Healthy Minds Research Project: The results!

Evaluation found a positive impact on emotional, physical health, attendance and fixed term exclusions.

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Evaluation found a positive impact on emotional, physical health, attendance and fixed term exclusions.

Bounce Forward researched the resilience-based Healthy Minds curriculum with 9,800 students in 34 schools over 5 years. Funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and run in partnership with the London School of Economics, explored the evidence for teaching personal, social, health education alongside academic subjects to report the impact of good quality teaching and learning on important outcomes.

As seen on the BBC

The mission
Wellbeing is rapidly declining for children.

The UK is ranked 69th out of 72 countries for children’s life satisfaction (Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Jan 2022).

Between 10-20% of children are dealing with clinical-level mental health issues such as depression and anxiety (Oxford Report, Wellbeing in Education, Childhood and Adolescence, 2022).

These are problems that schools can influence. For schools make almost as much difference to the emotional health and behaviour of their students as to their academic achievement. So how can schools teach wellbeing?

While young people’s life skills are strongly influenced by the ethos of the school, there also needs to be at least one hour a week of dedicated and specific teaching of life skills. In order to do this well, teachers need to be trained in a fully professional way.

The solution
To remedy this, researchers funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation scoured the world for the best well-tested materials for teaching secondary school pupils in: resilience, social and emotional learning, mindfulness, relationships and sex education, social media awareness and mental illness.

From this research Bounce Forward worked with Professor John Coleman, an expert in adolescent development, to design a four-year curriculum for years 7-10, consisting of weekly lessons of one hour each. For each lesson there are detailed teaching and learning resources, written support for teachers, as well as dedicated teacher training. The whole curriculum reflects the teachings of “positive psychology”: it focuses on building strengths rather than attacking weaknesses, and on what is worth doing rather than on what to avoid.

The structure of the curriculum is shown in the diagram below. No such programme on this scale has ever been tested in the world. These are important subjects to teach and other programmes have failed due to the lack of teacher training. So one key feature of the research, is that the teachers have to be trained before teaching each element of the curriculum.

In devising the curriculum, we had high ambitions – of supplying what teachers all over the world have been looking for. But this could only be verified by a ‘randomised controlled trial’.

Healthy minds kite mark & Curriculum image

Trial

Sample schools

Bounce Forward’s first task was to find first task was to find 34 state schools, largely in deprived areas, that wanted to teach the programme – several schools large enough to give reliable estimates of the effects of the course. The schools were then randomly divided into two groups. The schools were drawn from a wide range of local authorities from Wolverhampton to Kent, and the trial ran from 2013 to 2017 or 2014 to 2018, depending on when the school joined the experiment.

Methodology

To help assess the impact of the course, students completed a detailed wellbeing questionnaire before and after completing the 4-year curriculum. The results were measured against a control group of students who were the same age and completed the same questionnaires but were not taught Healthy Minds.

Outcomes

In reporting the effects of the course, The London School of Economics focus on focus on five outcomes. The first is ‘global health’, which was the primary outcome named before the trial began. This is captured by asking pupils ‘In general, how would you say your health is? Next, we look at the most commonly used measure of wellbeing worldwide, which is life satisfaction: ‘Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?’ The other three outcomes are created from twelve questions at capture various dimensions of physical health, emotional health and behaviour.

Feedback

The schools reported enormous enthusiasm from staff and students alike, and all the schools have gone on teaching Healthy Minds to each subsequent year’s entry to school – a real vote of confidence.

Healthy Mind’s Case Study Report – Final May 2019

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Results

These results include the effects on every group of students that a school signed up to teach, whether they were well or badly taught, or occasionally not taught consistently throughout. These are the effects after four years of teaching, and incorporate results measured on average two years after the material was taught.

The trial showed that the course works. This shows how far an average pupil has increased their percentage ranking as a result of the course when compared with other pupils nationwide.

What experts, students and teachers have to say

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