DfE announce revamp of curriculum to include relationship, online safety and mental health education
Relationship, online safety and mental health education will become a compulsory aspect of the national curriculum from September, the government announced yesterday.
From the start of the new academic year, students in primary and secondary education will learn about relationships and sex, as well as online safety, mental health and LGBT issues.
The decision is based on a Department for Education report, although parents will have the opportunity for their children to opt out up until the age of 15.
The curriculum will encompass guidance on how to spot the signs of depression and anxiety, while also covering drug and alcohol safety.
With regards to relationships and sex, the curriculum will be required to cover the dangers of the internet and the sharing explicit material as well building tolerance of people within the LGBT community.
In his foreword for the report, the education secretary Damian Hinds stated: "Today’s children and young people are growing up in an increasingly complex world and living their lives seamlessly on and offline. This presents many positive and exciting opportunities, but also challenges and risks. In this environment, children and young people need to know how to be safe and healthy, and how to manage their academic, personal and social lives in a positive way."
Following the announcement, Hinds also noted that the new curriculum would focus on educating pupils on the "barbaric and disgusting" practice of female genital mutilation.
In an interview with the London Evening Standard Hinds said: "It’s about making sure the whole of our society is engaged in stamping out what is a barbaric and disgusting practice made all the worse and harder because it’s perpetrated on some of the youngest and most vulnerable children by people very close to them, in their families, in their communities."
The NSPCC welcomed the news, explaining they "firmly believe that every child should be taught from an early age about consent, different relationships, and what abuse and harassment is".
Robert Jones, the headteacher of Haydon School, explained: “The new mental health provision is a particularly important aspect of the announcement. I am also getting increasingly concerned about the manner in which many young people are using their electronic devices. We have actually introduced a ban on the use of mobile phones during the school day and while I was initially apprehensive, constant access can be a big distraction.
“Lots of parents remain unaware of what their children are doing with their phones and perhaps are slightly naive. I believe there needs to be a greater dialogue between parents and their children, and parents need to be more aware of the apps they are using. There is plenty of pressure on parents but it is a discussion that needs to be had.
“We place a big emphasis on extra-curricular activities, and encourage them to spend time outdoor with friends, attend visits and play sports. Young people have very different lives to the previous generation, so I think this is important.”