It seems the government is backing up its claims that preventative medicine and mental health are now a priority. Following pressure to vastly improve our country’s safeguarding of vulnerable groups now by September 2020 school children as young as 4 years old will be taught compulsory lessons about the importance of sleep, looking after their own mental health, relationships and going outside. The new lessons will be part of the broader revised curriculum which will also cover for secondary school pupils, the dangers of sexting, spotting anxiety amongst their friends and the importance of staying safe on the internet.
They will be taught about nutrition, staying active and the link between mental and physical health. And that online time shouldn’t replace playing outside.
"So many things about the way people interact have changed, and this new world, seamless between online and offline, can be difficult to navigate...Almost 20 years on from the last time guidance on sex education was updated, there is a lot to catch up on."
"It will help children learn how to look after themselves, physically and mentally.”
Education Secretary Damian Hinds
The is a notable rise in sleep disorders often attributed to night time screen time which has recently been advised against by the UK’s chief medical officers to be curtailed.
Researchers announced in a British Medical Journal study that sleep deprivation is a serious issue likely to cause more impact on a child’s well-being than bullying, physical activity and screen time. You can read about the study here.
In the meantime for teachers who want to get ahead of the game, in January the PSHE published sleep factor lesson plans which are available to download here: The free to download lesson plans teach children to;
• recognise what good quality sleep is and why it is important
• identify habits and routines that promote good quality sleep
• understand how sleep patterns change during adolescence
The new plans for sex and lifestyle based education has however received some criticism and after a 106,000 signatures have been gathered the issue of parents wanting the right to opt out their children will now be debated in parliament next Monday. It is worth noting that Parents will still have the right to withdraw their child up to age 15 although headteachers will be encouraged to discuss with parents the potential negatives of withdrawing their child, so it seems there will be pressure imposed to include your child.
“We believe that these changes are absolutely essential in creating an educated and self-aware generation next. In schools the teaching of physical literacy is malnourished and needs improvement …this is certainly a welcome step in letting children take some ownership through understanding their own health and it's importance.
"I know that Education Secretary Hinds said £6 million would be made available to cover training and resources, hopefully the initiative and the funding allowance will be built upon if the government genuinely expects any sweeping changes in outcomes.
"We work with over a hundred schools on improving their flexible seating options to enhance their pupils development from this we know first hand that even small changes can have a tremendous impact.”
Nick White, Eiger Standing Desks / iwantastandingdesk.com
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Guardian reporter Sally Williams has produced an editorial detailing examples of home-schooling throughout the UK citing statistics from the BBC that show a 40% rise in children being home-schooled since 2014-15. They point out the real number is likely to be even higher given that data is only collected on children who have been removed from school and excludes children who have never registered.
The government currently has no master register for home-schooled children and surprisingly very few restrictions on parents who wish to home-school. Parent/Teachers are not required to have any specific qualifications, don't have to teach the national curriculum, submit their children for national standard testing such as Sats or GCSEs and often allow children to lead their own education by following their own interests.
Many parents are leaning to home-schooling as a solution to their child experiencing issues such as exam stress, bullying or unmet special needs in the standard school environment. One mum in the article explains her thinking;
“School is very oppressive for young people. It’s not natural to be sat at a desk all day, with fluorescent lights, computer screens, barely able to see outside. “
Can schools do anything to counter losing pupils to the growing rise of home-schooling? Anecdotal evidence shows that standing desks in the school environment afford children a greater sense of freedom whilst letting them focus on the work at hand. They help to tackle some the special educational needs many parents feel aren’t being adequately addressed in the school environment.