Area of Learning and Experience Health and Well-being

Get to know Health and Well-being


This overview should be read together with A guide to Curriculum for Wales 2022

The Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience is about the physical, psychological, emotional and social aspects of our lives.

It recognises good health and well-being as a key enabler of successful learning. This area of learning and experience will support learners to develop and maintain not only their physical health and well-being, but also their mental health and emotional well-being, as well as developing positive relationships in a range of contexts. To enable this, it will build learners’ capacity to make informed decisions about their health and well-being and also to engage critically with a range of social influences which may impact on their values and behaviours.

This area of learning and experience supports learners to develop an understanding and appreciation of how these aspects are interconnected, and how they can all contribute to a positive state of well-being. This understanding in turn will enable learners to develop the behaviours, habits and dispositions which will support their health and well-being in a rapidly changing world.

A transformational curriculum

The White Paper Our National Mission: A Transformational Curriculum set out the detailed legislative proposals for Curriculum for Wales 2022.

The proposal is that funded non-maintained settings and schools will be required to provide a broad and balanced curriculum that meets the four purposes of the curriculum, and comprises the six areas of learning and experience. There will be statutory duties to teach Welsh, English, religious education, relationships and sexuality education, and the three cross-curricular responsibilities of literacy, numeracy and digital competence. Further information on how the Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience can support this is provided in the ‘Developing a broad and balanced curriculum’ section of this document.

Funded non-maintained settings and schools will have discretion as to how they design their school-level curriculum to meet their curriculum duties. However, in considering the exercise of that discretion, they must have regard to statutory guidance issued by Welsh Ministers. In practice, that means they should follow the statutory guidance unless they have good reason not to.

This statutory guidance for the Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience, which forms part of the wider Curriculum for Wales 2022 statutory guidance, is intended to provide a national framework that funded non-maintained settings and schools can build on to develop their own curriculum. It is not intended to be a comprehensive or exhaustive syllabus, nor a guide for organising timetables. It sets out:

  • what funded non-maintained settings and schools should take into account in designing their curriculum and how it could be structured
  • the broad expectations for learners for the Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience at each progression step.

Learners will gain knowledge and understanding about how a range of factors affect their health and well-being. They will engage critically with a range of information to support their decision-making and to develop their values and identity which in turn will develop their confidence and ambition. Physical activity as well as opportunities to develop relationships will provide learners with contexts for playing a range of collaborative roles. From this, the development of social and team-working skills will enable them to become ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives.

Learners will have opportunities to engage with challenging ideas relating to emotions and relationships and to find creative and enterprising ways to deal with these challenges. Through developing the skills to talk about these, they will further develop as enterprising, creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work.

They will learn how to become ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the World through a range of experiences, including opportunities to:

  • make positive choices, and to learn how these affect their own and others’ health and well-being
  • interact with others within different social situations
  • engage with different social influences and to appreciate the importance of respecting others
  • consider the social and ethical issues that impact on the health and well-being of others.

They will also develop skills and dispositions that enable them to become healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society, by learning:

  • what influences their health and well-being, including a healthy diet, physical activity and misuse of substances
  • how to make decisions which support their health and well-being
  • the importance of resilience and self-regulation
  • how to seek support
  • how to develop safe and healthy relationships.

What matters statements in this area of learning and experience seek to describe the fundamental factors which underpin our health and well-being. They do not and cannot articulate every possible topic or issue. Instead, they give professionals the flexibility to identify those topics and issues which are relevant to the needs of their learners, school and community. They are meant to act as lenses through which different topics and issues can be explored.

In order to achieve a holistic approach, professionals should seek to draw from across what matters statements when planning learning and teaching in Health and Well-being. Such an approach allows learners to consider how their health and well-being may be affected in different ways by a particular behaviour or issue.

Learning about an issue should draw across what matters statements as much as possible. An example of how this could be done is shown here for online behaviour (which could include social media, online dating, digital footprint and online sexual content).

Developing physical health and well-being has lifelong benefits.

  • The use of online sources to develop strategies to support physical health and well-being.
  • The impact of online behaviour on body image and choices around food and exercise.
  • The use of technology and physical health and well-being.

How we process and respond to our experiences affects our mental health and emotional well-being.

  • The use of technology and online communities to support mental health and emotional well-being.
  • The impact of positive and negative online behaviours on mental health and emotional well-being.
  • The exploration of types of positive and negative experiences online.

Our decision-making impacts on the quality of our lives and the lives of others.

  • Making decisions in an online context.
  • Using online sources to make decisions and seek information and support.
  • Managing risk and safety online such as sharing personal information (including images) and legal implications.

How we engage with different social influences shapes who we are and our health and well-being.

  • Positive online behaviours and digital citizenship.
  • Positive role of online communities.
  • Different attitudes and norms presented online (e.g. about different types of relationships).
  • Norms and attitudes about appropriate online contact and content.
  • The way we consider, promote and challenge norms and values in different digital platforms (including social media).

Healthy relationships are fundamental to our sense of belonging and well-being.

  • Collaboration, mutual respect when building relationships online.
  • The use of online platforms for advocacy.
  • The role that digital technologies and platforms play in developing and maintaining relationships.
  • Online dating.
  • The impact of online behaviours on particular relationships.
  • The characteristics of harmful relationships online.
  • Online bullying and trolling.

An important feature of this area of learning and experience is that progression is non-linear. Movement between progression steps can be both backwards and forwards given changes in personal circumstances that impact on health and well-being. There are four models of progression operating within the Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience and these can be identified to varying degrees across each what matters statement as noted below.

Becoming more self-regulated – Progression is modelled as moving from doing something with the support of others who are more competent toward being able to do it independently and with growing competence. This includes elements such as personal goal-setting and taking personal responsibility for decisions and actions. Focusing on experiences that demand learners’ decision-making and the articulation of a rationale for choice helps learners to develop the skills necessary for future independence (International Physical Literacy Association, 2017).

Becoming more socially responsible – Progression is modelled as moving from oneself to others, and from the local to the national to the global. Learners move from thinking about how their actions affect them personally towards thinking about how they have a wider impact on society. Movement towards social awareness as well as the importance of moving from local, to national, to global is linked to the Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Framework in Wales, the Welsh dimension, international perspective and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) PISA global competence framework.

Sophistication of knowledge and skills – In relation to the knowledge and skills components of the area of learning and experience, progression is modelled as becoming more sophisticated over time; the same concept being understood with increasing depth (revisiting knowledge/skills but at a deeper level); in conceptual shifts (moving from one skill/understanding to a different skill/understanding); or in breadth (adding more new knowledge/skills). Progression is generally depth over time and the deepening of knowledge and skills.

Developmental growth – The models are informed by child development research. As noted by Pellegrino (2017), although learning progressions are not developmentally inevitable, they may be developmentally constrained. Progression is dynamic; multi-dimensional; aligns with wider developmental milestones and is spiral as well as linear. Therefore, the trajectories with each what matters statement complement children’s natural development. It also describes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that should be developed during learners’ educational experiences in Wales.

Literacy, numeracy and digital competence

The cross-curricular responsibilities of literacy, numeracy and digital competence support almost all learning and are essential for learners to be able to participate successfully and confidently in the modern world.


Health and Well-Being provides the opportunities for learners to develop their literacy skills in a range of contexts as learners prepare themselves for life outside education. Learners will, for example, begin to organise their writing, show awareness of different readers, and adapt their language confidently as they apply for a preferred career and learning pathways.

As learners engage critically with a range of texts to support their decision-making they will articulate their views with greater confidence and further develop their values and identity which, in turn, will develop their confidence and ambition.

Literacy is a fundamental enabler of well-being. Oracy, in particular, provides the means for learners to communicate their feelings and develop relationships with others. The role of communication in expressing emotions is fundamental, while literature has significant potential to support learners’ empathy, mental health and emotional well-being.


Health and Well-being will provide the real-world context to support the development of numeracy skills. Learners will extract and interpret information from a range of diagrams and graphs to draw conclusions on factors which may influence their health and well-being, or simply track and record their progress in physical activity. 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

Digital competence can be developed through a range of engaging and accessible experiences as learners develop the skills needed to live and work in an increasingly online and digital world. Learners can, for example, be supported to develop simple algorithms for healthy recipes or collaborate to create and design models which represent real-world problems.

It is also important to acknowledge the increasing influence of technology in our daily lives. Learners will need to understand the implications this may have for their health and well-being and, in particular, the possible impact on physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Decision-making, risk assessment and safe and unsafe situations should all be considered in digital contexts. This includes their relationships with others, online safety, legal implications and social influences online (including social media).

Welsh dimension and international perspective

The identity of learners will be informed by developing an understanding of the community’s norms, values and cultures. Learners need to gain a strong sense of self as well as an understanding of their position on a local, national and global level. This area of learning and experience provides an opportunity to inspire and enable learners to model empathy and equity and to become active citizens. Learning should be informed by local and global issues and factors that affect different elements of health and well-being. Decision-making supports learners to consider the impact their decisions have on the health and well-being of others at local, national and global levels.

Wider skills

Learning in Health and Well-being supports the development of wider skills in a number of ways including the following.

Critical thinking and problem-solving

  • Critically evaluating the physical and emotional changes that occur when active.
  • Engaging with life experiences involves skills of critical analysis, evaluation and appraisal in order to protect mental health and emotional well-being.
  • The process of decision-making, particularly at the upper progression steps, is heavily dependent on critical and logical processes such as analysing benefits/risk of a course of action. Learners are also supported to develop responses and solutions to experiences they encounter and critically analyse the factors that influence decision-making, such as values, beliefs and bias.
  • Engaging critically with how social influences affect well-being.
  • Problem-solving to prevent and manage conflict.

Planning and organisation

  • Planning and implementing sustainable, balanced and positive behaviours to support physical health and well-being, including a balanced diet and sustainable physical activity. Learners will need to monitor and reflect on results to inform future behaviours.
  • Self-awareness allows learners to be receptive and reflective, which helps them to adapt their behaviour and actions to different situations. They may also plan and develop strategies to independently self-regulate.
  • Planning and setting short-term and long-term goals and taking steps to achieve these.
  • Identify and reflect on the effects of their decisions in order to evaluate them and improve future decision-making.
  • Planning and organising finances and working within a budget.

Creativity and innovation

  • Generating ideas to create a nutritious meal.
  • Creativity in physical activity, opportunities to generate ideas and carry out the strategies that they have developed to succeed in competition.
  • An openness to exploring ideas, taking into consideration the opinions of others, and the courage to express their own.

Personal effectiveness

  • Understanding the factors that affect physical health and well-being supports learners to care for and respect themselves and others. Developing positive physical health and well-being enhances learners’ confidence and motivation.
  • Understanding the conditions that promote and impact upon mental health and emotional well-being helps learners manage their experiences and act with empathy, compassion and kindness for themselves and others.
  • Understanding the factors that influence decision-making helps learners to make considered, informed decisions that they are able to justify and explain. Understanding the risks and possible consequences of their decisions for themselves and others.
  • Being able to reject and challenge norms and attitudes enables learners to avoid behaviours which harm their own health and well-being and that of others; respecting differences where appropriate, recognising each person’s identity and values.
  • Developing the skills and attitudes which allow learners to have healthy relationships, to know their rights, 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.

Careers and work-related experiences

Learning from careers and labour market information

It is vital for learners to access high-quality careers and labour market information and have an understanding of what this means to them, in order to make well-informed, sustainable career decisions.

Learners need to experience opportunities designed to raise their awareness of future choices, their expectations and aspirations. They should also develop the skills for personal planning and for making decisions in the context of curriculum, learning and achievement which will prepare them for the next stages in life.

Learners should experience activities which enable them to develop the skills and attributes they will need if they are to achieve and sustain positive destinations beyond their school lives. Demands and employment patterns are constantly changing, so it is particularly important for young people to develop high levels of skill and also an understanding of the world of work, training and lifelong learning so that they can embrace these opportunities.

Linking the area of learning and experience to careers and work-related experiences

Experiences and outcomes of physical health create opportunities for learners to participate and perform at their highest level in sport and, if interested, pursue careers in the health and leisure industries.

Learning through careers and work-related experiences in Health and Well-being promotes confidence, independent thinking and positive attitudes and dispositions. It provides context and realism, and raises aspirations of learners in a number of ways, including:

  • awareness-raising around the career pathways accessible through physical health and well-being
  • self-awareness development, enabling the evaluation of skills, strengths, attributes and areas for development, to make realistic, considered and sustainable career pathway choices
  • accessing a wide range of information, data and people, providing help, support, advice and guidance, to enable informed, sustainable, career decisions
  • considering and challenging their own and other people’s perspectives about learning, careers and the world of work to inform opinions and decisions
  • considering social norms and challenging stereotypes in the workplace
  • developing professional relationships: listening attentively, responding helpfully, and noting strengths and weaknesses of others’ views
  • developing social interaction skills needed to work successfully with others, such as collaboration, negotiation, communication.

The experiences and outcomes of careers and work-related experiences help to develop careers management skills. Learners can apply these skills to:

  • develop personal awareness around likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses
  • gather, interpret and analyse career, learning and labour market information
  • explore options in learning and work, and relate this to personal priorities and strengths
  • take action to build a career pathway.

Learner progression relating to careers and work-related experiences is part of a continuum of learning for learners aged 3 to 16. Success for a young primary school learner could include:

  • acting a variety of different jobs through role play
  • a belief that they can do any job – tackling gender stereotyping
  • communicating with people in their community about the different jobs they do and the rewards that a job can bring.

By progressing learning, success for 16-year-old learners could include:

  • demonstrating and applying the skills learned in relation to the world of work
  • identifying interests, strengths and skills to make informed post-16 choices
  • understanding and demonstrating the behaviours an employer looks for in a good employee
  • evaluating risks when developing a business idea and exploring different methods of setting up and sustaining an enterprise.

Work-related experiences

Learners develop interests, strengths, skills and aspirations through experiences as part of the curriculum and life beyond school. A range of partners support these exciting journeys through co-design and co-delivery and, together, shape learners’ decisions about their future and the pathways they follow. Opportunities, such as visits, guest speakers and practical activities, can help enhance and contextualise learning.

Collaboration and access to individuals and employers provide learners with opportunities to learn about work, employment and the skills valued in the workplace. Learners can use the knowledge and skills gained in having taken part in work-related experiences to develop successful enterprise activities. These can provide an authentic learning experience which develops learners as creative enterprising contributors, forming links to the world of work.

Effective careers guidance is essential in securing the most appropriate route for learners’ aspirations, informing them of the diversity of entry points and the various pathways into the world of work. Schools need to offer opportunities to foster entrepreneurial skills and learners should be aware of the benefits of setting up enterprises.

Understanding post-16 and higher education opportunities

It is essential for learners to be aware of all opportunities available to them post-16. Therefore, as well as understanding about employment, training and apprenticeships, learners should be provided with information and the opportunity to engage with a range of learning providers. Opportunities for engagement should include attending careers and skills fairs, talks from and visits to further and higher education providers, as well as presentations from students in further or higher education. Learners should also be directed to online research tools that provide course and progression information to support their understanding of the range of learning opportunities available, and to help raise their aspirations and form a basis on which informed decisions can be made.

Relationships and sexuality education

Relationships and sexuality education is a key enabler of health and well-being. This area of learning and experience provides wide and essential opportunities for relationships and sexuality education to be considered. These include the following.


  • The importance of empathy and compassion in developing positive relationships.
  • The importance of communicating feelings in relationships.
  • Decision-making in the context of different relationships (including consent).
  • Building relationships with others, using problem-solving and negotiation to support collective decisions.
  • Developing relationships and working collaboratively through team games.
  • Developing relationships within different social groups.
  • What matters statement: Healthy relationships are fundamental to our sense of belonging and well-being.

Values, rights, culture and sexuality

  • Awareness of how their own identity, values, attitudes and behaviours are being shaped by the social groups they belong to and the situations in which they function.
  • Understand and respect that others’ identity, values, attitudes and behaviours are shaped by their social groups.
  • Understand how different social groups and societies present norms of different relationships.
  • Respect, equity and recognising each other’s rights in relationships.
  • Reject and challenge harmful rules, norms, attitudes, values, stereotypes and prejudices.
  • Critically engaging with social norms and influences that inform relationships and sexuality.
  • How social attitudes and norms can impact on physical self-image, identity and relationships; recognising that these can be positive and harmful (including peer groups and the media).

Understanding gender

  • The links between physiology and mental health and emotional well-being, including body image, identity and physiological changes in relation to emotions.
  • The role and importance of the physical self in a person’s identity.
  • Critically engaging with social influences that inform views of gender.

Violence and staying safe

  • Where and how to seek support and information to aid decision-making and personal safety.
  • Understand how to respond appropriately in harmful or unsafe situations.
  • Recognise unhealthy or harmful relationships and seek help to respond to these.
  • Accessing support and information to ensure personal safety in relationships.

The human body and development

  • How self-image impacts on mental health and well-being.
  • Responding to the impact of puberty on emotional well-being.
  • The link between puberty, sexuality and sexual relationships.
  • The links between physiology and mental health and emotional well-being, including body image.

Sexuality and sexual behaviour

  • What matters statement: Healthy relationships are fundamental to our sense of belonging and well-being.

Sexual and reproductive health

  • Impact on physical and mental health and emotional well-being.
  • Decision-making and reproduction.
  • Sexual relationships and sexual health.

Enrichment and experiences

The experiences offered to learners should enhance their health and well-being. Learning about themselves and others, about their communities and the wider world needs to take place through rich, meaningful and enjoyable experiences.

Importance of outdoor learning

Learning outside the classroom in non-formal settings can help learners to:

  • experience and understand their emotions which are often turbulent in adolescence
  • learn how to operate successfully with their peers and with adults
  • see the potential for experiencing calm and relaxation through reflection
  • release energy and improve physical health through physical activity.

There is substantial evidence to suggest that outdoor experiences can impact positively on children and young people’s attitudes, beliefs and self-perceptions. Examples of outcomes include improved independence, confidence, self-esteem, self-efficacy, personal effectiveness and coping strategies.

It can also help with interpersonal and social skills such as social effectiveness, communication skills, group cohesion and teamwork.

The importance of play in health and well-being

Play is essential to healthy brain development and helps children and young people to develop healthy bodies and minds as well as their social and emotional capacities. Play is an important time for teaching children and young people about relationships, helping them to understand how their behaviour affects others and develop a sense of empathy. Play can reduce stress levels and provides valuable opportunities to be creative and imaginative. Professionals should value the important role which play has in developing all of the attributes for the Health and Well-being what matters statements.

Visits, visitors and the community

As learners’ connections with, and understanding of, the wider world expand so too does their understanding of how their society functions and what part they can play in contributing to its safety and health. Schools should make the most of opportunities to involve parents, carers and the wider community, which could include working closely with health professionals, creating intergenerational groups and establishing joint initiatives promoting fitness.

Learning in the Health and Well-being Area of Learning and Experience should be driven by the needs of learners in realising the four purposes of the curriculum. Curriculum design needs to be flexible enough to respond to a diverse range of changing needs. The nature of this area of learning and experience will allow schools to construct a curriculum based on local needs but it should also have regard to national and global trends and issues that affect health and well-being. Learning should also be fully informed by school values, vision and ethos as well as reflecting the needs of communities both within and beyond the school. This can be done by placing the voice of the learner at the centre of planning. Professionals should also seek to collaborate with a range of experts and stakeholders in developing their curriculum.

Teaching should also be based on sound evidence and expertise. Evidence should draw from local, cluster-wide, regional and national information, using a range of sources, e.g. data from the School Health Research Network (SHRN), the local authority and the local health board. Professionals should also seek to collaborate with a range of experts and stakeholders in developing their curriculum.

There is a large range of topics which a professional could consider in developing a Health and Well-being curriculum. Topics should be chosen based on the needs of their learners. Learning could be as wide-ranging as consent, first aid and lifesaving skills, gender and stereotypes, or a healthy diet.

Working across areas of learning and experience

There is considerable scope for overlap between this area of learning and experience and the others, and it is important that planning for Health and Well-being should happen in collaboration with other areas of learning and experience.

Whole-school approach

The development and design of the Health and Well-being curriculum needs to be reflected in the school’s ethos and environment, support services and policies. If teaching is not supported by these, then learning in Health and Well-being will be significantly compromised. For example, learning about a healthy diet will be influenced by food provided at lunchtime.

A whole-school approach to well-being permeates all aspects of the life of a school. Critically, this should foster a culture which holds the well-being of the entire school community at its forefront. This should mean involving every individual in the school community – learners, parents/carers, and all staff and volunteers. It is a combination of factors including leadership; the learner’s voice; policy, culture and environment; curriculum and staff development.

Working with external partners, groups and organisations

Schools may identify areas of the curriculum for which they require additional support. External organisations can provide this support by enhancing learning through expert input. These organisations, however, are not a substitute for teaching professionals, who are better placed to provide learning that best meets the needs of their learners and links to the wider curriculum. External organisations can also assist schools to develop links with the wider community and support parental engagement.

  • First published 30 April 2019
  • Last updated 30 April 2019