The PSHE Association welcomes non-statutory guidance published by the Department for Education this week which aims to support schools in recognising and responding to mental health issues facing pupils. A key aim of the document is to decrease the number of pupils with mental health difficulties being branded as ‘troublemakers’ and to enable schools to develop and implement initiatives to promote positive mental health.
The guidance identifies the PSHE curriculum as a significant tool in promoting positive mental health and in developing the skills that pupils may need to overcome mental health difficulties where they do arise. Several case studies outlining how PSHE can be used to promote positive mental health and emotional wellbeing are featured in the guidance.
While we do not see the role of PSHE teachers akin to that of a counsellor, there are clear ways in which the PSHE curriculum can be used to provide pupils with better knowledge about mental health issues. It can also provide pupils with skills and understanding to share any concerns they have about themselves or a friend, and in a safe environment where issues such as bullying and stigma can be explored.
The DfE’s guidance makes it clear that the promotion of mental health needs to be a whole school responsibility and not one that falls only within the remit of PSHE staff. Consequently, much of the guidance is of most relevance to senior leaders and pastoral staff rather than PSHE teachers. However, the information is likely to be informative to PSHE teachers and provide good background information about where mental health features on the curriculum. This includes outlines of the risk factors, symptoms and treatment of common mental health issues and screening tools to help school staff to identify pupils at risk or suffering from mental health issues.
You can download the full guidance here.
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