A group of campaigning fathers who all lost their daughters to suicide have cautiously welcomed new guidelines on how the issue should be taught in schools.

Draft rules set out strict age limits for when youngsters should be taught about certain topics, including suicide. 

And the campaign group, Three Dads Walking, responded with initial enthusiasm for the plans. 

The campaigners are made up of Norfolk’s Tim Owen, who lives in Shouldham near King's Lynn, Andy Airey and Mike Palmer. 

They began the petition in memory of their daughters – 19-year-old Emily Owen, Sophie Airey, 29, and Beth Palmer, 17 – who all died by suicide.      

The group received national acclaim after launching an online petition to include suicide prevention on the national curriculum and make it compulsory. 

Their walks have generated more than £1m for the charity PAPYRUS, which focuses on the prevention of young suicide.   

Eastern Daily Press: Mike, Andy and Tim. Photo: contributed by Tim Owen

In a joint statement, the group said: “We welcome the revised RSHE curriculum which was published for public consultation. 

“We are pleased to read that teachers will have permission to talk about suicide prevention by delivering age-appropriate lessons which will encourage our young people to reach out for help when necessary and signposting relevant individuals and organisations that can help. 

“Our formal response to the draft curriculum will be overwhelmingly supportive however we have two reservations. 

“Suicide prevention is not compulsory in this curriculum... we strongly believe this is essential as schools should be talking to young people about suicide prevention. 

“Also ‘direct references to suicide should not be made before year 8’ – this is one year too late. 

“We have spoken to too many suicide-bereaved parents of 11 and 12-year-olds to know that we need to be speaking openly and age-appropriately to Year 7s about suicide prevention. 

“Despite our concerns we believe that this revised RSHE curriculum is a positive first step forward in protecting our young people from the biggest risk in their lives – themselves by suicide.  

“It is a very strong foundation on which to add compulsory suicide prevention lessons in schools in the future. This remains our aim.” 

  • If you are having thoughts of suicide, contact HOPELINE247 for confidential support and practical advice by calling 0800 068 4141, texting 88247, or emailing pat@papyrus-uk.org