After a two-year pilot trialling a head of wellbeing in a secondary school saw improvements in healthy eating habits, an increase in the number of staff using gym facilities and improved wellbeing for both staff and pupils, Nuffield Health developed a free-to-access school wellbeing activity programme. We caught up with Terry Austin, head of school wellbeing at Nuffield Health, to hear about the programme’s benefits
Young people are growing up today in a time of massive change, and experiencing significant wellbeing challenges, without having the skills and behaviours needed to help them cope.
The clear need to help school-aged children manage their wellbeing, both inside and outside of school, is acknowledged by experts and the government. This is highlighted through recent statistics from the Association for Young People’s Health (AYPH) in which almost half of young people rated their emotional wellbeing as ‘poor’. It is important we understand how good health behaviours and habits can impact current and future wellbeing and, equally as important, how we can help.
Arguably, the PSHE curriculum does not cover all the lifestyle skills and knowledge necessary for optimal wellbeing, especially when young people start to be more influenced by peer pressure or social media and become more independent in relation to their leisure and nutrition choices.
In 2015 Nuffield Health ran a two-year pilot trialling a head of wellbeing in Wood Green secondary school, Witney. They worked closely with students and staff to assess their emotional and physical wellbeing priorities and went on to develop a targeted, responsive programme of initiatives and activities for the whole school. As a result of the pilot, wellbeing is now one of the school’s six values and is timetabled within the school curriculum
These findings inspired us to develop further support for schools across the UK and led to the creation of our school wellbeing activity programme – swap.
The programme covers four key pillars of wellbeing which are essential for young people to thrive: how I eat, how I move, how I sleep and how I feel. It has been developed to help improve understanding of lifestyle choices and encourage behaviour changes to improve young people’s physical and mental wellbeing.
Launched in November 2018, Nuffield Health is now running free swap programmes at schools local to our UK-wide fitness and wellbeing clubs and hospitals. Swap is designed as a 12-session, six-week programme, which can fit into the regular school term time-table. The programme focuses on years six-to-nine students – which were found to be critical ages for lifestyle and behaviour changes – but can be adapted for any school-aged children.
The potential benefits for schools could be huge – and the programme is free, making it accessible for all. Early feedback has shown teachers think the lessons are invaluable and something they would not have had the time, resources or in-depth knowledge to implement alone. The initial response from schools has been excellent, with programmes now underway across the UK.
Our vision is to reach 50,000 children by 2020 through delivering our swap programme and sharing our knowledge with others.