The ‘State of Child Health’ report includes data on 25 measures relating to the health and wellbeing of UK children, from obesity and drug/alcohol use to sexual health and suicide rates.

While highlighting improvements in many respects over the last 30 years, the report suggests reasons for significant concern, including the relative poor health of those from deprived backgrounds and lack of access to support.

The report includes a strong recommendation that the Department for Education makes PSHE education (including sex and relationships education) statutory in all schools, stating that  “this should foster social and emotional health and wellbeing through building resilience and specifically tackling issues around social inclusion, bullying, drug and alcohol use, and mental health.”

PSHE education is mentioned specifically in relation to how it could help reduce drug and alcohol use and support mental health as a vital part of a whole school approach. Children consulted for the report suggested that one-off lessons on such issues were not enough.

PSHE Association Chief Executive Jonathan Baggaley said:

“This landmark RCPCH report shows progress in many areas, but significant concerns about children and young people’s physical and mental health remain.

We therefore welcome the report’s recommendation that the Department for Education makes PSHE education – including sex and relationships education – statutory in all schools, as a key element in promoting and supporting all pupils’ physical and mental health.

The report highlights mental health and tackling drug/alcohol use as two important areas in which statutory PSHE can help, but the skills and attributes developed through PSHE education can be applied to many areas of pupil health and wellbeing. All pupils in all schools should therefore have the same access to high quality PSHE education and statutory status is a crucial first step towards achieving this.”