The new Draft Curriculum for Wales has been heralded as a “big culture change” by the education minister in Wales, and, with ‘Health and Well-being’ as one of the six areas of learning and experience alongside more traditional areas such as numeracy and literacy, there is much to encourage those who are parenting care-experienced children.

In our ‘Bridging the Gap’ report, we highlighted research that shows a correlation between improved levels of health and well-being, and improved attainment in learning. The Draft Curriculum for Wales similarly recognises physical and mental health as being a “key enabler of successful learning.”

So, what will this mean for our children in their daily school lives? The Health and Well-being strand focuses on five main areas: developing physical health; the effects of our experiences on mental health and emotional well-being; decision-making; how social influences affect our health and well-being; healthy relationships. While lessons and topics can be developed to focus specifically on these different aspects of the strand, it is expected that there will also be a whole-school approach to supporting and maintaining students’ health and well-being. The Health and Well-being strand is intended to become part of the culture and ethos of the whole school, not an add-on or a special assembly.

This curriculum, with its call to recognise that “healthy relationships are fundamental to our sense of belonging and well-being” has the potential to guide education settings in Wales towards an ethos that puts all learning into the context of the social, emotional and mental health of students. It requires schools to support children to develop self-regulation, understand their own emotional state and what influences it, communicate how they are feeling and ask for help, and develop healthy relationships in different contexts and with different people.

If the implementation of this new curriculum matches its promise, it has the potential to be a significant step forward for Welsh education. We hope that it will usher in an era where schools across the nation are prioritising the relationship-focused ethos that so many children living with the impact of adverse childhood experiences need to thrive. It creates the possibility for schools to stand alongside parents, carers and guardians in creating an environment in which children and young people can learn to understand the legacy of those experiences, and be supported to overcome them so that they can achieve everything that is within their potential.

The new Draft Curriculum for Wales can be viewed online here: https://hwb.gov.wales/draft-curriculum-for-wales-2022