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Benefits of having a Head of Well-Being revealed

Schools should all appoint a Head of Well-Being, a report from Nuffield Health has found.

The report ‘Improving wellbeing in schools’ found that putting a dedicated role into schools with responsibility for wellbeing can make a positive difference to the emotional and physical wellbeing of students and staff.

Robert Shadbolt, Head Teacher at Wood Green Secondary School which piloted the role, said: “I don’t believe there’s a single child in this school who hasn’t thought about the importance of what they eat, what exercise they do, what they do with their screen time, the importance of good mental health and how they achieve that. I think if that’s not part of what education is for, then we’re failing. Having someone whose specific role it is to coordinate, deliver and drive the wellbeing programme, rather than trying to combine this with a member of staff’s other teaching commitments, is critical to its success.”

Wood Green School in Witney, Oxfordshire installed a Head of Well-Being within a the secondary school for two years under a pilot which completed last year. An initial needs assessment at the school had highlighted mental health issues and stress management as priorities for the school. A survey of the staff and students had showed lower then national average levels of wellbeing.

The Head of Well-Being worked closely with students and staff to assess emotional and physical wellbeing priorities and develop a targeted, responsive programme of initiatives and activities for the whole school. As a result of the pilot, wellbeing is now one of Wood Green School’s six values and timetabled within the school curriculum.

Outcomes from data collection and evaluation showed changes in emotional wellbeing levels for both students and staff. Staff mean scores for wellbeing (as measured by WEMWBS*) had risen by 11.89% by the end of the pilot.

In students, although there was a slight decrease in mean scores, further analysis showed this was primarily driven by students in Year 7, who were showing the signs of experiencing the often-difficult transition from primary to secondary school.

There were also improvements in fruit and vegetable consumption across the board. A combination of both new opportunities and a better understanding of their bodies, provided students with the impetus to exercise more regularly. There was a marked increase in the number of staff using gym facilities, with almost a quarter signed up for regular activities.

The report identified the importance of providing the support in a tailored approach to ensure relevance to the school’s situation and that interventions needed time to embed. The outcomes show it takes time to adapt, elicit behavioural changes and for these to be sufficiently rooted to have lasting results.

However, the findings conclude that the role should not be added to the existing staff’s responsibilities, if it is to have an impact on students and staff. The Head teacher, Robert Shadbolt, decided to invest budget in maintaining a wellbeing role as a part-time post after the completion of the project.

Nuffield Health has using the findings from this pilot to develop the Schools Wellbeing Activity Programme, which is free and offers evidence-based lessons that can be delivered by our experts, to support local schools in their area, either as a six-week programme or individual sessions.

Nuffield Health's Medical Director Davina Deniszczyc said: “There is a gap in the provision of wellbeing support in schools that urgently needs addressing. Our pilot showed that a dedicated expert, embedded into a school, can achieve significant change over time. For Nuffield Health, the next step is to use our expertise, to have a measurable impact on young people’s wellbeing, through swap, our free six-week programme.”

The organisation aims to reach 50,000 young people by 2020 through partnerships with local schools.

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