Will schools be able to cope with new mental health education plans?

Health and wellbeing is one of the hottest topics in the country as professionals fight against a growing epidemic that continues to spiral out of control. The financially stricken NHS is watching valuable funds disintegrate as it reacts to climbing obesity figures and a growing number of people suffering with mental health issues. There have been calls for prevention to be prioritised over reaction when it comes to wellbeing and the Department for Education appear to have acknowledged the demand…
With an estimated 50% of mental health problems manifesting by the age of 14, the government have announced that mental health education will become compulsory for all primary schools in September 2020. However, critics have voiced their disappointed that the proposals will not be implemented for another two years whilst consultations take place on how to teach the material.
Damian Hinds, Education Secretary, told The Independent: “Good physical and mental health is at the heart of ensuring young people are ready for the adult world. By making health education compulsory we are giving young people the tools they need to be ready to thrive when they leave school.”
With a focus on developing resilience and recognising the symptoms of mental health problems, the new strand of education will be rolled out alongside compulsory relationship and sex education lessons. Whilst the new strategy has been widely praised, there remains growing concerns over how these introductions could impact teacher workload – already a major problem for schools across the country.
Concerning the physical side of health and wellbeing, Ofsted published a press release just a day before the new lesson proposals were introduced, stating: While schools have an important role to play in encouraging healthy lifestyles and exercise as part of a rich, broad curriculum, expecting too much of schools will not solve the problem, and risks further increasing teacher workload.’
Amanda Spielman, Chief Inspector of Ofsted, added: “We must recognise that schools cannot provide a silver bullet for all societal ills. Teachers and school leaders are already stretched; they should not be held responsible for an issue that requires concerted action across the board.”
The report suggested that health and wellbeing ‘is a complex societal issue, requiring solutions from many different players.’ This is where families, government and industries, combined with specialist interventions that can be provided by Evolve Health Mentors can support the additional proposals presented to schools.
Speaking on behalf of Evolve, West Midlands Regional Manager Oli Zaki commented: “Despite this implementation being two years away, it is encouraging to see the government reacting to one of the biggest issues the country and the next generation are facing. It reaffirms the work of Health Mentors as paramount to the everyday culture in schools whilst also adding momentum to our Health Mentor training programme which way grant professionals all over the country with the skills they require to address mental health needs.” 
However, with the Ofsted report adding parents said they wanted more time for PE in the curriculum’, combined with mental health and relationship and sex education lessons becoming compulsory, will teachers have the time to teach all of these efficiently along with their current responsibilities? What subjects may need to be minimised to make space in the curriculum? Could this increase teacher workload further?
A further concern is how teacher training will be updated to support the new subject areas. Amanda Spielmann warns “education for health is essential and must be done well. But this will not happen if schools are devoting time and energy to things in which they are neither expert nor likely to have an impact.”
We would like to hear your thoughts on this. Are the proposals a positive step in the right direction? Are you concerned about how this could impact teacher workload? Would you feel comfortable teaching such lessons?
Email chris@evolvesi.com or tweet @Evolve_Impact with your thoughts.