association executive Jonathan Baggaley welcomed the announcement, saying: “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.”

Some, however, have taken issue with the plans. Some religious groups have led a particularly vocal campaign against proposals to teach about LGBT issues and same-sex marriage.

Schools will be left to decide how exactly they teach the new mental health content, the DfE said, adding that it has allocated £6 million for training and resources.

The plans were announced on the same day MPs were due to debate whether parents should be able to opt their child out of sex-education lessons.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition saying parents have a “fundamental right” to decide what their children learn when RSE becomes compulsory next year.

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Caroline Henshaw

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