From next year, all children in England will be taught about physical and mental health, with secondary pupils also having classes on relationships and sex.

The changes will be implemented from September 2020, following what the Department for Education (DfE) says has been an extensive call for evidence and three-month consultation on draft regulations and guidance.

Confirming the Government’s intention to implement the proposals, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said that, although sex education is only mandatory to teach at secondary level, it must be grounded in a firm understanding and valuing of positive relationships, and respect for others, from primary age.

In turn, he explained, positive relationships are connected with good mental health, which itself is linked with physical wellbeing. It is therefore appropriate, Mr Hinds added, to make health education universal alongside relationships and sex education.

Primary-age pupils will have compulsory relationships education as well as learning that mental wellbeing is part of daily life. They will be told why simple things, such as getting enough sleep and spending time outdoors and with friends, are important.

They will also learn about online safety and what to do if they encounter anything with which they are uncomfortable.

The changes were described by Anna Feuchtwang of the National Children’s Bureau as a welcome step forward in preparing children for adulthood, improving their wellbeing and keeping them safe and healthy.

“By providing compulsory health education with a strong focus on mental wellbeing, and guaranteeing relationships education in primary schools and relationships and sex education in secondary schools, the Government has responded to the needs and concerns of children, young people and parents,” she suggested.

The DfE is providing £6 million in 2019/20 to help fund the initiative, with additional support provided for schools teaching the new content from September 2019.

Last reviewed 6 March 2019