With the school environment being second only to the parental home as the most important influence on children’s and young people’s development, recent research* by think tank 2020health and Nuffield Health, highlighted that poor emotional wellbeing and high levels of obesity could be vastly improved with dedicated, coordinated support within the school setting.
The not-for-profit healthcare organisation will be working with Wood Green School in Witney, Oxfordshire, following a national competition to find a secondary school to host the pilot. The unique initiative, which is the first of its kind, will be funded by Nuffield Health and will see the two year secondment of a Head of Wellbeing to help develop and implement health and wellbeing strategy at the school.
Dr Davina Deniszczyc, Nuffield Health’s Medical Director, Wellbeing, said:
"We see this pilot as an opportunity to change the way that schools approach health and wellbeing. A Head of Wellbeing can provide effective support and infrastructure, which has the potential to transform pupil and staff wellbeing. The outcomes over the two years will be invaluable in helping to shape the future of school wellbeing.”
According to research*, 75% of school children and young people living with mental illness go undiagnosed, which illustrates a need for wellbeing initiatives to focus both on physical and emotional factors. Further findings call for the provision of additional staff training to help identify the early warning signs of mental health illness in young people, particularly as half of all diagnosable mental health conditions are thought to start before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 21.
The pilot would also focus on staff wellbeing, taking a holistic, whole school approach. Teachers report some of the highest levels of stress of any profession, with the study showing 73% of teaching staff felt their job had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing and support structures in schools often appear inadequate to meet their needs.
Robert Shadbolt, Head Teacher, Wood Green School, Oxford said:
“We are delighted to have been selected as the pilot school. I believe that in order to provide the best education possible and help young people to be happy and successful, it is vital to consider the wellbeing of students and of staff too. Wood Green School and Nuffield Health will work together to create wellbeing programmes that develop both the mental and physical health of students and help them to make the most of their talents, enjoy learning and achieve even more. Working with young people is a challenging but also very rewarding role and I was also attracted to this project by the interest that Nuffield Health has shown in staff wellbeing. The Head of Wellbeing pilot is such an exciting opportunity to show the impact that strong wellbeing provision can have on the education of our young people in its fullest sense.”
The Head of Wellbeing will help devise a whole school approach to wellbeing by bringing together existing practices at the school, introducing new resources and sharing significant knowledge and expertise. As part of a range of services, a Nuffield Health Lifestyle health assessment will be offered to all staff and a Health and Lifestyle Coaching session for students. The student sessions will help identify anyone in need of extra support, including mental health concerns and will coach them on areas of their health and lifestyle that needs improving. The research identifies that secondary schools could improve overall levels of wellbeing by implementing a regular measurement of pupil wellbeing.
As part of the pilot, Lancaster University’s The Work Foundation is providing independent evaluation over the two years. This will include measuring how health and wellbeing interventions that Nuffield Health is implementing improve both individual physical and psychological health, as well as school outcomes. Alongside these measures The Work Foundation will also be evaluating the process of the intervention, looking at what is working well and where improvements are being made. But just as importantly where any barriers to health and wellbeing interventions are and what can be done to remove these to ensure best outcomes for the staff, students and the local community.
Zofia Bajorek, researcher at Lancaster University’s The Work Foundation, said:
“By evaluating the Head of Wellbeing pilot alongside Nuffield Health, we have a real opportunity to improve our understanding of the link between the school environment and health and wellbeing, and to see where improvements can be made that will benefit the school population and the local community.”
Last updated Tuesday 22 March 2016
First published on Tuesday 8 September 2015