New health and relationship lessons for schoolchildren

The group of Ribblesdale students who have organised the De-stresstival with supporting Lancashire Mind staff.
The group of Ribblesdale students who have organised the De-stresstival with supporting Lancashire Mind staff.
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Healthy living will top the timetable under new rules being drafted by the Government.

The proposals follow growing concerns about mental health issues among young people - and the results of a wide reaching consultation by the Department for Education.

Damian Hinds

Damian Hinds

Bold new plans published by Education Secretary Damian Hinds will see all schools teaching children about good physical and mental health, how to stay safe on and offline, and the importance of healthy relationships.

It is 18 years since the guidance on PHSE was last updated and although welcome, there is some concern that the new curriculum won’t come into operation until 2020 - and is still subject to another 12 weeks consultation.

Lancashire school counsellor Charlotte Lowe says: “Waiting until 2020 for these proposals to be put forward is far too long.

“The number of young people struggling with their mental health is definitely on the rise . I’m being contacted on a weekly basis to see if I can work privately with young people who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health, so something needs to be done much sooner.

Charlotte Lowe talks to pupils at Lostock Hall Academy

Charlotte Lowe talks to pupils at Lostock Hall Academy

“Also, I’m working with children much younger than I used to so although the focus is on secondary school children I think we need to also provide resources and tools for children of primary school age. I have a lot of headteachers contact me from primary schools asking what’s available for them to use, when there is actually very little.

“We learn about physical health at school through teaching science so it’s really, really frustrating that young people are not being taught about mental health from a young age. I talk to young people about developing a wellness toolbox- learning coping strategies and ‘tools’ to help them cope with life’s challenges. Each young person is so different that it’s about finding tools which are specific to them to help them cope.”

Damian Hinds (inset) 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.

One of the two new classrooms at Ribbon Academy, Murton

One of the two new classrooms at Ribbon Academy, Murton

“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.”