Healthy Minds Research Project

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

Healthy Minds began as a research project that tracked 9,800 students in 34 schools over 5 years. Funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, Bounce Forward worked in partnership with the London School of Economics, to explore whether teaching personal, social, health education would impact academic attainment and the health and well-being of children. The project began in 2012 and led to outstanding outcomes for the students taught the Healthy Minds lessons. 

Why did we do it?

The decline of the wellbeing of children, has been a concern for more than a decade.

Surveys showed emotional health worsening, and behavioural problems increasing. 

Schools were grappling with the widening academic attainment gap and looking for solutions. 

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 do better for their wellbeing?

While young people’s life skills are strongly influenced by the ethos of the school, the question was – do they need regular, at least one hour a week of dedicated and specific teaching of life skills. In find out teachers would need to be trained in a fully professional way and provided with excellent teaching resources. 

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, 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 that responded to student’s physical and psychological development as well as being relevant and able to be taught in school, alongside their academic subjects. The design, consisting of weekly, one hour lessons included detailed teaching and learning resources, written support for teachers, as well as dedicated teacher training. The central theme of the curriculum reflected the teachings of “positive psychology”: focusing 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, ambition was high, with the notion of supplying what teachers all over the world have been looking for. But first the curriculum needed to be verified by the ‘randomised controlled trial’.

Conceptual Framework and Year Module Number of Lessons
Year 7: Managing the world around me
Resilience Skills
18
.breath (Introduction to Mindfulness)
6
Social Media Investigated (Media Navigator)
6
Year 8: Managing the world around me
From School to Life
9
Unplugged Part 1
4
Social Media Investigated (Media Influences)
8
Sex Ed Sorted: Part 1
4
Bounce Forward Resilience Revisited
6
Year 9: Taking Control of the Decisions I Make
Relationship Smarts
8
School Health: Alcohol Harm Reduction (SHAHRP)
6
Sex Ed : Part 2
6
Bounce Forward Resilient Decisions
4
Year 10: Preparing for the Future
Mental Illness Investigated
6
Unplugged Part 2
8
Parents Under Construction
10
Bounce Forward Resilient Learners
4
Total lessons
113

Trial

Bounce Forward set about recruiting schools to research project. 

The aim was to recruit schools from the most deprived areas, and that were large enough to give reliable estimates of effect. The schools recruited were randomly divided into two groups. Schools that would teach the curriculum and schools that would not teach this curriculum, but continue with ‘PSHE’ as normal. This second group acted as the control group for the research. 

It is important to note that the control schools would teach Healthy Minds, but would wait a full year until their new year 7 intake. 

All schools measured the wellbeing of their students so researchers could determine the difference between students taught Healthy Minds compared to those that had not. The trial ran from 2013 – 2018 with 9,800 individual children contributing the results, from 34 schools. 

The schools who signed up offered a wide range, in location, type (faith, grammar, academy, state) and Ofsted rating.  

The headteachers in these schools were pioneering in agreeing to test the curriculum, invest staff time in teacher training and in signing up to a five year project. 

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

The London School of Economics reported on the 'well-being' outcomes focusing 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? Life satisfaction (the most commonly used measure of wellbeing worldwide) asked pupils ‘Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?’ Three further outcomes were created from twelve questions that capture various dimensions of physical health, emotional health and behaviour.

The National Institute of Social and Economic Research reported on the attainment 8 scores. 

The schools reported enormous enthusiasm from staff and students alike. A deep dive study conducted by the University of Bedfordshire explored the impact from within the schools. Click the link to read the report.

Healthy Mind’s Case Study Report – Final May 2019

Results

The trial showed that Healthy Minds had positive impact on health-related outcomes without compromising academic attainment and possibly supporting reducing absenteeism and exclusions.

The graphic shows how far an average pupil increased their percentage ranking as a result of being taught Healthy Minds when compared with other pupils nationwide.

The 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.

What experts, students and teachers say

Beyond the research project, Bounce Forward worked with teachers, academics and experts to make Healthy Minds a practical solution that is available to all schools.

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The Role of Positive Emotions

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