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Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 14, 2019 | Go to article overview

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Byline: Professor Malcolm Thomas

WHEN I first started researching health education back in the late 1980s, its status within the school curriculum was rather hit and miss - the content and focus would differ between schools.

The only national direction available at that time was the guidance material "Health Education from 5 to 16", published as part of the Her Majesty's Inspectorate discussion series of publications that proceeded to set out "a framework within which each school might develop a health education programme appropriate to its own pupils." (HMSO, 1986) It was pleasing to see aspects of this discussion became embedded in the 1988 Education Reform Act, which made it a statutory responsibility for schools to provide a broad and balanced curriculum that: | promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society; | prepares pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.

With the introduction of the National Curriculum Statutory Orders in 1989 and the subsequent publication of the National Curriculum Council's non-statutory "Curriculum Guidance 5: Health Education" in 1990, a framework had been provided to ensure all pupils had access to all health issues for the first time.

In this guidance document, nine areas or components of health education were identified for inclusion in the school curriculum, covering substance use and abuse, sex education, family life education, safety, health-related exercise, food and nutrition, personal hygiene, environmental aspects of health education, and psychological aspects of health education.

This was a major step forward in acknowledging the importance of health within the curriculum.

Despite this encouraging start, it was evident via research conducted by myself and others at the time that the implementation of the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum had left many schools without sufficient time, resources, funding, staff time and expertise to implement the health education policies and initiatives that schools might otherwise had wanted.

It became clear then that health education was seen as another subject area to be fitted into the curriculum to be taught - rather than an issue to be promoted by a whole-school ethos.

However, around the same time, the UK Government's 1992 White Paper "The Health of the Nation" identified schools as one of its key settings. This led to the creation of the "Healthy Schools" initiative which then informed the European Network of Health Promoting Schools project in the mid-1990s.

I am pleased to say that Wales took advantage of this opportunity in promoting the concept that schools should be seen as effective settings to promote the health and wellbeing of all people in the communities associated with school life. …

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