Mental health on the curriculum in Wales

The Welsh curriculum is changing, and with it, a brand-new approach to mental wellbeing is coming.

In 2019, the Welsh government consulted on a proposed new curriculum, and in January 2020 this was finalised. Most Welsh schools are already planning on how they will implement it, with some ‘pioneer schools’ already running the new curriculum.

The new curriculum will become mandatory for students up to Year 7 from September 2022. Secondary schools are expected to roll it out on a year-by-year basis, with Year 8 in September 2023 through to Year 11 in September 2026.

The new curriculum is split into six Areas of Learning and Expertise (AoLEs), and the AoLE which covers mental wellbeing is called Health and Wellbeing. This new area will replace personal and social education (PSE) and relationships and sexuality education (RSE) as curriculum subjects.

The new Health and Wellbeing curriculum

As part of Health and Wellbeing, there are five ‘What Matters’ statements that all pupils will learn about, no matter what phase of education they are in. The statements are:

  • Statement 1 – Developing physical health and well-being has lifelong benefits
  • Statement 2 - How we process and respond to our experiences affects our mental health and emotional well-being
  • Statement 3 - Our decision-making impacts on the quality of our lives and the lives of others
  • Statement 4 - How we engage with social influences shapes who we are and affects our health and well-being
  • Statement 5 - Healthy relationships are fundamental to our well-being

These statements are broken down into five progression steps. Each step broadly corresponds to a different age (5, 8, 11, 14 and 16) but the guidance around the curriculum emphasises that progression will differ for each student.

Here is an example of one set of progression steps, which sits under statement 2 in the curriculum, ‘How we process and respond to our experiences affects our mental health and emotional well-being’:

Progression step 1

I am beginning to have an awareness that thoughts and feelings change, and I am starting to notice when change happens.

Progression step 2

I can understand how and why my thoughts, feelings and actions change in response to different experiences.

Progression step 3

I can self-regulate my emotions in a healthy way using strategies that I have developed.

Progression step 4

I can identify different strategies to self-regulate my emotions in response to a range of experiences.

Progression step 5

I can use my self-awareness to appreciate the complexity of my emotions and apply strategies to self-regulate them in a healthy way and to connect with others.

Find out more about the new curriculum on the Welsh government’s website.

The outgoing PSE curriculum

The Health and Wellbeing AoLE will replace current curriculum subjects PSE and RSE across primary and secondary schools. In Wales currently, PSE is taught in primary and secondary

The Health and Wellbeing AoLE will replace current curriculum subject personal and social education (PSE). PSE is taught to children and young people aged 7 to 19. It is statutory across primary and secondary schools, and further education settings who teach young people aged 14 to 19.

The aims of PSE are to:

  • develop learners’ self-esteem and a sense of personal responsibility
  • promote self-respect, respect for others and celebrate diversity
  • equip learners to live safe, healthy lives
  • prepare learners for the choices and opportunities of lifelong learning
  • empower learners to participate in their schools and communities as active responsible citizens locally, nationally and globally
  • foster positive attitudes and behaviour towards the principles of sustainable development and global citizenship
  • prepare learners for the challenges, choices and responsibilities of work
  • and adult life.

Find out more about PSE and the framework behind it in this guidance from the Welsh government.

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