5. Designing your curriculum

This provides specific guidance when incorporating learning in health and well-being in your curriculum. It should be read together with the overarching Designing your curriculum section, which is relevant to learning and teaching through all areas of learning and experience (Areas).

A curriculum must embed the mandatory cross-curricular skills and the integral skills which underpin the four purposes of the curriculum. The following are some key principles which settings and schools should consider when designing learning and teaching in the Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience (Area).

Cross-curricular skills


Literacy is a fundamental enabler of well-being. Learning about and through literature has significant potential to provide learners with the means to communicate their feelings, develop relationships with others, and seek help and support. The role of communication in expressing emotions is fundamental. Literature has significant potential to support learners’ empathy, mental health and emotional well-being.

Literacy provides learners with the opportunity to develop improved decision-making skills. Opportunities to critically engage with a range of texts can support learners’ decision-making and support learners to articulate their views with greater confidence, further developing their values and identity which, in turn, can develop confidence and ambition.

Developing literacy skills, being able to organise writing and adapt language confidently, is important in enabling learners to apply for learning pathways and a preferred career.


Learning in this Area should provide opportunity to develop numeracy skills in the real-world context. Numeracy is a key enabler in making a number of informed decisions, in particular managing money and supporting good financial decision-making and critically engaging with social norms around money. Numeracy also plays a role in purchasing and preparing food to support nutrition. 

Digital competence

Learning in this Area is fundamental to developing safe behaviour in relation to digital media and the online world. Learners should be encouraged to develop their understanding of the increasing influence of technology on their daily lives and the implications this may have for their health and well-being, in particular the possible impact on physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Decision-making, risk assessment and safe and unsafe situations and interactions should all be considered in digital contexts. This includes relationships with others, online safety, legal implications and social influences online (including social media).

As technology develops, settings/schools need to maintain a current understanding of what learners are accessing/using and how they are going about this. Provision should allow learners to explore the vast array of opportunities that these technologies present, as well as developing the awareness and skills needed to be responsible digital citizens. Settings and schools should also consider how they promote positive engagement with media and the online world as well as how they prepare learners to deal with the challenges these can present. 

Integral skills

Creativity and innovation

Learning in this Area provides learners with the opportunity to develop the confidence and openness to explore ideas, to consider the opinions of others, and the courage to express their own. Learners should be given opportunities to express themselves and develop creatively in physical activity including sport, and to generate ideas to create nutritious healthy meals. Learners will be encouraged to explore and pursue innovative thinking in respect of career pathways.

Critical thinking and problem-solving

Learning across the statements of what matters in this Area provides opportunities to develop critical analysis, evaluation and appraisal skills. Decision-making is heavily dependent on critical and logical processes such as analysing the benefits and risks of a course of action. Drawing on learning in this Area learners should be encouraged to develop responses and solutions to experiences they encounter and critically analyse the factors that influence decision-making, such as social influences, values, beliefs and biases.

Personal effectiveness

Learning in this Area should provide learners with opportunities to develop an awareness of, control over, and the ability to express their emotions: the skills required to develop emotional intelligence. Through gaining an understanding of the factors that impact on mental health and emotional well-being learners can be helped to manage their experiences and act with empathy, compassion and kindness for themselves and others. Learning should enable and support learners to develop good interpersonal skills, by providing an understanding of norms and attitudes, an ability to reject and challenge these and an understanding of differences and how these should be respected.    

Learners should develop an understanding of the factors that influence decision-making, helping them to make considered, informed decisions that they are able to justify and explain while also understanding the risks and possible consequences of their decisions for themselves and others. This learning should help provide learners with the skills to critically evaluate learning and mistakes and identify areas for further development.

Learning and experiences within this Area should provide opportunities for learners to develop the skills and attitudes which allow learners to be independent, to have healthy relationships, to know their rights and the rights of others, to know how to manage conflict, to recognise unhealthy relationships, to be safe, and to understand when and how to seek support for themselves and others. 

Knowledge and understanding drawn from across learning in the statements of what matters can support learners to develop confidence and independence.

Planning and organising

Learning in this Area specifically seeks to provide learners with opportunities to build an awareness of, and to develop skills in, decision-making and goal-setting. Drawing on learning in this Area provides opportunities for learners to understand and explore how decision-making affects them and others, to understand and develop the skills to make collective decisions, and to critically evaluate factors and implications of decision-making. Learning in health and well-being should provide learners with the opportunities to plan and set short-term and long-term goals and to take steps to achieve these. Learning should also support learners to plan and implement sustainable, balanced and positive behaviours to support physical health and well-being. Learners should be encouraged to develop an understanding of emotions, behaviours and social influences, skills essential to building strong relationships.

The five statements of what matters should be viewed holistically. When viewed together they encapsulate the fundamental elements which are the foundation upon which health and well-being can be developed. They are meant to act as lenses through which different topics and issues can be explored giving professionals the flexibility to identify those which are relevant to the needs of their learners, their setting or school and their community.  When designing learning and teaching in this Area in the curriculum practitioners should ensure that they draw from across the statements of what matters wherever possible. There is considerable scope for overlap with the other Areas and it is important that planning for this Area should happen in collaboration with them.

This Area is an entirely new element of the curriculum in Wales which, in addition to providing new and exciting opportunities, will also present settings and schools with some new challenges. This section is intended to help guide settings and schools from the initial identification of priorities to putting it into practice.

Successful design, learning and teaching of the Area in the curriculum should be both underpinned and supported by the whole-school approach as the two go hand-in-hand. A whole-school approach to health and well-being should pervade all aspects of school life and be supported by school policies and practices. If there is not alignment between the two then learning in the Area would be compromised.  For example, a healthy food offer in the school canteen can support the learners in their enjoyment and understanding about the importance of having a healthy, balanced diet. Similarly, learning about the benefits of regular physical activity will be enriched and embedded if there are plenty of opportunities throughout a school day to be physically active.

These are the key considerations which settings, schools and practitioners should consider when developing their curriculum.

  1. What are the needs of your learners?

Identify the needs of learners

Every setting and school will have a range of information available to help them carry out an analysis of need. For schools this will include School Health Research Network (SHRN) data, Welsh Network of Healthy Schools data, and the School Sport Survey. It is important that this process also draws upon information at a local, cluster-wide, regional and national level. 

The elements of this Area of the curriculum need a sufficient degree of flexibility and it is important that flexibility is built into the design, and sufficient time is allocated to do this. Needs and priorities will change and learning and teaching in the Area should respond to these changes. It may be felt that there are times when it would be beneficial to use external organisations to provide support in planning and delivery on certain topics and issues. It should be noted that this should enhance rather than replace teaching. External organisations can also assist settings and schools to develop links with the wider community and support parental engagement.

Consider what influences learners' health and well-being

As well as considering learners’ health and well-being, this process could consider the following.

  • What are the drivers and influencers of learners’ health and well-being?
  • How do these drivers and influences impact on different aspects of learners’ health and well-being?

These more specific questions below may be helpful in considering the above. They are not an exhaustive list but meant to help promote honest and open discussions which form an important part of the curriculum design process.

  • What opportunities for physical activity will your learners find enjoyable and meaningful? What motivates them to engage in a variety of roles, responsibilities and environments (e.g. indoor, outdoor, in and around water)?
  • What factors, influences and behaviours shape your learners’ physical health?
  • What is learners’ understanding of the interconnections between their diet, sleep, physical activity and their health and well-being?
  • What decisions do your learners make that influence their health and well-being and that of others? What decisions are they likely to make as they grow?
  • How is your learners’ health and well-being influenced by their interactions with digital technology? What opportunities should your learners have to develop healthy, safe and responsible use of digital technology and the online world?
  • What experiences impact your learners’ mental health and emotional well-being?
  • What skills do your learners need to care for themselves and others?
  • What are the different social influences and groups that impact on your learners, your setting or school and your wider community?
  • What relationships do your learners have that influence their health and well-being?
  • What skills do your learners need to develop healthy relationships?
  • How are the different needs and experiences of learners interconnected?
  1. What topics, themes and activities will help respond to learners’ needs?

Learners’ needs can be addressed by a wide range of learning and teaching. When selecting these, settings, schools and practitioners should ask the following:

  • What activities, topics and themes are most relevant to learners, their needs and context?
  • What experiences, knowledge and skills will support learners to recognise how different drivers and influences may affect their health and well-being?
  • What experiences, knowledge and skills will support learners to develop sustained, health-affirming and pro-social behaviours?
What are the range of experiences and activities that can support learners to enjoy lifelong physical activity and care for themselves and others?

Positive learning experiences can support learners to value physical activity, including sport, which in turn can motivate them to lead physically active lives. Learner-centred pedagogies such as purposeful play, a multiskills approach, the Teaching Games for Understanding (TGfU) approach and the Sport Education Model (SEM) can all contribute to a learning culture where physical activity is enjoyed by all. Learners should also be supported to value the benefits of this, including social, recreational and performance aspects, as well as how it supports their physical health and well-being. These activities should also support the development of knowledge, understanding and transferable skills within and beyond the physical health element of this Area. Settings and schools should consider how opportunities, experiences and pedagogies, including participation in various sports and activities support the development and refinement of gross and fine motor skills, transferable skills and the ability to connect progress with perseverance and confidence. Realising progress in physical competence supports learners’ motivation to persevere and supports their confidence to continue participating throughout life. 

Learners should be supported to develop positive behaviours in their wider physical health and well-being. This could relate to a range of factors, including diet, substances, hygiene, infection, the physical environment, sleep and rest. Settings, schools and practitioners should consider what experiences will support learners to understand how these factors can influence their health and well-being, develop the skills to support healthy behaviours relating to these factors, and the confidence and motivation to support those behaviours for life. For example, developing skills to support a healthy balanced diet should consider how learners can develop the skills and the enjoyment of preparing food which forms part of a healthy balanced diet. Practitioners should support learners to recognise how these factors are interconnected and impact on the whole of their health and well-being, not simply its physical aspect. For example, enjoyment of activities outdoors will influence learners’ mental health and emotional well-being.    

Growing up will have a critical impact on learners’ health and well-being and settings and schools should consider how they will support learners to understand and manage the developmental changes as well as how those changes affect learners in a range of different ways. Learners should be provided with appropriate opportunities to assess and manage risk so they can keep themselves and others safe. Schools should also consider what strategies their learners will need to be able to safely intervene to support others who may be at risk, and this should include lifesaving skills and first aid.   

How can settings and schools create and promote a culture where talking about mental health and emotional well-being is encouraged?
What experiences, knowledge and skills will support learners to respond to their experiences?
How can an understanding of the brain support this?

Learners need to understand the links between mental health and emotional well-being, how mental health and emotional well-being affects them and that our mental health can change over time. Schools should ensure that their whole-school ethos and support systems enable learners to openly talk not only about their mental health, feelings, thoughts and emotions but also those of others.

Schools should ensure that learners have a deep appreciation of the importance of positive relationships and the benefits of seeking help. Schools should provide opportunities for learners to explore the factors that impact on their mental health and well-being. These may include, but are not limited to, the importance of regular exercise, the effect of a balanced diet, how to respond to stress, and the impact of environments, including the online world.

What opportunities should your learners have to participate in authentic decision-making?
How can you support learners to develop their decision-making skills?

Settings and schools should consider how to provide a range of opportunities for learners to make decisions, both individually and collectively. Earlier in progression these may include choices involving friendship, food and activities before moving onto more complex decisions with wider implications. Provision should also be made for learners to make decisions in areas such as careers, financial management, relationships and interactions with and through digital technology. The decision-making process may include problem-solving, identifying potential solutions, critically assessing information, appraising arguments for merit and engaging with and responding constructively to opposing opinions.

Settings and schools are encouraged to provide learners with opportunities to reflect on the short-term, medium-term and long-term implications of the decisions they make. It should recognise that learners do not necessarily have responsibility for many of the decisions affecting them and this responsibility grows over time. Reflecting on the impact of decisions not only on oneself, but on other people and wider society is important, particularly with regard to decisions that have been made by others or other groups. Learners will need to understand the implications and importance of developing sound decision-making in areas such as careers, finances and the law. In particular, learners will need to be aware that these are life decisions with long-term implications.

How can learners be supported to engage with a range of social influences that affect their lives?

Settings and schools should identify opportunities for learners to engage with positive social influences as well as carefully considering how to reduce the impact of negative social influences. Settings and schools should take account of the role that social influences can play on learner behaviour and the influences that can promote and encourage healthy prosocial behaviours as well as those that lead to issues such as discrimination, racism or prejudice.

Settings and schools are encouraged to think about how to provide support for learners when negative social influences create difficulties for individuals and groups and celebrate those social influences that contribute to health and well-being. These may be more global influences that affect large numbers of learners, but could also include things that affect smaller groups of learners. Through a whole-school approach to health and well-being together with curriculum design, practitioners are encouraged to provide opportunities for learners to explore and critically evaluate how and why they choose to engage with particular social influences and how these can affect behaviour.

What experiences could settings and schools offer to provide learners with an appreciation and understanding of the benefits of healthy relationships?
How should settings and schools actively promote and model healthy relationships?

Settings and schools should consider the relationships that are familiar to learners such as family and friends, pets/animals, peers, professional, virtual, romantic, sexual, religious and spiritual, and those relationships which they may not yet be familiar with but are highly likely to encounter in their lives. This should include opportunities to develop relationships with people who have different backgrounds, experiences and characteristics to them. In order to form, maintain and develop healthy relationships for life, learners will need to invest time in those relationships and acquire an array of skills and dispositions.

Settings and schools should consider how they are supporting learners to develop the skills they need in order to build healthy relationships. These should include, but may not be limited to, open communication and discussion, acceptance, celebration, empathy, trust, communication, managing mobile technology, give and take feedback, compassion, problem-solving, cooperation, negotiation, respecting others’ views, values and rights, mediation, responding constructively and appropriately to conflict, understanding that relationships change and develop over time. While these concepts should be integral to the whole-school ethos practitioners should be aware that many of these will also need to be taught explicitly throughout the curriculum. They should make the most of opportunities to develop these skills as they naturally occur and recur. Learners should be given time to reflect on, explore and critically evaluate their experiences, as well as to use the knowledge to impact on their behaviour in situations they may encounter in the future to self-regulate.

How can settings and schools support learners to recognise that relationships or aspects of relationships may not always be safe or healthy?

It is important that learners understand what may constitute an unhealthy or abusive relationship. They will need to recognise unwanted attention and learn how to respond appropriately. Learners should understand the importance of privacy and consent. They should be given opportunities to develop the knowledge and skills needed to seek help for themselves and others, and who to approach for support in a variety of situations, ranging from friends, family and teachers to external agencies and organisations such as Childline, Women’s Aid, NSPCC, the police, counselling services and charities, health professionals, Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP), etc. Safe behaviours may include appropriate touch, personal space and positive verbal communication, including consent. Unsafe behaviours may include physical, emotional, verbal, sexual and online abuse. Learners need to know that they have rights, including human rights and those in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and that these should protect them from harm. They should understand the importance of equity and of recognising one another’s rights in developing safe relationships.

  1. How can topics, themes and activities be considered holistically?

Topics, themes and activities should be considered holistically, considering different aspects of a learners’ health and well-being. The statements of what matters are designed to be used as different lenses through which to look at and consider the same curriculum content.

Planning should begin by thinking about topics relevant to learners’ needs and then exploring how the topic or theme can be used to deliver learning in each of the statements of what matters. The descriptions of learning can then support the development of learning and teaching.

For example, if harmful substances were identified as a focus area, then curriculum design would require an exploration of how the descriptions of learning for each of the statements of what matters can offer a particular way of approaching it. Initial thinking may identify the following links to the statements of what matters: the impact of harmful substances and sleep patterns, appetite, motivation to exercise, emotional well-being, impulsive decision-making and risk-taking, friendship groups, and the ability to distinguish between healthy and harmful relationships. The descriptions of learning can then be used to provide the framework upon which to build detailed learning.

Another example may be that the need to collaborate has been identified as a focus area and the following links may be developed: using physical activity as a vehicle for building collaboration, exploring the benefits of supporting one another on mental health and emotional well-being, making collective decisions and learning from mistakes, exploring how different social groups within a setting or school can identify commonalities, share goals and collaborate to build relationships with the wider community.

Schools should consider the nature of the learning experiences and the supporting pedagogy to ensure that themes and topics contribute to learners’ progression. It is also important to remember that influences are not necessarily wholly positive or negative. Behaviours and relationships can have both healthy and harmful aspects. Learning and teaching should be designed to encourage positive behaviours. When identifying experiences, positive approaches are important. The approach to learning should ensure learners develop enjoyment and a positive perception of healthy and pro-social behaviours. It should not be about shaming specific behaviours or creating a long list of dos and don’ts. Learning and teaching should recognise that while understanding the impacts of different behaviours is important, this alone is very unlikely to influence learners’ behaviours.

Illustrating breadth

The following are provided as examples of how you could explore different topical learning in this Area. These are illustrations only.

Learners can participate in a range of team and individual sports to support their understanding and application of positive health behaviours. This also supports the development of team-working, resilience and individual confidence. A study of sport can also unlock aspects of social history, politics, geography and science in Wales and across the world. Learning about behaviours, situations and conditions that affect physical health and well-being could include learning about substance misuse, the development of first aid skills and an understanding of health conditions. An understanding of diet and nutrition could be enhanced by a knowledge of food supply, both within Wales and internationally, and how it has changed over time.

Links across Areas should be considered and drawn on to fully embed holistic learning. Settings and schools should consider if there are different elements of learning which could be considered together in order to support this. There are many links between this Area and other Areas.

Expressive Arts

The Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience provides opportunities for creative movement and dance as a physical activity and can enable learners to develop gross and fine motor movements to support participation in the arts’ disciplines. Involvement in the expressive arts can enable learners to develop a sense of self, build confidence, and explore different forms of communication and relationships, which can support mental health and emotional well-being.


These two Areas link together to deepen learners’ knowledge and understanding of identity, communities, societies, social norms and values, and social influences. They support understanding of citizenship, rights, respect and equality. The Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience supports learners’ understanding of how individual and collective decision-making can support ethical and sustainable responses to challenges and opportunities that are faced by humanity.

Languages, Literacy and Communication

These two Areas link together to provide learners with the skills to effectively communicate which in turn provide a foundation for developing healthy relationships. Physical and cognitive development will impact on the acquisition of speech and language and the development of fine motor movements, such as handwriting. Literacy skills allow learners to explore texts related to health and well-being. Reading and writing for pleasure also provides opportunities to improve the learner’s sense of well-being.

Mathematics and Numeracy

The Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience provides learners with the knowledge and understanding of the process of decision-making, including the implications of decisions and consideration of risk. Numeracy provides an important context in which to explore and support positive decision-making, particularly in respect of financial decisions. The Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience also provides opportunity to explore the role of numeracy in purchasing and preparing food to support nutrition and its role in measuring distance, weight and time. 

Science and Technology  

These Areas are inherently linked. Knowledge and understanding of biology, physical development, biological and sexual relationships and the link between physical and emotional health are fundamental to learning in the Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience. Learning how the brain works can help learners understand their thoughts, feelings and emotions. How lifestyle choices can impact the human body (including diet, drug use and exercise) can be considered, as well as the science behind hormones, sexual reproduction and human development in support of relationships and sexuality education (RSE). Technology is important to the health and well-being of learners, including supporting the preparation of healthy diets. Understanding how digital media works and how to use the online world safely and responsibly, exploring relationships in an online context and understanding social norms and influences in respect of technology all support stronger decision-making in relation to online safety, online bullying and promoting positive online behaviours.

Local, national and international contexts in this Area

The drivers and influences of learners’ health and well-being may vary depending on local context and these should be considered when designing your curriculum. Learning should be informed by local, national and global trends, issues and factors which affect different aspects of learners’ health and well-being.

The decision-making skills learners develop should enable them to understand and critically evaluate the impacts of their decisions locally, nationally and internationally in a wide range of contexts. 

The social influences that inform learners’ may be local, national or international. They may also vary locally. Developing an understanding of the norms, values and cultures of local communities, national communities and international communities will help inform a learner’s identity. 

Through developing and modelling empathy, learners should be supported to become active citizens who engage pro-socially with each of these different contexts. 

Careers and work-related experiences in this Area

A strong sense of well-being begins with learners expressing their likes and dislikes based on their interests and experiences. Taking responsibility for their own well-being starts with learners understanding and communicating their emotions. As they progress, learners should develop an awareness of a range of different experiences and work-related roles relevant to their learning, skills and interests.

Through developing resilience and adaptability, learners will be able to make informed decisions about their career pathway which can also influence their well-being. Learners can develop an understanding of the need to explore and acquire experiences, knowledge and skills relevant to their ambitions. Accessing impartial and unbiased advice is important to inform learners’ decision-making.

As the learner matures, positive behaviours of time management and punctuality should be seen in the context of their own learning as important attributes for success in the world of work. Developing professional behaviours can contribute to improved well-being by supporting positive working relationships.

Through a broad range of authentic experiences, learners develop an understanding of the importance employers place on a diverse and inclusive workforce. Learning about stereotypes and being able to challenge them enhances awareness of the learner’s rights in the world of work.

Human rights education and diversity in this Area

Understanding and valuing diversity is intrinsic to delivering learning in this Area and to developing knowledge and understanding of rights.  

Learning in this Area specifically looks to provide opportunity for learners to develop knowledge and understanding of rights – individual rights, the rights of others, the impacts of rights on themselves and others, and the need to respect the rights of others. It also advocates learners being given the opportunity to experience exercising of their rights. 

Learning across the statements of what matters in this Area provides opportunities to develop a detailed understanding of the diverse nature of people and to develop the skill and understanding to interact accordingly with people of different backgrounds and cultures. Learning enables opportunities to explore diversity of values, identities, behaviours and physical characteristics, and provides opportunities for learners to develop the characteristics to understand and respect diversity. It also provides opportunities for learners to understand that there are different social groups, situations and cultures and that these have different rules, social norms and attitudes, and opportunities for learners to understand how these differences influence values and behaviours.  

Relationships and sexuality education in this Area

Health and well-being is of course central to RSE. The Area provides an important platform for learning about healthy relationships; how social norms and influences shape our perceptions of relationships and sexuality; the implications of relationships and sexuality on our physical health and mental and emotional well-being; as well as decision making in the context of relationships and sex. This supports learners to develop personal skills and strategies that enable them to become healthy and well throughout their lives.

The Area also gives learners opportunities to consider how issues relating to RSE connect to wider issues around health and well-being: how relationships and sexuality are influenced by wider health and well-being and likewise, how relationships and sexuality impact on our wider health and well-being.