Mental Health education is to be made compulsory in all schools in England under new government plans following growing concerns about mental health problems among young people.
Children will be taught how to build mental resilience as well as how to recognise when their peers are struggling with mental health issues as part of statutory lessons, the government says.
It follows a national call for evidence where teachers, pupils and parents were asked what they thought should be taught as part of compulsory relationship and sex education (RSE) classes.
Under government proposals, health education will be a mandatory part of the curriculum for all primary and secondary schools from autumn 2020 – the same time that the RSE reforms will be rolled out.
The move has been broadly welcomed by campaigners who called for personal, social and health education lessons (PSHE) to be made compulsory to tackle the rise in mental health issues.
But some have criticised the delayed roll-out of the SRE reforms which were planned for September 2019 and they say that the government’s proposals do not go far enough.
As part of the proposals which come as concerns about childhood obesity and children’s mental health remain in the spotlight pupils will be taught the benefits of healthy eating and keeping fit.
Just this week, Ofsted boss Amanda Spielman warned that schools cannot provide a “silver bullet” to tackle childhood obesity and should not be expected to solve society’s wider problems.
As well as a focus on health, the reformed guidance to schools which has not been updated since 2000 will include topics like consent, keeping children safe online and LGBT+ issues.
But not all topics currently covered in PSHE lessons in school such as financial literacy and preparation for the workplace are being made compulsory by the government.
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The government’s announcement today covers important elements like online safety and LGBT issues as well as sex and relationships and mental and physical health – but does not go as far as PSHE.
He added: “We are also disappointed to note that the government is rolling back on their commitment to statutory relationships and sex education by September 2019, with the deadline pushed back a year.”
Almudena Lara, head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC, said: “While compulsory lessons are a long awaited step to help children understand and develop healthy relationships in an online world, we are disappointed that implementation is being delayed again to 2020.
“By then up to 1.4 million children will have started primary school without a requirement for clear age appropriate lessons on consent, appropriate boundaries, healthy relationships and how to treat others.”
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.”
Last year, more than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for mental health education to be made compulsory in primary and secondary schools.
The petition which was debated in parliament highlighted that there had been a large rise in the number of young people being admitted to hospital because of self harm.
He added: “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.”
The proposals are now open to another consultation on how the subjects should be taught with teaching materials available from 2019 and the reforms becoming statutory in September 2020.>