The Department know that education is a strong protective factor against children’s and young people’s risk of involvement in serious violence. It is important that schools enable children to achieve, to belong and to be equipped with the skills they need to be safe and to succeed in life.
The Department is making relationships and health education compulsory in all primary and secondary schools, and relationships and sex education compulsory in all secondary schools from September 2020. The aim is to put in place the building blocks needed for positive and safe relationships of all kinds, including how to properly handle conflict and to recognise coercive relationships.
Key decisions on which subjects to include in the new curriculum were informed by a stakeholder engagement process, where the Department was contacted by over 63,000 individuals and organisations and a consultation which received over 11,000 responses. Pupils will be taught about building healthy relationships and about their mental health and wellbeing. This will enable them to make informed decisions and seek support if issues arise.
Schools will have the freedom to ensure the curriculum meets the needs of their pupils. This flexibility will allow schools to respond to local public health and community issues such as serious violence. Schools can build on the core content and discuss topics, such as healthy and unhealthy relationships, in relation to gang and criminal activity.
The Department also intends to publish the new school and college security guidance shortly. The guidance makes it clear that the curriculum offers opportunities to help schools and colleges inform young people about the dangers they may face, both in and around school and beyond, and provide pupils and students with the means to help keep themselves safe.