‘Head of Wellbeing’ can have a positive impact in schools

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

Creating the position of “head of wellbeing” in UK secondary schools could have a positive impact on both staff and students’ emotional and physical wellbeing, a pilot project has concluded.

Run by the not-for-profit healthcare organisation Nuffield Health, the pilot saw a head of wellbeing appointed within a secondary school – Wood Green School in Oxfordshire – for two years.

During the pilot, the head of wellbeing worked closely with students and staff to assess emotional and physical wellbeing priorities and develop a targeted programme of initiatives and activities for the whole school.

Key priorities for the school, identified in an initial assessment before the pilot began, included mental health issues and stress management.

Initiatives undertaken during the pilot included making water more widely available and offering healthy eating options, enhancing existing provision through extra resources or more accessible sessions, and running classes in mental wellbeing techniques, such as mindfulness and resilience.

The government has previously announced plans to fund specialist mental health teams in schools and it has also funded Mental Health First Aid training for schools.

As a result of the pilot, wellbeing is now one of Wood Green School’s six values and timetabled within the school curriculum. Head Robert Shadbolt has decided to continue to invest budget in maintaining the wellbeing role as a part-time post after the pilot.

Among the outcomes, all the school’s year-groups reported an improvement in energy levels, in feeling relaxed and in their ability to deal with problems.

Staff meanwhile showed a significant increase in wellbeing. The pilot reported clear links between physical activity and mental wellbeing in schools, and promotes the use of activities such as yoga and exercise circuit sessions.

Mr Shadbolt added: “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.”

Following the pilot, Nuffield Health has now developed a free programme for schools to educate children in “positive health habits”.

Entitled swap – the Schools Wellbeing Activity Programme – the programme offers evidence-based lessons either as a six-week programme or individual sessions.


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