DfE will consider new requirement to teach about suicide prevention

Minister: Mental health will be 'priority area' in the upcoming review of relationships, sex and health education guidance

Minister: Mental health will be 'priority area' in the upcoming review of relationships, sex and health education guidance

A government review of relationships, sex and health education guidance will consider adding new requirements on teaching about suicide prevention, the schools minister has said.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak has brought forward the RSHE review, which was due in September, after claims from Conversative MPs about “age-inappropriate” lessons being taught in some schools.

Nick Gibb revealed in a Westminster Hall debate that the review will also prioritise children’s mental health.

The minister said while guidance already contained content that is “important in suicide prevention”, the DfE “will look further at this as a priority area for the review and decide whether to add requirements on teaching about suicide”.

‘We need to consider the issues carefully’

The guidance currently does not explicitly include teaching on suicide awareness, but notes how teachers can handle it if students raise the topic.

Gibb said the RSHE guidance “is clear” the subject of suicide and self-harm can be discussed as part of health education.

But “it is important that teachers approach it carefully, because we have to acknowledge that, taught badly, it has the potential to do harm”.

“We need to consider the issues carefully before making it an absolute requirement.”

He added that mental health awareness, covered by the curriculum, can have an impact on preventing suicide.

The DfE has been funding a large-scale randomised controlled trial of approaches to improving pupil mental wellbeing in schools to provide evidence on what works, Gibb added.

‘Toxicity of TikTok’

As Schools Week investigation last week revealed how children as young as 10 are among the offenders in thousands of social media abuse cases linked to schools that have been reported to the police.

Gibb warned “we need to be wary of the toxicity of TiKTok as well as the dark web”.

Social media “is part of life and relationships for young people, but for it to be helpful we need to make sure the online environment is as safe as possible”.

The review will be “thorough” and “evidence-based”, Gibb added. The government will talk to experts in the field as well as look at data and evidence from Ofsted and “other bodies”.

The debate was called after a petition calling for suicide to be spoken about in schools “in a safe and age-appropriate way” amassed over 160,000 signatures. It was launched by three dads who each lost a daughter to suicide.

Schools Week has previously reported on how schools are trying to keep children safe in a broken mental health and special educational needs system.

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One comment

  1. Jane Green

    Anything else the DfE or other government departments want to squeeze into the so called broad and balanced curriculum? How about teaching reading, writing and maths? Oh sorry no room!