UK secondary schools are being urged to put themselves forward as potential candidates for a ground-breaking pilot, which will see a Head of Wellbeing seconded to the school, in a bid to help combat rising levels of poor physical and mental health among pupils and teachers.
Nuffield Health has committed to lead, fund and evaluate the initiative – the first of its kind – which includes the development and implementation of a two year health and wellbeing programme. And, ahead of May’s general election, the not for profit healthcare provider is urging all political parties to make health and wellbeing in schools a priority.
Nuffield Health’s own commitment to the pilot directly follows the findings of its recent joint study with think tank 2020health. The report highlighted significant areas of concern and unmet need – including low levels of exercise, high levels of obesity and poor emotional wellbeing – which could be vastly improved with dedicated, coordinated support within the school setting.
Among the findings:
- 75% of school children and young people living with mental illness go undiagnosed
- Half of all diagnosable mental health conditions are thought to start before the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 21
- 24% of 11-15 year old boys were recorded as obese in 2011 – among the highest levels ever recorded
- Children aged 10-19 years account for over half (55 per cent) of admissions to hospitals for eating disorders
- 73% of teaching staff said their job had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing
Dr Andrew Jones, Nuffield Health’s Managing Director, Wellbeing, said:
“At a time when conditions like obesity and mental illness are on the rise in children and young adults, there is clearly a need to invest in proactive and preventative health and wellbeing initiatives in schools.
This area continues to be neglected and underfunded and of all the manifesto pledges that have been made in the last few weeks, there has been little mention of improving the wellbeing of pupils and teachers in secondary schools.
We are looking for a school to take part in our pilot who shares our vision for a healthy, productive and creative environment. This initiative has the potential to transform wellbeing in schools, by providing effective support and infrastructure, setting a benchmark for UK primary and secondary schools to aspire to.”
The two year pilot will begin in September 2015 and see Nuffield Health invest significantly into the school, providing state-of-the-art fitness facilities and equipment and developing a wellbeing strategy, in collaboration with the school, to meet their individual needs and those of their community. As part of a range of services, a 12-point Health MOT* will be offered to all teachers and a unique health check to pupils, with particular focus on nutrition, exercise and emotional wellbeing.
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health Select Committee is backing the initiative,
“Young people who are experiencing mental health problems benefit from support at the earliest opportunity. It is vital too, to focus on prevention and wellbeing and I am delighted to support this pilot of a head of wellbeing in schools, as it has the potential to benefit staff and pupils alike.”
Independent evaluation of the pilot will be carried out by the Work Foundation, a leading is provider of research-based analysis.