The South West Healthy Schools Plus initiative was first announced in the Department of Health Publication ‘Health Inequalities: Progress and Next Steps’ . The aim of the programme was to reduce health inequalities by targeting the most disadvantaged children, although all would benefit from the focus on healthier outcomes. Funding from individual NHS Primary Care Trusts was made available to schools identified as having the greatest health need. This funding enabled schools to work in partnership to develop whole school community strategies [involving parents/carers and members of the wider community] to bring about health behaviour change.
The Healthy Schools Plus programme provided schools with a clear framework which enabled them to show how they were contributing towards tackling the national and local health priorities of:
- improving emotional health and wellbeing [EHWB]
- maintaining a healthy weight through healthy eating and/or increasing physical activity [HE and/or PA]
- reducing drug and alcohol misuse [D&A]
- preventing teenage pregnancies [SRE]
The schools have implemented a variety of evidence-based activities which have led to measurable health improvement in their children and young people.
From the original 187 target schools, 154 submitted their final documentation. Of these, 143 [76%] were successful in being ‘recognised’ as a Healthy Schools Plus school and 29 schools were judged ‘outstanding’ for the quality of their work – both the interventions and documentation. A celebration event was held to recognise the achievement of these outstanding schools and to encourage them to share their good practice with others.
In order to promote this sharing and help to inspire other schools to try some of the original and innovative approaches that were adopted, case studies of the Healthy Schools Plus work carried out by the outstanding schools have been added to this Health and Wellbeing website. These case studies also provide the contact details of the school staff responsible for leading the Healthy Schools Plus actions, so if you would like to discuss the work they did in more detail and share ideas of how it can be replicated in your school, they are happy to share their experiences.
Also, if you would like to read the final report on the Devon Healthy Schools Plus Programme [November 2011], please click here:
Improving emotional health and wellbeing [EHWB]
The most popular health priority that the schools chose to focus upon was improving the Emotional Health & Wellbeing of the children and young people [47%]. Interventions to address this priority included work developed ‘in house’ around, for example, positive play and an improved transition programme. ‘External’ programmes included the use of the ‘Thrive’ programme, support for small groups through the Forest Schools programme, and extending the ‘Social & Emotional Aspects of Learning’ [SEAL] activities to include parents/carers.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight [HE and/or PA]
Interventions relating to the maintenance of a healthy weight were chosen by 40% of schools. A number of schools chose to focus entirely on actions to increase healthy eating, such as setting up food related clubs e.g. cooking, breakfast and greater access to gardening opportunities. However, the majority of schools chose to address this health priority through healthy eating actions combined with work relating to increasing physical activity. This included the introduction of physical activity clubs both at lunchtime and after school and training Young Sports Leaders, or equivalent, to lead more structured play activities at break times.
Reducing Drug and Alcohol Misuse [D&A]
Reducing drug and alcohol misuse was a health priority chosen by 7% of schools. This theme was perceived as being very difficult and challenging but the schools in two Learning Communities [Kingsbridge & South Dartmoor] found strength in working with others in their Learning Community so that individual schools could not be falsely considered as having a drug and alcohol problem. They promoted this theme to the children/young people and parents/carers under the heading ‘Keeping Safe’. Actions taken to address this theme that were taken by these Learning Communities and other schools included updating the Drugs & Alcohol policy and amending the current Drugs & Alcohol scheme of work [based on research of current knowledge and understanding].
Preventing Teenage Pregnancies [SRE]
Similarly, the health priority of reducing teenage pregnancies was considered by a number of schools to be very ‘sensitive’. Despite this, 6% of schools chose the priority for their Healthy Schools Plus actions. Interventions were not only focused on the taught curriculum but also in work to increase self esteem, as this was considered an essential factor in making a difference to the teenage pregnancy data. Actions taken included updating the Sex & Relationships Education Policy and amending the current Sex & Relationships scheme of work [based on research of the current knowledge and understanding].